As a freelance writer, I often travel and that always means taking my laptop with me on the road. Unfortunately, I have not always had the best habits when it comes to using my laptop. More than once, I have been guilty of propping it up on my lap while I’m in my hotel bed or making the screen brighter when my wife is trying to sleep and the lights are out.
These are not good things. Poor laptop practices can lead to aches, pains, and even serious damage such as subluxation. So how can you offset these problems and find a more comfortable position while you’re on the road? By setting up an ergonomic workspace, even when laptops themselves are not the most ergonomic devices.
I’ve used my laptop in a variety of settings, from hotel rooms to trains and even buses. One of the perks of being a freelance writer is being able to work just about anywhere-and I have! With a few simple adjustments I’ve been able to use some of tips that Tamara James of Duke Occupational and Environmental Safety’s ergonomics division offers in her video “Ergonomics important when using laptops”.
Positive Changes Make an Impact
Tamara James suggests that you either “change the posture or change the setup” of the computer. You can’t always do both but sometimes you can do one or the other.
If you don’t have a desk to work from and you have to place the laptop in your lap then changing your posture is the way to go. I slouch, I can’t help it. Well, I can help it, but it’s difficult. I find that placing a firm pillow behind my back, or three, will help me sit up straighter. This can go a long way in helping prevent back pain when you’re on your laptop.
If the hotel chair is comfortable enough, I might also sit in it. My problem there is that my feet don’t always touch the ground. I have been known to place pillows under them or even a garbage can in order to give my legs and lower back some added support.
One of my biggest problems has been wrist pain. I later learned that this was because my monitor was too close to my body. When doing research, I place the laptop fairly far away from me so that my arm is outstretched on occasion and I’m not sitting there with my elbows in a locked position for a long period of time.
If I have the room in my bag I have also been known to travel with a portable keyboard that I hook up to my laptop. It might sound counter-productive to do that, but even author Anne Rice recently admitted on her Facebook page to doing the same thing.
Hotel desks aren’t always the right height for me. Sometimes, I find myself having to look up to see my screen. This puts a strain on the neck. To remedy this, I put a pillow under me to life myself up and a trashcan under my feet so that they are still touching something solid.
At night, if I can’t have a light on then I don’t work. Eye strain can cause all kinds of problems. After getting a few headaches on the road that made working nearly impossible I have learned to put the work away if anyone else is trying to sleep and I can’t at least have a desk light on. Making your monitor brighter might give you the illusion of being able to see better but it still puts a strain on your eyes.
If you’re not comfortable working when you’re on the road then you’re not going to be very productive. By alleviating some of the pain and discomfort, you can actually feel great and achieve more productivity. Remember, serious damage such as the process of subluxation can be avoided by paying attention to small pains and doing something to correct the problem early.
As a full-time writer, Jason Munroe recently finished an assignment on easing back pain. This lead him to seek assistance from a Steinbach Chiropractic clinic, which was instrumental in showing him the advantages of setting up an ergonomically correct workspace. He’s happy to report that he’s never felt better.