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As cases of Covid-19 first emerged in the U.S. last year, it not only changed our social behavior but also the way we work. Millions of Americans started working from home and coming across the need for items like desk chairs and laptop stands for the first time. This new reality presents some challenges some people may have not encountered before, among them a healthy and productive remote work setup.
To help you deal with remote work, we've been shoring up guides and recommendations on staying focused, picking the right monitor, laptop, and noise-cancelling headphones, how to sanitize your tech and more. Not to mention, an appropriate ergonomic chair, Gaiam disc, ergonomic keyboard and even ergonomic mouse might help reduce long-term joint and back pain that arises from sitting hunched over a desk for an extended period of time. Even with your full setup in tow, where do you put everything? A laptop stand can help you get your laptop to eye level (where it belongs) and make working on it easier on your back. But where should you start shopping for a laptop stand?
Even if you’ve worked remotely before, it can be a hard adjustment to go from working in an office to working from home full-time. We consulted medical professionals and productivity experts on some tech tips with specific attention to ergonomic desktop solutions. You want to aim to set up your home workspace to mirror your office setup, as is possible. Things like good lighting and comfort matter, says Kerry Hannon, a workplace expert and author of "Great Jobs for Everyone 50 +." Hannon, who’s been a remote worker for 15 years, said the key to making working from home work for you is through “organization and discipline.”
I’ve gotten so many calls from patients who recently have horrible neck pain, and it’s probably from this — they’ve moved from their offices to their sofa and sat for hours.
Karen Erickson, Chiropractor
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 a laptop stand 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 is 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. 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.
The best ergonomic laptop stand for you
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.”
Listen to your body. If it’s screaming for help, you need to get up and move or consider a different work setup.
Jon Cinkay, physical therapist, the Hospital for Special Surgery
Best designed laptop stand: Rain Design
Not only is this laptop stand from Rain Design easy to use and durable, it’s also sleek. While this version isn’t adjustable, it has a space underneath to store your keyboard and a slot in the back for cable management. It’s also fairly portable so you can move it from room to room without much effort — it doesn’t fold up, so you can’t carry it around in your bag.
Best standalone laptop stand: Seville Classics
This cart can easily move around your home and adjust to your needs, whether you are sitting or standing. It’s an affordable option for those who want more mobility for their home workstation. One downside is the size of the stand: It isn’t wide enough to accommodate a second monitor.
Best affordable laptop stand: AmazonBasics
This highly-rated laptop stand is another affordable option. This laptop stand is height-adjustable and the ventilated metal mesh surface will help keep your computer from overheating. You can use this stand with or without an external keyboard or mouse. While you can buy this laptop stand right now, it won't ship until April 7 — if you need something sooner, consider the highly-rated and similarly-priced Lamicall Adjustable Laptop Stand.
Best adjustable laptop stand: Varidesk
This hefty stand easily switches from a standing desk to a seated desk. It has plenty of space for your laptop, keyboard and a second monitor. While pricier than other laptop stands, the easily adjustable settings may be worth it for those who like to stand while working. “Standing desks like these are helpful,” said Erickson. “And when you want to stand or sit, you can do it without breaking concentration.”
Once you've found the best laptop stand for your needs, here are some tips from the American Chiropractic Association on how to position it in your space:
- Make sure the screen is positioned straight out in front of you
- If you use two monitors, position both so that they meet in the middle
- The screens should always be an arm's length away
Best ergonomic desktop accessories
A second monitor will increase productivity (no more clicking from tab to tab) but will also keep your eyes forward and at eye level. “If you have a second monitor at work, you should have another monitor at home,” said Stern. Most desktop monitors range in size — anywhere from 20 inches to 32 inches — and picture quality, writes technology writer Whitson Gordon. The size you choose depends on how much space you have in your office. Obviously, a larger size is going to make content more visible on your screen. If the monitor isn’t being used for video editing or something similar, the standard monitor resolution will work. Gordon recommends the Dell U2415 as the best all-around monitor: "Its IPS panel provides great colors and viewing angles, the stand height is adjustable for better ergonomics, and its price is in a relatively sweet spot of affordability."
Cinkay recommends pairing your new laptop stand with a remote keyboard and mouse, which can help keep your arms in a 90-degree position while you type and help prevent future strain. Logitech’s popular MK550 Wave combo is actually ergonomically-designed and relatively affordable.
Featured in our best ergonomic keyboard roundup, Durgod’s “tenkeyless” (or TKL) keyboard helps prevent you from having to stretch your arm to reach the mouse or angle your hands awkwardly to reach the main portion of the keyboard (the “b” key should be centered on your body for proper placement). There are dozens of tenkeyless options out there, but this model from Durgod offers solid build quality and lots of key switch choices.
This ergonomic mouse keeps your hand in a natural position, helping prevent joint and wrist pain, said Cinkay. This model is wireless and can easily connect to your computer or laptop. It has a tracking ball in place so you don’t have to move the mouse around while scrolling.
Another Logitech Bluetooth-enabled option that features a more traditional mouse-like trackball. Located on the left, you can easily move the trackball with your thumb. Logitech also allows you to create customizable button-trackball combo actions.
This highly-rated, affordable desk accessory is adjustable, meaning you won’t need to lean in to be heard during video conferences and meetings). “Depending on how much you project, you may have to edit a little bit before you submit something,” said Stern about the microphone's secondary functionality: Inputting text by dictation.
While some may feel a change immediately after trying out a new desk accessory, it may take your body a couple weeks to adjust to a new working position. “Listen to your body,” said Cinkay. “If it’s screaming for help, you need to get up and move or consider a different work setup.” Though your workspace has moved from an office to your home, the way you work shouldn’t change.