Open Office Etiquette | Workplace Research by Knoll

Introducing Policies, Protocol, and Politeness

It can be challenging for companies to transition from a private office workplace into an open space work environment. A significant number of workers do not know what to expect. Moreover, they may not how to handle the difficult situations that often arise in open office environments. That is why it is extremely important for companies to develop a clear path for a smooth transition and to provide each employee with the necessary tools to alleviate possible anxieties. This new research prepared by one of our favorite manufacturers outlines in very simple terms how we can easily implement a program that will benefit the whole organization.

Photo by Knoll

“By improving collaboration and communication, flattening hierarchies and eliminating siloes, open environments can catalyze the innovation businesses seek.”

Photo by Knoll

Source: Open Office Etiquette | Workplace Research | Resources | Knoll

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Office Ergonomics Part One: Setting Up Your Laptop As Your Desktop

This is Part One of a two-part piece about the proper ergonomic use of a laptop. Part One demonstrates how to set up a laptop as a full-fledged desktop computer without the pain and discomfort many people experience. Part Two provides recommendations for the ergonomic use of your laptop away from your desk.  On the road, in the airport or at your hotel there are a few simple things you can do to be a more comfortable and productive road warrior.

Sales of laptops have outpaced desktop computers for the last several years. Once thought essential only for the road warriors, laptops have made their way into the rest of the office.  But convenience can come at an ergonomic price.

While a laptop is very portable, it poses a range of ergonomic difficulties. Most critical is the fact that having the monitor and keyboard so close together makes it impossible to work in the proper posture. Another problem is the small size of the keyboard and mouse, which encourages the use of bad hand and wrist positions.  If you use a laptop as your primary computer and have it sitting on a desk, you need to make several adjustments:

• Attach a separate keyboard and mouse to the laptop, and put them on an external tray system that you can position at the appropriate height (not on your desk).

• Put the laptop itself on a stand, so you can raise the screen to the correct eye level.

• Tilt the screen up or down (or rotate left or right) to avoid glare.

Regardless of what type of monitor you use, you should position it to the correct level and distance. To maintain correct posture and proper head and neck position while seated at a computer, the top of the monitor screen should be at or just below your eye level. In addition, the monitor should be positioned about an arm’s reach from your face.  Note that this is the correct distance for most people.

You should adjust the position of your monitor as needed for comfortable viewing and focus. For instance, if you wear bifocals and look at the screen through your lower lenses, lower your monitor a bit and sit further back. As mentioned earlier, it’s also important to consider how the computer monitor and keyboard are positioned. In most office settings, the monitor should be aligned with the keyboard. Avoid setups in which you have to turn your head or bend your neck repeatedly to look at the monitor. For an external monitor the use of a monitor arm will allow you greater flexibility in positioning. Whatever type of monitor you use be sure to adjust the controls for brightness, contrast, etc. as needed for comfortable viewing.   Applying ergonomic principles in the workplace has two clear benefits:

• Preventing injuries

• Increasing productivity

Making ergonomic improvements will reduce the risks for repetitive stress injuries and eliminate or at least decrease their incidence in the workplace. In addition to safeguarding workers’ health and well-being, making ergonomic improvements will also decrease employee absenteeism and lower insurance and workers’ compensation costs. Even small improvements can bring about significant, measurable results  – as much as a 6 to 1 return on investment, according to some sources. This investment in safety is cost effective and applying ergonomics is good business.


Be sure to check back next week for Part Two: Office Ergonomics Using Your Laptop On The Road

Office Ergonomics Part Two: Using Your Laptop On The Road

This week, Part Two provides recommendations for the ergonomic use of your laptop away from your desk so you can be a more comfortable and productive road warrior.  (Last week in Part One we showed you how to set up a laptop as a full-fledged desktop computer to minimize pain and discomfort.

These days it seems that everybody has a laptop. Statistically speaking that’s not far off the mark. In an effort to make their workforce more mobile, some companies have eliminated desktop computers in favor of laptops and tablets. We showed you how to set up your laptop with proper ergonomics at work, but what can you do on the road when you don’t even have a desk?

A good rule of thumb is to get as close as you can to the desk and chair settings that you have at work. That means don’t settle for resting your laptop on a desk, table, counter, or surface that is high or far from reach. The proper setup puts your body in the “neutral posture” position (see the large illustration). A neutral posture position uses the lease amount of energy and muscle strength and helps preserve the normal forward curve of the neck vertebrae.

Often it’s just a slight adjustment that can help your computer adapt to your body rather than your body straining to adapt to the computer. In the illustration below the one on the left shows signs of pain and fatigue. By shifting the computer back and angling the keyboard, one on the right changed of the angle of the elbow and wrist. The elbow bent at a 90 degree angle is in a neutral posture position and will make the user more comfortable.


Tips for erogonomic laptop use in the field

  • Use a pillow or folded towels to raise your chair seat high enough so that your elbows are level or slightly higher than the keyboard (elbows around 90 degrees).
  • Ask if the hotel has a keyboard and monitor you can plug in.
  • If you can’t find a surface low enough, or a chair high enough, then your lap is always an option.
  • Sit so that your knees and hips are level. This will allow the laptop to rest comfortably on your lap.
  • Be careful not to strain your neck. Look down at the screen by tucking your chin in as opposed to bending your entire neck down, as this can cause strain and fatigue to the neck and shoulder area.
  • Try using a chair that does not have armrests to give you room to move your arms.
  • If the seat is too deep add a pillow for back support.

And finally, take frequent breaks whenever you use a computer. Remember to pace yourself. Stand up and stretch. If you feel any strains or pains, stop what you are doing and experiment with different positions. The same rules of ergonomic computer use apply to laptops as well as desktops.

The illustrations and some information in Part Two were sourced from the Comfortable Portable Computing: The Ergonomic Equation, a whitepaper from Ergotron®. Download your free copy of the whitepaper here (PDF)


Ergotron is a trademark of Ergotron, Inc.
‘Good Laptop Tips’ Image.  Reclining Laptop Users Image from the Comfortable Portable Computing: The Ergonomic Equation, whitepaper.