Positioning your laptop on an ergonomic laptop desk and using a separate keyboard is essential to creating an efficient and comfortable work area wherever you are.

Laptop computers, or notebooks, are the choice for working and staying connected on the move. Laptops help keep you in touch and able to access information you need quickly when it's used away from your desk. However, before you buy a notebook computer it's helpful to learn more about how to set them up and use them properly, so you can choose the right model and accessories for your needs.

Using notebook computers ergonomically is a challenge. These portable computers have not been designed to be a substitute for a desk-based computer, but their popularity has resulted in them being used that way for many consistent working hours. It is important to know how to position your laptop computer, for example on an ergonomic laptop desk with a wireless keyboard and mouse, because the screen and keyboard areas are attached which make proper ergonomic positioning and comfort difficult. Information taken from UCLA and other studies are summarized below. If you use your notebook computer for periods of several hours or more continually, as is typical  of desktop computers, consider purchasing ergonomic accessories such as a height and tilt adjustable laptop stand or laptop drawer .

A Dual Solution for a Monitor and a Laptop
Popular Laptop Stand
Height Adjustable Laptop Arm
Special Pole Mount Configuration

Ergonomic considerations for selecting and using laptop computers.  The following suggestions are partially adopted from a study by UCLA:

Choosing the right weight notebook computer:

  • Select lightweight models if you will be transporting your laptop to different workstation locations, and remember to factor in the weight of the additional equipment you'll be placing inside the carrying case, also.

  • Use docking stations if you frequently work between two offices.

  • Transport your notebook computer using a backpack with wide, padded should straps or a wheeled case designed to hold a laptop of your size.

What size screen answers your requirements?

  • Bigger is not always better.

  • Is the screen image easy to read?

Maintain proper posture by positioning your laptop computers ergonomically correct:

  • When using the laptop without peripherals, sit in a slightly reclined position and place your laptop on a positive tilt. This will position the keys as low as possible while keeping the screen at a reasonable height.

  • Use an external keyboard and mouse for extended work periods. Y-mouse adapters are available to expand ports if needed. Placing the external keyboard on an adjustable keyboard tray positioned at your correct typing height is very helpful.

Consider viewing distance and glare when working on notebook computers:

  • Select a laptop computer with a large screen.

  • Place the screen at a distance - increase font size for viewing if needed.

  • Position the top of the screen 2" - 3" below seated eye level.  Tilt the screen upward for easier viewing.

  • Position screens of notebook computers to avoid glare from windows and overhead lights.

  • Use a special document holder or clipboard to prop up reference documents at an angle for easy viewing, ensuring the document holder's placement does not require you to turn your head excessively.

Take some precautions when working while on an airplane:

  • Sitting in an emergency row exit seat will provide extra depth for setting you your laptop on the seat tray.  If you have no alternative but to use your laptop on your lap (for a short period of time), then place a pillow on your lap and set the laptop on the pillow. Heat from laptops can create

  • Lower the window screen and adjust the overhead light to reduce glare.

  • Whenever possible, remove the seat armrest and place a pillow under your arms for support. If you cannot move the armrest, elevate your notebook with something flat and sturdy, such as magazines. 

  • Keep your laptop at the same level as the armrest and use the armrests for arm support.

Think about computer ergonomics:

  • Follow the 20/20/20 rule: take a 20 second break every 20 minutes and look 20 feet away to rest your hands and eyes.   

  • Perform some simple stretch exercises during these breaks from your notebook computer, including the following:

  • Spread your fingers of both hands apart while keeping your wrists straight.  Hold for three seconds and complete five times.

  • Massage your fingers, wrists and forearms.

  • Lean forward and squeeze your should blades together bringing your elbows behind your back. Keep your shoulders lowered.

  • Turn your head gently to the left, center, and right, holding each position for three seconds.

For more information on ergonomics and how to select, work and transport notebook computers (a.k.a. notebook computer), check the following related links: