Five tips for ensuring comfortable laptop ergonomics

Whether you use a laptop full-time in the office or only when you hit the road, you could incur some discomfort (i.e., pain) from repetitive stress issues, among other things. BNET's Dave Johnson share's some practical advice for laptop users.

That laptop of yours is mighty convenient, but it's slowly killing you. Well, maybe not killing you, but it could be nudging you towards repetitive stress injury, eyestrain, and back problems. Thankfully, it's all preventable. Check out these five ways to use your laptop ergonomically.

Note: These tips are based on an entry in BNET's Business Hacks blog.

1: Get your keyboard at a comfortable angle

Laptops used to come with little pop-out legs in the back to set the keyboard at an angle. (I'm really dating myself.) But these days, to position the keyboard at an angle, you can prop the back of the laptop on a small book or other widget.

2: Make the screen brighter

Dim screens are better for battery life, but you'll get a headache staring at a low-contrast screen for hours on end. Bring a power cable so you can plug in and crank the brightness until it's comfortable to see.

3: Use a separate mouse

Integrated touchpads or pointing sticks are clumsy to use for extended periods. Invest in a small portable Bluetooth mouse. Likewise, many ergo experts advise using a separate keyboard, so you can position the laptop for optimum display position. This isn't practical on the road, but you might consider it if you use the laptop as your primary PC in the office.

4: Position the laptop for the task at hand

If you're doing a lot of typing, your wrists should be straight and elbows at a 90 degree angle, as if you were typing on a keyboard in the office. For many people, that might mean putting the laptop in your lap. But if you're mainly reading, that's a bad place for the screen. Instead, elevate it to near eye level. (You can put it on a stack of magazines or books.)

5: Carry it in comfort

Your laptop, mouse, power supply, and other accessories probably weigh anywhere from five to 10 pounds. Be sure to carry it all in a bag that has a wide, padded strap to distribute all that weight comfortably across your shoulder. Even better, consider a rolling case so you don't have to carry it at all.