Laptops and notebooks have become more and more widespread in recent years and are accordingly frequently used as work tools. Unfortunately, neck complaints and shoulder tension have also increased in tandem. It should be a must for every ergonomic workstation to be furnished with a suitable laptop stand. The selection is large, but which characteristics should an ergonomic laptop stand have? In this article, I explain what you should look for to find the appropriate laptop stand and thus ensure good ergonomics in the workplace.
Features and characteristics of laptop stand
Given the variety of notebook and laptop stands, you should first know your needs so that you can choose from the various features.
Size of laptop stand
Stands come in different sizes, for devices from 8″ to 22″ (about 20 – 56 cm). When choosing, make sure that you find the appropriate size. Almost all laptop stands are adjustable from 13″ to 17″, with some covering a very wide range and others being a bit more limited. However, if you know that your laptop is 17″, for example, and you don’t intend to place any other device on the stand, you don’t need to care about the range of dimensions. Nevertheless, it can be quite astute to purchase a combinable laptop stand, on which you could also place a tablet or even a cell phone, so that an ergonomic solution is available for these devices as well.
For on the road or in the office
If you travel a lot with your laptop and need an ergonomic laptop stand in different places, a foldable, small, lightweight, and portable stand makes absolute sense. Some stands can be folded up to be very small, which of course has great advantages for packing. Here, you should also make sure that the laptop stand can be packed in a sleeve or otherwise in a protective cover, so that nothing is damaged during transport. On the other hand, if you always use the laptop stand in the same place, you can do without the mobile features.
Fixed or adjustable
There are laptop stands that are fixed and offer great stability, but cannot be further adjusted. Here, special attention should be paid to the height of the top edge of the screen. Many health ailments for the neck, shoulders, head and back come from the screen height being too low or too high, resulting in bad desk posture. You can easily check the required screen height by keeping your eyes straight, about two finger widths above the top edge of the laptop, i.e. the screen. In doing so, you will have a slightly tilted head when working with the screen, but not too much down and certainly not too much up.
With an adjustable laptop stand, you are freer in your adjustments, making it easier and safer to set the required ergonomic screen height and tilt angle for your laptop. However, it effectively depends on the size of your notebook or laptop to what extent such a flexible solution makes sense.
Height adjustment and angle tilt
To guarantee good ergonomics at the workplace, the correct height and angle of the laptop stand is of crucial importance. With these two adjustments, you can achieve the desired ergonomic screen height in most cases. Nonetheless, some laptop stands can still be too low, even with all possible height adjustments, because of the overall design. The desired height and angle should be determined well in advance to avoid bad posture at the desk.
For a good ergonomic solution, the notebook or laptop should be positioned with the top edge of the screen so that your eyes are about two finger widths above this top edge. The screen itself should have a slight backward tilt so that it meets your slightly tilted head at a right angle.
An electronic device generates heat, which can affect its lifespan, especially if the laptop or notebook gets too warm over a long period of time. That’s why an ergonomic laptop stand with cutouts for an air supply is important. These can be cutouts, holes, or even built-in fans to prevent overheating.
Some laptop stands have special holes or recesses for the passage of cables, which can promote good ergonomics and design. The better the cables can be integrated into the structure, the less cable clutter there will be and the better your ergonomic workstation will be designed. There are even models of laptop stands, which provide for the accommodation of documents or other small devices. Consider here how much you need this for good ergonomics in the workplace.
Laptop stands come in a wide variety of materials, such as plastic, aluminum, metal, steel, inox (stainless steel), various types of wood, such as oak, walnut, beech, bamboo, or even materials combined with rubber, textile or even printed from a 3D printer. Many laptop stands are made of aluminum, which has the advantage of being light weight as well as reducing heat.
The choice of materials is a matter of taste while still influencing the ergonomics and design. The different materials can effect the stability and heat generation around the laptop or notebook. The larger your electronic device is, the more stable the holder should be. Rubber coatings help for better slip resistance, though this is more effective for holders with only a small contact area. Basically, it is advantageous if your laptop or notebook gets good ventilation, with cutouts, holes, or other clearances in the laptop stand, as heat build-up will negatively affect the function and life of your electronic device.
Laptop stand for good ergonomics at the workplace
To avoid bad desk posture, the laptop stand should enable you to adjust the screen of your laptop or notebook to the correct height. As explained above, you achieve this when your gaze is slightly tilted with the center of your eyes about two finger widths above the top of the screen.
If you are working with a laptop stand, it is imperative that you work with an external keyboard and mouse. Anything else will put you in a bad health posture, which will adversely affect your wrists or shoulders. So don’t make the mistake of buying a laptop stand for a good ergonomic solution at work but omit typing with an external keyboard or mouse. From an ergonomic point of view, separate input devices are a must in combination with a laptop stand.
If you work with one or more external monitors, make sure that they are positioned correctly. You should always have an upright posture and not lean unnaturally to the side or forward. The rule of thumb is that the main screen should ideally be directly in front of you, and you should be able to lightly touch the screen with your fingertips when your arm is extended, with the tops of all screens about two finger widths below the center of your eyes. For additional information on this important topic, read my article “The Big Ergonomic Issue About The Correct Screen Height.”
Ergonomics and design
Unfortunately, design often clashes with ergonomics, but this does not mean that good ergonomics and design are not possible. However, my experience has shown me that often a beautiful design suffers from poor ergonomics. This is especially true of office chairs, which can cause incredible pain due to their poor ergonomic design. With a laptop stand, this danger is less great, but still, the ergonomics should be of primary importance and the design secondary.
Personally, for example, I am bothered by some laptop stands that stand with the support at the front edge of the laptop and thus block the work surface on the office table. With a laptop stand with support in the rear area, the laptop or notebook thereby effectively “floats”, and documents, papers, or other utensils can be pushed under the laptop. For good ergonomics in the workplace, I find such details important and in need of consideration.
So, make sure that with the ergonomic laptop stand the following is possible:
- an ergonomic screen height can be achieved
- the correct tilt angle is provided or can be adjusted
- stability is ensured and in harmony with the size of the electronic device
- good ventilation of the laptop or notebook is ensured
- ergonomic work surface on the office desk is available (provides free space under the laptop)
- portable attributes (foldable, weight), if the stand is to be taken with you
- the stand provides good cable management
By considering these points and by using an external keyboard and a separate mouse, you will prevent neck pain and shoulder tension.
Working without a laptop stand can quickly affect your health and cause negative consequences. For this reason, it is absolutely recommended to use a laptop stand to ensure an ergonomic workplace.
The possible adjustment is important so that the ergonomic screen height of your notebook or laptop can be achieved, with the correct angle of inclination.
The portability and external input devices, such as mouse and keyboard, also play a key role in good ergonomics. In that sense, an ergonomic laptop stand is only a partial solution for an ergonomic workstation and should always be considered in conjunction with the overall work situation. In doing so, not only can better health be achieved, but performance and productivity will also be improved. So, all in all, it’s a very worthwhile thing to do.
If the topic of ergonomics in the office or home office appeals to you and you are interested in it further, my book “Wellness in the Office” can provide you with even more tips and tricks. Combined with humorous drawings, I present 50+1 tips to make your office a little paradise.