With our current COVID outbreak and Oregon’s Stay home, Save Lives campaign many of us have transitioned to working at home while we navigate through the upcoming months. Working from home brings a few different challenges when it comes to physical comfort. Most often this is related to greater use of laptops.

Why are laptops challenging?

It comes down the design. While portable and easy to use in any environment, laptops are designed with the keyboard attached to the screen. This means that if we raise the laptop up to a level that is comfortable for our eyes and neck, the keyboard is too high and places stress on the arms and wrists. Reversely, if we place the laptop at a level that is comfortable for our arm and wrist alignment we are forced to look down, placing postural stress on our neck.

How do we fix this?

Best, and recommended for consistent use, is to use external connectivity to another device. This involves connecting to a separate monitor, keyboard or mouse. This allows us greater options to adjust your workplace to you as an individual, reducing stress and fatigue of poor postures. This involves raising the screen up to a position of comfort separate from keyboard use. You can either use your laptop as a monitor with separate keyboard or use a monitor while continuing keyboard use on your laptop. Recommended monitor positioning as follows:

  • Adjust the monitor height so that the top of the screen is at or slightly below eye level.
  • When viewing the middle of your monitor screen your eyes should be looking slightly downward.
  • Position the monitor about an arm’s length distance. This can be increased if your screen is larger.

What if that is not an option?

If external applications are not an option, we have a few recommendations:

  • Place the keyboard at a level that is comfortable for your arms and keeps the wrists in a neutral position. A rolled up towel can help to support your wrists for smaller keyboard platforms similar to that rest pad you use on your desktop at work
  • Tilt the screen back to face higher to reduce stress to neck as much as possible
  • Change positions: moving from sitting to standing use through the day can ease stress to your body. Standing allows for improved use of postural muscles supporting the body.
  • Take task breaks: Take a break every 15-30 min to stretch (insert link) or move! This helps to reduce muscle/postural soreness that can occur with extended static use.

Stay tuned for How to find proper posture and Simple exercise strategies for home office work (or the rest of us too!).