Reclined Computing With Your Laptop


Laptops are great; I’m an uber-fan and have been almost exclusively a laptop user since 1996, but for the long hours of production work that many web workers like myself do, conventional laptop ergonomics are a horror, and can lead to a variety of painful or even debilitating conditions over time.

There are two effective conventional ways to address this issue. You can place the computer on a laptop stand of some sort that elevates the display to a comfortable viewing plane that doesn’t involve tilting your head forward, and connecting an external keyboard and mouse for input. Alternatively, you can use an external monitor.

A less conventional solution, which I’ve been working with successfully for a while now, is to use one of several devices that facilitate computing in a reclined posture, like the Laptop Laidback, pictured above. I’m going to discuss these devices in this post.

Dave Malouf, an Industrial Design professor at the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD), also a primary founder and first vice president of the Interaction Design Association, recently taught a class project in laptop computer design and ergonomics. An abstract report on the class was published last August in Core 77. Among many other aspects and nuances of laptop design and engineering covered in the class, one group of students investigated the physical ergonomics associated with the use of smaller computing devices, and discovered that a conventional small clamshell laptop is most comfortably used lying down, with the device on the thigh and the knees kept elevated.

This posture approximates the ergonomics enabled by products like the Laptop Laidback, only with them, you can relax your legs and don’t need to keep your knees up in order to maintain the ideal arm, hand, neck, shoulder and leg positions relative to the computer that are recommended by ergonomists in order to maximize comfort and minimize body stress: elbows resting on the support surface (no reaching) and palms and fingers falling relaxedly on the palm rests and keyboard (without having to lift your elbows).

Of course if you use your laptop in an employer’s office or other conventional workplace, assuming a laying-down-on-the-job position, even in the rare instances when it would be logistically possible, is likely to be frowned upon. However, if you work on the web out of a home office as I do, working laid-back is not only possible, but arguably the ideal mode to use for long hours at the keyboard, especially in conjunction with a Wi-Fi connection. When you’re comfortable, you’re more likely to be pain- and stress-free, can extend your laptop usage, and are likely to be more efficient and effective.

I can personally vouch for this. I’ve been using my Laptop Laidback for years for fully-reclined computing. The Laidback is a special laptop stand with an adjustable, inclined support tray that forms a “bridge” spanning your torso when lying down on a bed or sofa, letting your arms assume the recommended 90-degree elbow angle, comfortably relaxed. While the angle of the keyboard when the computer is mounted on the Laptop Laidback or similar device tray may appear “wrong” from an ergonomic perspective, when the user is reclined, it actually facilitates natural and relaxed assumption of the ideal elbow angle and straight wrist posture.

The $99.99 Laptop Laidback is, of course, not the only product of this type available. A couple of other examples include the $99.95 (free shipping) Wizard Multi-Configurable Laptop Stand from Lapworks and the nearly identical $89.00 (shipping not included) Lapdawg Multi-Purpose Laptop Desk;  the $149.00 (and up) AirDesk Swing-Away Laptop Computer Desk/Stand; the €99.00 ($145) Lounge-book Freestanding Reclining Laptop Stand; the  $125.00 (+ $32.00 shipping) LM1 Rolling Laptop Over The Bed Table; and others.

I’ve used the first three products mentioned above, but the Laptop Laidback’s been my standby for the past eight years. Because I battle several chronic health issues, without the Laidback I might’ve literally been long since out of business as a web worker. However, even folks in perfect health (who want to stay that way, at least) may find they prefer to use their laptops while relaxing recumbently for working, surfing or whatever.

Do you practice reclined computing? If so, do you use a special laptop stand or just make do with your knees?



The notebook computer is quickly replacing the desktop as most computer owner’s favorite machine. Not only is it portable for travel, it is also portable for use in the home. When used on a desk, it is not the massive monitor that even streamlined current desktops and monitors are. Wireless cards and growing wifi providers and hosts ensure that the internet is always accessible.


An archfile folder is a great solution and its only about £2.00 and it can also be used as ….AN ARCHFILE FOLDER!!


Interesting post – on many levels – one which you only touch on briefly (understandably). Those with injuries or other conditions that make more traditional computer usage painful or impossible.

As for those who say they would (or have) fallen asleep, cute, but those of us who are serious web workers and writers put in our long days regardless of location, and certainly wouldn’t sleep through any aspect of them short of narcolepsy!

I alternate between working in a seated position, a semi-reclining position, and even a reclining position – with the laptop on a tray or most often, on my thighs. One issue is making sure you don’t burn yourself, and another, that the laptop gets the circulation it needs.

For some of us, it isn’t about a relaxing position, it’s about the only way to work without pain.

Helpful post.


I’m glad to see there is a product out here like this. It’s a bit out of my price range, but I’d like to get it at some point… my boobs really get in the way when trying to view my laptop while lying down!

Buy and Sell

I just can’t see how sitting like that and typing on your laptop would be comfortable. I know that I’m wrong by virtue of the fact that people seem to like it – I just think it looks a bit awkward.


Has anyone here used the Airdesk? I’m thinking of trying one out, it would be nice to switch between recined and sitting up position.


I have been using this technique for several years, especially when working from home after hours. This device at least will make sure that the air flows around the laptop to keep it cool, especially the video card if you own a Dell.

I also understand that there are ergonomically designed “work stations” that encourage computing in a reclined position.

I wouldn’t pay $99.00 for a device like this but I’m sure someone is working on the affordable version. Interesting post.


Interesting. I work from home as a web developer, and while staying at a friends place, accidentally discovered something like this computing posture. I sat lengthwise on a three seater sofa in a reclined position (say 45 degrees), with a few cushions for additional backrest, and my feet supported on the other end of the sofa. I use a stiff magazine to keep some airflow under the laptop, and a usb mouse supported on a small cushion at my right. The mouse posture is very comfortable because my wrist is supported, and the whole arm in a straight line, 90 degree bend etc.

I initially got some left wrist fatigue, but this i corrected with a rolled up sweater on my waist to support my wrists.

Incidentally the computer was a 10 inch asus netbook. People dont believe that i could actually work on such a small computer, but it has a 1024 px, high resolution screen that puts my 19″ 1680px wide screen to shame for text sharpness. Its also light and easy to lift on and off my lap with one hand. Allows me to get up for frequent stretches.

Not sure about the EMF-delicate-body-parts issue. These things do operate at near microwave frequencies after all. There’s some shielding, but they are plastic cases with lots of openings.

Id be really interested to try this posture on one of those architecturally designed S curved recliners.

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