Ergonomics 101 – Monitor Arms and Laptop stands

If you’ve ever finished a day of typing away at your computer only to feel like your neck and upper back have been worked over by a herd of elephants, we’ve got news for you: you need monitor arms.

Monitor arms sound almost like alien appendages. And, hey, if they’re not designed well, they can look like them, too. But believe us, a good monitor arm can remove a lot of pain from your workday, allowing you to focus on getting things done rather than on how bad you feel.

So just what are monitor arms? How can you spot a good one? And how might they fit into your ergonomic lifestyle? Let’s take a look!

Monitor Arms: What They Are and What They Do

As you’ve probably guessed, a monitor arm holds — yep — your monitor. Ideally, your monitor should be an arm’s length away from you. And it should be at such a height that you can sit up and keep your neck in a neutral position. When your monitor sits on your desk, you are likely to hunch over it, moving your spine out of alignment. A monitor arm not only allows you to control the distance between your monitor and your keyboard, but it also allows you to adjust this distance throughout the day as you move your body, whether you’re sitting differently in your chair or you work at an adjustable desk and switch suddenly to standing.

Monitor arms also allow you to easily rotate your screen vertically so you can view your work from another angle. If you want to show your neighbor your screen, all you have to do is swivel it into position. If you prefer working with two screens (an ideal ergonomic solution if you regularly work with many windows open), monitor arms for both of them will help you more fluidly control your visual workspace.

Lastly, from a purely organizational standpoint, monitor arms free up real estate on your desk. This allows you to more comfortably place other items on your desk, as well as other ergonomic accessories like a split keyboard or a laptop and tablet stand that can double as a document holder, so that you can transcribe without having to look up or down. It also frees up space for any ergonomic desk lighting you might need if you work in low-light conditions.

For a more in-depth look into what monitor arms are and what they can do, we highly recommend this video from Dell about their MSA14 single monitor arm (which we like very much).

What to Look for in a Good Monitor Arm

A good monitor arm needs to be nice and flexible, so that you can move your screen easily in space to find your ideal working positions. It also should be instantly moveable rather than something you need to screw in and out. You want to make these movements quickly, right?

Of course, you want the arm to be able to hold a significant amount of weight. It should also offer a solid anchoring to your desk so there’s no risk of falling. That said, you want to be able to remove the arm easily. Therefore, a good vice clamp is the way to go, as it can attach solidly and be removed easily, too.

An Essential Part of Your Ergonomic Ecosystem

When paired with other ergonomic items, like a split keyboard and mouse and an adjustable desk or an ergonomic chair, monitor arms are an essential part of any ergonomic ecosystem. With your screen at the proper distance, you’ll experience less pain in your neck and back, and you’ll reduce your risks of developing Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) — a condition caused by overuse and improper screen distance — as well.

Laptop Stands

If you work on a laptop, you may be thinking, “Well, I don’t have a monitor, so I guess this doesn’t apply to me.” To the contrary, you more than anyone should listen up.

Here’s the thing: laptops are an ergonomist’s nightmare – a flat, straight keyboard forces your hands and wrists into a strained position, which in turn increases your chances of developing carpal tunnel syndrome), a big problem with laptops is that the screen and the keyboard are anchored. Typing on your laptop necessitates that you keep it on your desk. This means you’ll have to look down at your screen, which puts pressure on your spine – for extended use, we really recommend portable laptop stands like this one that will be up on the Lightspeed store shortly (yes, it’s also available in black with red accents for people who prefer ThinkPad black).

If you already have a monitor arm or laptop stand, what do you love about it? Let us know in the blog comments!