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Work in comfort while travelling.

ergonomics while flying
Travelling for work is stressful enough without tweaking your back, hurting your shoulder, or otherwise injuring yourself. Solutions Northwest has put together some tips to travel in comfort, while remaining productive.

The Luggage

Keep it light weight. Pick it up before buying to check how heavy it is. Besides the usual places to shop for luggage, check outdoor stores such as REI. Outdoor stores often have lighter weight options available.

Buy the smallest size luggage you can reasonably pack your things in. Carefully plan exactly what you will need for your trip and only bring the essentials. If your bag is small enough, like the example in the first picture, you can place your bag under the airplane seat in front of you, therefore avoiding having to lift it into an overhead bin or off of a baggage claim belt.

Pay attention to good lifting technique when you lift your luggage onto the airport security belt, into the overhead bin, or off the baggage claim belt. Remember to bend with your knees, not your back. Good lifting techniques are covered in our previous post on that subject.

Pay attention to the weight of backpacks and shoulder bags. If the weight is more than 20% of your body weight, it is not safe to carry. You can check the weight of a bag on a bathroom scale. Backpack shoulder straps should be padded and be carried on both shoulders. Bags with one shoulder strap are not the best option because of the strain they cause on one side of the body. If you find yourself in a situation where you must carry a bag with one shoulder strap, carry it in front of you with both arms holding it or switch the bag from side to side periodically so one side of your body does not have to handle the weight for a prolonged period of time

The Plane Ride

There may be a lucky few people in the world for whom airline seats are designed to fit. For the rest of us, we’ve got a few ergonomics tips for the plane ride.

Adjust your seat. If the headrest on the seat is adjustable, adjust it to the correct height for your head. If the seat looks like the headrest is a separate piece, try pulling the headrest up or pushing it down because there is a good chance it will move.

Armrests on planes are notorious for being fought over. They are also usually rock hard. This causes compression of the forearm which is an ergonomics risk factor. To combat this, try to put something soft on top of them. A thick scarf or jacket can work well for this.

If you are tall, try to sit in the bulkhead or emergency exit seats in order to have a little more leg room. Check the seats a day before your flight to see if any of these seats have been released if they weren’t available when you first bought your ticket.

Bring your own gear. For lumbar support, it’s a good idea to bring a self-inflating backrest which can easily become completely flat for packing.

A travel footrest is a good thing to use if you have legs that don’t touch the floor when sitting in an airline seat, have varicose veins, or are pregnant. Legs hanging off the edge of a seat without any support causes leg compression which is an ergonomics risk factor.

The Laptop

Consider using a lightweight foldable laptop riser when working on the plane. Risers will prevent laptop hunch.

Once you get to your hotel, using the laptop riser plus a wireless keyboard and mouse is a good idea.

When sitting in a hotel using a laptop, the desk may be too high for you. If it is, raise your chair so that your elbows are .5″-1″ above the work surface. If your feet don’t touch the ground try to find something to put under them.


Hopefully, these ergonomics tips gave you some ideas on how to remain productive while travelling, without it becoming a pain. For more ergonomics tips, subscribe to our monthly newsletter or contact one of our experts at

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