As I impatiently await the arrive of my very own new Macbook Pro, I was a little unsettled to learn that the above august educational establishment has warned of the potential injuries from Macbook Pro use, and it’s all down to the new “glossy” screens:
“Reflections and glare on high gloss monitor screens and their relation to the angle of the monitor screen, could cause the operator to adopt awkward postures when viewing the monitor screen and using related equipment. These reflections on the screen can be from internal and external sources such as the overhead lighting and/or position of windows.
Awkward postures adopted by the operator may in turn lead to an injury.”
To be fair, I don’t think we should single out Apple here. Glossy screens aside, the sheer portability of laptop computers has led to people using them in ways that could never be described as ergonomically sound. For example, lying on your stomach in the park, laptop laid out on the ground in front of you. Balancing precariously on the too-small airline seat table in front of you. On your lap in bed (I have to admit to this one).
Research from University College London ergonomists backs this observation up. Focusing on students, this study identified the fact that, rather than a stopgap measure, research participants were using laptops for extended periods of time, as their main computer.
Essentially, laptops break a fundamental rule of computer ergonomics – they don’t allow you to position the keyboard and screen independently, to suit your physical requirements.
So, what to do?
Healthy Computing has some useful suggestions for avoiding awkward posture when using laptop on a flat surface, including laptop stands and external keyboards. I use both when at my home office desk.
When out and about, the best advice is to minimise the amount of time you have to spend using the laptop in an awkward or cramped position (the tiny tables at Starbucks come to mind) and to remain aware of your posture, taking regular breaks from typing. Try to adopt as neutral a posture as possible.
Finally, those cramps and pains in your wrists, elbows and shoulders? That’s your body’s way of telling you it would like a break from your laptop. Listen to it.