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How I solved a nagging laptop problem for just $5

A happy discovery at a certain furniture store gave my workstation a much-needed ergonomic fix.

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The Ikea Brada in action. Rick Broida/CNET

If you're old enough to remember using a desktop as your primary computer, you probably also remember basic ergonomics: the top of the screen should be just about eye level, the keyboard should be angled up slightly and so on.

Flash-forward to today. Most of us use laptops, meaning most of us end up hunched over -- possibly for hours at a time. It's bad enough our smartphones are ruining our posture; this "new normal" of laptop operation definitely isn't helping.

Me, I work from home. At a dining table. On a 13-inch laptop. And I've got the sore neck and shoulders to prove it. Every so often I'd think, gee, I really need to investigate one of those laptop docking stations so I can switch to an elevated desktop monitor and angled keyboard -- though I wasn't looking forward to all the extra wires that entails (to say nothing of the expense). And so I kept on doing nothing about it.

A couple weeks ago, while strolling through Ikea, I happened upon this -- the Brada:

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Brada, can you spare my spine? Ikea

Light bulb! Okay, not exactly, because I didn't invent it, but I immediately realized this is what I've been needing: a simple laptop stand that raises my screen and keyboard. And because this is Ikea, the thing was 5 measly bucks and available in the UK for just £2.90, and Australia for AU$8.99. Ikea FTW!

(This is the part where readers tell me I'm an idiot, that products like this have been around forever, and that Ikea's stand is nothing special. All I can say is, if it was new to me, it's probably new to some others as well -- and so cheap, people! Show me a Logitech or Kensington or any alternative this cheap.)

Truth be told, I wasn't positive this would do the trick. Maybe the keyboard angle would be too steep? Maybe the screen elevation wouldn't be enough to make a difference?

Wrong and wrong. The keyboard angle is super-comfortable (for me, at least -- your experience may vary) and raising the screen means I no longer have to crane my neck to look at the bottom half. Huge, huge improvement.

However, because my laptop is of the super-skinny variety, the keyboard sits well below the lower lip of the stand, and that lip digs into my wrists -- very uncomfortable. Solution: I put a pencil underneath, and now the keyboard is flush with the lip. Bam!

The Ikea Brada is available in black, orange and pink. It also works as an actual lap stand, and it's great for propping up cookbooks on the kitchen counter as well. Money very well spent, if you ask me.