Laptop Ergonomics

The Ergonomics Lab at Cornell (CUErgo) does great research on workstation health.  Recently I read an article on the ergonomics of laptops.  I was surprised to see just how bad they are.  You see, it seems that laptops break a rule that we’ve known a very long time – you MUST separate the keyboard and screen – otherwise you will sacrifice one part of your body’s proper posture for another.  Another way to say this is that you either screw up your neck or you screw up your wrist.  Bummer.

This is the way we are supposed to sit while working on a computer which is impossible on a laptop.

Ideal Typing Position (CUErgo)
So what’s a computer junkie to do?  And what about computer junkies who travel?  And those who work in cafe’s and on the road?  Argh!  CUErgo has a wealth of information on the do’s and don’ts of workstation setup.  But unfortunately for many of us, it is a bit…  shall we say…  academic 🙂
Okay the best thing to do is to setup your workstation as shown above with a “negative tilt” keyboard tray (I just learned that today), an external keyboard, and either an external monitor or a laptop tray that raises the laptop for a proper viewing angle, and also get an adjustable tray for your mouse (separate from the keyboard tray).
However, if you’re not going to do that, or you use your laptop other than at your workstation (such as the kitchen table, or you local coffee house), all is not completely lost.  The advice is to sacrifice your neck posture for proper wrist posture.  What you need to do is find the most neutral wrist posture.  That means that your wrist does not bend (check out the green fuzzy areas around the wrist in the picture – that needs to be a straight line).
What I haven’t been able to figure out yet is what to do for someone like me – who works on their laptop all the time and travels.  Also how does the whole standing desk thing fit into all of this?  It would seem reasonable that the only thing that changes is the desk height, but we still need to maintain proper neck and wrist and elbow posture.
And MOST important of all – where does my coffee mug go?!
This is the first of many blogs on this subject as we at Tangled Wires work to bring you the best knowledge and equipment for a healthy and fun workstation.
– Sam Mousa