Your laptop is a great tool. Take your computer with you on the go. Work wherever you want. A great deal of freedom is to be had with a laptop.
However, precisely because they are mobile, laptops pose some unique postural problems.
Start with awareness
Do you frequently find yourself curled over your laptop (you know, in that sort of a cashew nut-shaped posture)? Do you want to work on changing that?
Well, my first piece of advice as an Alexander Teacher is of course to work on awareness of yourself as you work.
Here are three short blog posts on awareness building to get you started:
Any change in behavior must start with awareness of what you are doing.
Because awareness allows for choice.
That said there are considerations of how to situate your laptop as well.
Sometimes just a simple tweak from how you normally set yourself up to work can make it that much easier to use yourself well and maintain a better working posture.
Understand the challenges
First off, realize that because the screen and keyboard are connected on your laptop, you are always going to be sacrificing something.
That is the challenge with the laptop.
- Place the laptop low enough so the keyboard in a comfortable position for your arms, wrist and hands and the screen is far too low for your head.
- Place the laptop high enough so the top line of text on your screen is at eye level and you will be typing with your hands up by your shoulders.
- Place the laptop somewhere in between and both suffer.
Now that we have laid out what the problem is, here are some ideas to experiment with:
Set up tips for home or office use
If you use your laptop at all at home or the office:
- Consider investing in a laptop stand and a wireless keyboard and mouse. This separates the screen from the keyboard and both can be adjusted separately.
- I use my laptop in my office quite a lot. Because of this, I have invested in an external monitor attached to an adjustable arm that I plug the laptop into. With this situation you can still use the laptop keyboard and mouse if you wish or a wireless keyboard and mouse.
- I find the laptop keyboard a bit too compact for me to use comfortably for long periods of time. So, I have chosen to have a larger wireless keyboard and mouse at my desk. I have basically created a situation where I have a desktop computer at home by plugging in my laptop to the external monitor, keyboard and mouse. I can adjust monitor, keyboard and mouse separately to put them in the best place for me.
Set up tips for on the go use
If you are using the laptop on the go as an actual laptop:
- Try not placing your laptop on your actual lap. If you are sitting, put it on a large pillow or in a pinch on top of your briefcase or backpack to bring it up a bit higher.
- A lot of coffee shops have high top tables or counters with high stools as well as regular height tables. Try using the higher tables for a change.
- With the higher tables, you can also alternate between sitting on the stool and standing which is not a bad thing. Remember, your body is designed to move!
- Increase the font size. In your system settings you can increase the font size on your screen. This brings the screen closer without you getting closer, if you get what I mean. When I work with my laptop I have the font set at 175%. That way I can stay back and still see things clearly. I am less tempted to poke my head forward to try to see the screen.
Don’t forget that your body follows your attention.
And your attention is usually focused on what you are looking at.
All the above set up tips are great, but they are not the full story. They need to be coupled with some awareness on your part.
So, if your cashew nut-shaped computer posture is of concern, experiment with some of the set-up options above and practice some of the awareness exercises.
As always, I’d love to hear how you get on in the comments below.
P.S. a great resource to help you learn to use yourself well at the computer is my colleague Imogen Ragone’s free online course 12 Lessons in Computer Poise