The Way You've Been Using Your Laptop on Planes Is All Wrong

The right approach requires some retraining.

Working on an airplane is not just a convenience but a necessity for many multitasking jet-setters. But as anyone knows who has tried to do it in the main cabin for an extended period of time on a long-haul flight, it can spell serious back pain at the destination. The cramped quarters and unnatural angles don't exactly make for a perfectly ergonomic workstation — and it's all made worse when travelers slouch, hunch, and twist with abandon.

So what's a traveling laptopper to do? According to Travel + Leisure, the key is to stick as close to the guidelines set forth by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration — even at cruising altitude. That means, for a good workstation, keep your hands, wrists, and forearms in line and parallel to the floor and your head level or slightly bent forward. To make that work as well as possible on a plane while using a tray table, keep your feet flat, your head and back up right instead of slouching, and your shoulders relaxed. As well, keep your arms, wrists, and hand straight to the extent possible.

T+L also cites the Spine Health Institute's recommendation that travelers even do spine stretches before getting on a plane. (Come on, you can spare a few minutes!)

Then once you're on board, store your carryons in the center of the seat in front of you, so your feet can rest on either side of them, which allows you to stretch out even as you're seated — and even use your bag as a footrest when necessary. You can also bring on board a lumbar pillow — or just rig one up with an airplane pillow or or a sweater — to wedge between your lower back and the plane seat. That will help keep your back upright instead of hunched over.

Try to execute even some of these guidelines — instead of the haphazard laptop-using approach you've had all along — and your back should thank you after landing.

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