Make sure your Wi-Fi connection is as strong as possible: Move your router or move your workstation closer to get a better connection. Tech that allows you more flexibility, like a laptop stand or noise-canceling headphones, will also help you become more productive by improving your ergonomics or removing outside distractions. “You need to set the boundaries between home and work. Carve out a space in your home that’s dedicated to work, and once you leave that space you’re done working,” she said. “It’s healthier for yourself and makes you more productive.”
Of course, you can only allow yourself that solution if you have the means to do so. While some workers may have a designated office space in their home, most are “on their laptop on the couch or bed, lounging with no back or neck support,” says Karen Erickson, a chiropractor in New York.
“I’ve gotten so many calls from patients who recently have horrible neck pain, and it’s probably from this,” she told NBC News. “They’ve moved from their offices to their sofa and sat for hours.”
Staring hunched over at your computer for eight to 10 hours a day can lead to long-term physical pain and a loss of productivity — among other things — said Erickson. One way to avoid all of that is through ergonomics, which the Occupational Hazard and Safety Administration (OHSA) describes as “fitting a job to a person.” Neglecting proper ergonomic practices in your daily work could result in musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) — which include carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle strains and low back injuries — according to OHSA. “The rise in popularity of ergonomics among office workers is stemming mainly from increased musculoskeletal symptoms associated with longer work durations and poor workstation design,” Jonathan Puleio, MS CPE — the managing director of office solutions firm Humanscale — previously told BETTER.
What is ergonomics and why does it matter?
Ergonomics is the science of fitting your workspace to your health needs, explains Jon Cinkay, a physical therapist at the Hospital for Special Surgery and an expert in ergonomics. The way you sit, stand or even look at your computer can affect your long-term physical health, he explained. For example, he noted that sitting for a couple hours or more puts tremendous strain on the shoulders, back and neck and can lead to carpal tunnel, tendonitis, lower back pain, neck strain and more.
Hardware and technology can provide easy and simple solutions to help prevent some of that, among them ergonomic desk accessories like standing desks, laptop stands and second monitors. It’s important to make sure you’re comfortable (but maybe not too comfortable) and positioning yourself in a way that prevents repetitive stress injuries, Cinkay says.
“The toughest thing about recreating the tech setup in the office is about making the tools work for you. You have to try to bend your tech to fit the space, and there are some things you can’t control,” said Joanna Stern, a senior personal tech columnist for the Wall Street Journal. For example, you likely can’t perfectly recreate your office setup at home. But you can set yourself up to help protect your body.
How to shop for laptop stands and other ergonomic desktop accessories
Hunching over a laptop can wreak major stress on your head and neck discs, said Erickson. Laptop stands help position your screen at eye level, which reduces the undue burden on your neck. Think of your body as a chair — your back the backrest — you should be sitting up straight, she advised. Laptop stands are also helpful for video chatting — something many of us are now doing much more frequently. You’ll also likely just look better at eye level, Stern added. The best ergonomic solution for your setup ultimately depends on your situation:
- Maybe you need a stand that lives permanently on your desk
- Maybe you’d prefer one you can move from place to place
- Or maybe you need a sizable solution to handle a heavier setup
Amidst the national response to the coronavirus illness COVID-19, some retailers are low in stock on certain items and delaying shipping on others. Amazon, for example, is prioritizing shipping essential household items. If the products you’re looking for aren’t available anytime soon, try using items around your home — like books — to help prop your laptop up. If you’re already experiencing neck or back pain, Erickson recommends sitting in a wooden chair (if you have one): It provides firm support and will help you sit up straight.
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Best ergonomic laptop stands
Here are some of the best ergonomic desk accessories that could help improve body positioning and posture, help reduce or prevent pain and keep you focused. “It’s all about posture, posture, posture,” Cinkay said. “Elevating the screen will keep you from hunching over.”