Whilst having a laptop can be convenient, enabling you to work from home and reducing the need to write or carry around documents, it also presents a number of challenges and can encourage you into some bad habits.
Broadly speaking, using a laptop can cause pain/discomfort due to:
- Its weight
If you’re on the move a lot for work and required to carry your laptop with you, it can add a lot of extra weight to your bag or briefcase.
- Promoting poor posture
Being entirely portable, laptops can encourage us to work in places and positions that are not ideal. If you work remotely, having a laptop as your main working device might lead you to adopt some negative habits, including working from your sofa, or perhaps heading out and working from a coffee shop (which won’t have a desk set up to suit your needs).
It can also be tempting to work with your laptop on your knee, which will promote poor posture and cause discomfort and fatigue over time.
- Causing poor hand posture
Without a dedicated workspace set up for you to use your laptop, you may end up with poor hand/typing posture, which again will cause complications and discomfort over time.
There are a number of solutions you can implement to make sure you can continue to use a laptop safely and without putting your joints under strain.
Choose the right size
When choosing your laptop, it’s important to strike the right balance between screen size and weight. Whilst lightweight is always preferable for those with arthritis, reduced weight can often mean reduced screen and keyboard size, which can make working more difficult. Sometimes opting for a laptop that’s slightly heavier, but offers larger screen size and a wider keyboard, might be the best choice.
Invest in carrying equipment
There are a number of options available for protecting your laptop and carrying it around. Some use a shoulder bag, others use a briefcase. Some use a rucksack, or even a small flight bag on wheels. Whichever option you choose, make sure your laptop is comfortable to carry, and remember the bag will need to have enough space for charging cables and additional hardware as well.
Don’t neglect your posture
Using a laptop unlocks the door to flexible working — both in terms of time and location. Whilst it can be tempting to work from anywhere at any time (on the sofa, on the train into work, etc.) you should take care not to neglect your posture.
Try to work from a chair that provides you with ample support and allows you to keep your feet flat on the floor, and always consider the positioning of your back, neck, shoulders, elbows and wrists while working at your laptop.
Use additional hardware
Poor posture when using a laptop can often be linked to the angle and height of the screen, as well as the positioning of the keyboard. As laptops combine the screen and the keyboard into one handy piece of hardware, it can often be difficult to get both correctly set up to suit your needs — when the screen is the right height, you might find that your laptop is positioned awkwardly, and vice versa.
To combat this, try putting your laptop on a laptop stand (to correct the screen height) and using a separate keyboard and mouse (at desk level, to allow you to maintain good posture).
Optimise your docking station
It may be that your employer has supplied you with a docking station to use with your laptop when you’re in the workplace. These can be useful for helping you work more comfortably with your laptop, but be sure to speak with your manager if you find that the cables are difficult for you to plug in.