Laptop ergonomic woes: The price for mobility

June 14th, 2005 by Julie Ferguson

I remember an ad from some years ago showing a guy using a laptop at the beach. At the time, this was designed to paint some futuristic fantasy of ubiquitous computing. I clearly remember how the ad alternately intrigued and horrified me. As a bit of a web geek, I loved the idea of mobility. On the other hand, the luddite in me balked. I’m not always keen on the blurring of the line between work and personal space. Nice to work at home now and again, yes. Not always quite so nice to have work follow you when you are enjoying a Margarita on the beach.
Today, mobile computers are the fastest growing segment of all computing devices. About one in every four computers purchased last year was a notebook. That’s a whopping total of more than 45 million new laptops. More and more workers are mobile today. People are working from the road, working from home, and yes, they are probably working from the beach. Mobile computing affords both employer and employee freedom from the constraints of geography.
But as Newton told us, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The downside to this mobile nirvana is an upsurge in laptop-related ergonomic maladies. In a recent article, Is Your Laptop a Pain in the Neck?, Alorie Gilbert of CNET News discusses this phenomena.
Essentially, laptops were never designed to be permanent workstations. Good workstation ergonomics dictate that the optimal place for the computer screen is just under eye level, and that the best place for a keyboard is at wrist level. With a laptop, you can have one but not both. They violate just about every aspect of the CDC’s ergonomics guidelines, and then some.
Strains, sprains, and