Laptop ergonomics

Revised 2020.03.24

Laptop positioning challenges

  • The screen is connected to the “keyboard” (i.e. keyboard and pointing device)
  • Best height for the “keyboard” is not the best height for the screen and vice versa
  • A common recommendation for screen height is eye level which will strain the arms if typing at that height
  • A common recommendation for typing height is elbow height which will strain the neck if the screen is positioned there
  • The effect of poor screen positioning is magnified because of the smaller screens on laptops; causing even more awkward neck postures to read what is on the screen
  • TIP: Test larger font sizes, though keep in mind that this could create more hand activity due to the need for more scrolling


Using a laptop on a desk

  • Ideally, enable independent positioning of the screen and “keyboard” by using an external “keyboard” and/or screen…then follow guidelines for setting up a desktop computer
  • This will be easier with a height adjustable chair and/or desk.
  • When using an external “keyboard”, you could use a book or there are a number of laptop stands on the market to raise the screen. However, as is the case with desktop computers, the “keyboard” may be too high if it is on a fixed height desk.

  • If you aren’t using an external “keyboard” and are at a fixed height desk, there are laptop stands that may improve “keyboard” as well as screen positioning
  • This is done by allowing the front of the laptop to overhang the edge of the desk, sloping downwards
  • When the “keyboard” is above elbow height, this slope will be similar to the angle of your forearms which will help straighten your wrists, while keeping your elbows closer to your sides

Using a laptop on your lap

As long as the screen and keyboard are connected, laptop positioning will be a challenge. However the following may make it slightly less awkward…
  • Try a pillow or 2 under the laptop to make viewing the screen easier and take frequent stretch breaks
  • There are also stands that can be placed over your lap that would provide more stability and prevent the heat buildup associated with using a laptop on your lap

More information

  • Video: Laptop Ergonomics - Basic Tips - Adult or Child Laptop Use at Home, Work or School