Having had the opportunity to use and sell keyboard trays over the last 13 years, I can personally attest to the benefits of them. There are a list of reasons why I think you should seriously consider adding one, which we will cover below. To be fair, they aren’t a perfect fit for everyone. I would suggest reading our top problems with keyboard trays post to ensure this is a good investment for your needs. With that, let’s take a closer look at the top six reasons you should use a keyboard tray at your desk.
1. Keyboard Trays Help Position Your Keyboard and Mouse at Correct Height
The standard desk height in the USA varies between about 29” and 30” tall. Unfortunately, that seated height is only good for a small portion of the population. This leaves many of us with a keyboard and mouse that sits much too tall for the proper ergonomic fit.
Using an adjustable keyboard tray, you can position the keyboard lower than your work surface. Many of the ergonomic keyboard trays available will drop the keyboard/mouse area 4” to 6” below the underside of the desk surface. If you are working on a desk that is 29” on the top side of the surface, with a 1” thick surface, you could drop the keyboard as low as 22”. This is suitable for users closer to the 5’ tall mark.
The common alternative to get your position correct is to find a chair that raises you up to the surface. This also requires the use of an adjustable footrest to allow your feet to rest comfortably. Using a keyboard tray to get your typing/mousing height correct is a more comfortable solution.
2. Keyboard Trays Allow Your Hands to Work in Negative Tilted Position
If you’re like most computer users without a keyboard tray, you tend to rest your wrists on the desk surface while typing or using the mouse. This requires less effort than trying to hold your hands slightly above the keyboard, especially if you are using the keyboard through the entire day. The problem is that depending on the height of your keyboard, you are likely putting your hands/wrists in a positive position.
When you type on your keyboard or mouse, the ideal solution is to have your hands and wrists in a neutral position. This puts significantly less stress on your wrists and can help to reduce the chance for injuries at your desk. While it might sound funny, workplace injuries from awkward use of keyboard and mouse are real. They might crop up over time but can be painful and hard to overcome once you’ve injured yourself. Using a keyboard tray is good for both the employer and employee.
3. Keyboard Trays Help Free Desk Space for Other Tasks
Let’s face it, if you’re like most computer users, free desk space can be hard to come by these days. Even if you’re a tidy person, desks seem to be getting smaller as we try to fit more people into office spaces. If you’re working on the most common size of desk, a 30” x 60” table top, you’re already stretching your space. Then, add two monitors, phone, light and a CPU tower; where is the room to use the keyboard and mouse?
When you add an ergonomic keyboard tray to your desk, it can instantly free up desk space. While you are using the keyboard tray you will even have some extra space for a notepad for quick notes. If you decide that you need to work on more intensive paperwork tasks, simply push the keyboard tray under the desk. Not you can easily stow the keyboard and mouse when it is not in use.
4. Keyboard Trays Move Your Arms from Edge Of Desk Surface
As mentioned in the second reason we recommend getting a keyboard tray, users tend to rest their arms on the desk surface. While the recommended solution is to push your keyboard tray and mouse to the edge of your desk, most users will do the opposite. Over time it becomes harder to keep your wrists elevated above the desk surface, so you just naturally drop your arms over time. Having your wrist resting on the hard surface of the desk is bad. So is having the hard edge of the desk surface pushing into your forearms.
When you use a keyboard tray it will naturally push you away from the desk surface and edge. This can be one of the easiest ways to break the habit. So long as you continue to use the keyboard tray, the way your wrists and forearms feel should improve over time.
5. Keyboard Tray Wrist Supports Can Provide a Place to Rest Wrists
Since most keyboard trays come with wrist rests, you will have a more comfortable place to rest your wrists when you start to fatigue while typing. Some users might even just rest their wrists on the pad full time. While this isn’t recommended by most ergonomists, it is still a better solution than resting them on your desk’s hard surface.
Having the opportunity to use both a desks surface and a keyboard tray, I can tell you that I miss the latter when it isn’t available. I am spoiled, being that I have a keyboard tray at my office and home office. When I travel, I find myself working at a standard height desk with only the desks surface to rest my wrists. If doesn’t take long for my wrists to begin to fatigue from resting them on the hard surface.
6. Keyboard Trays Help With Viewing Monitors at Correct Height
Having your workstation setup properly, will generally require users to have proper dual ergonomics. This means that you can have your monitor and keyboard heights setup to fit your body perfectly. When you setup the desk with a keyboard on the surface and then set the monitors on the surface, most will have these set to the wrong height. If you’re fortunate enough to have a height adjustment monitor stand, you might be able to raise the monitors to the proper height. If you’re like most though, the monitors are too low, and the keyboard tray is too high.
When you add a keyboard tray to the desk, you can drop it below the work surface. If you’re working on a standard height desk, this will naturally allow you to type at a lower position. If you’ve been accommodating the high desk with a chair that is too tall, now you can drop the chair properly. This will naturally lower your body and eyes in relation to where you monitors sit on the desk. The extra 3” to 6” could make the world of difference on how you’re viewing your monitors, reducing the stress that is likely being applied to your neck and shoulders.
If you’re working with adjustable standing desk, adding a keyboard tray will be even better. Because you can adjust the desk surface, you can fine tune the monitor height and keyboard/mouse height better. For most users, adding a keyboard tray to a standing desk is all you need for proper dual ergonomics.
It’s obvious that I am a big proponent of adding adjustable keyboard trays to your desk. Having the opportunity to use one for most of my career, the benefits for me have been significant. Of course, that doesn’t mean they are for everyone. I think our office is a good example of this; with about 70% of user’s desks equipped with keyboard trays and the remaining 30% without. Each group is pretty set in their ways and if you were to switch their workstations they would likely be unhappy. If you think a keyboard tray will help position your body better or free up some desk space, I highly recommend adding one to your workstation.