A mobile workspace doesn’t have to be a pain in the neck if you know how to set your laptop up correctly.
While they’re a handy tool to make our work lives more mobile, laptops can be dangerous to our mobility if not set up correctly.
Stiff necks, sore shoulders and headaches are among the most common complaints Sydney chiropractor Greg Sher receives from his patients who aren’t using their laptops safely.
“These are signs the muscles are growing weaker and have begun to deactivate,” Greg says.
Taking the time to set up your workspace can help to reduce the risk of these conditions.
For those using a laptop regularly, Greg recommends investing in a couple of cheap sidekicks to help make posture safer.
“Use a laptop stand to elevate the laptop and minimise the degree at which you need to tilt your head down,” he advises. “You can even use pads of paper as an alternative. Next, invest in a separate external keyboard and mouse. Peripheral devices can make a huge difference to your posture.”
He says while correct ergonomic posture is important, workers must also ensure they’re taking breaks to move around during the day.
He recommends the rule of 20s: the monitor should be set up 20 inches (50.8cm) away, and you should take a 20 second break every 20 minutes.
“The biggest issues come from static posture, when people are either sitting or standing in the same position for too long,” he explains.
Spending time counteracting the position you’ve been working in will help your body rebound faster.
Roll your shoulders forwards and backwards, move your head from side to side and push your chest outwards.
“Because you’ve been slouching forwards, stretch yourself backwards,” Greg says. “If you’ve been standing, lie down. Basically, do the opposite.”
Take this simple test, for example. Start typing — or mimic typing — on a keyboard. Now stop, and turn one palm upwards.
“You’ll instantly notice your shoulder that was once rounded is now rotated to a more healthy position,” Greg says.
For those who must use their laptop on the go — be it while travelling or emailing on the train — Greg has a hard and fast rule that can help reduce the painful effects.
“Stand up and take a 30-40 second break every 10 minutes. It can take such little time to do your body good, and it’s very easy to do once you get into the habit.”
Set up your space
- Align your head with the rest of your spine. If your chin sticks forward from your shoulders, tuck it in slightly.
- Relax your shoulders. Don’t let them hunch up.
- Relax your elbows and tuck them towards the body at 90 degrees.
- Ensure your wrists and hands are straight and not bent up or down.
- Keep your head in neutral and move your eyes rather than your neck.
- Use a rolled-up jumper or scarf as a lumbar support for your lower back.