Washington State University
Environmental Health & Safety Computer Workstation Ergonomics

Laptop Computers

Laptop computers by design go against a number of basic ergonomic principles; therefore, you need to pay special attention to how you use a laptop to avoid potential problems.  The primary challenge is the fixed design of the monitor and keyboard – if the monitor is in optimal position then the keyboard will not be and vice versa. This results in a trade-off between poor neck/head posture and wrist/hand posture.

The frequency of laptop use determines the degree of risk of developing a musculoskeletal disorder.  Occasional users have less risk than full-time users; however, all users should be mindful of how they use their laptops.

If you are an occasional user you are usually better having poor neck posture rather than poor wrist posture since neck/head posture is determined by large muscles.  When occasionally using a laptop be sure to:

  • Sit back in a comfortable chair
  • Position the laptop in your lap to assure neutral wrist postures
  • Angle the screen so you can see it while minimizing bending your neck
If you are a full-time user (using a laptop as a PC) you should:
  • Position the laptop on the desk top in front of you so you can see the screen without bending your neck and use a separate keyboard and mouse; or,
  • Use the laptop as a CPU and use a separate monitor and keyboard/mouse.

Click here for a good video on ergonomic laptop use.