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Humanscale Keyboard Trays

Where your keyboard tray should be to make you most efficient at work

Many people spend upwards of eight hours a day working in front of a computer, and it is through the keyboard that most of our work is done. Is it little wonder that the most common reported work-related injury involves the wrist?

Using a keyboard in an improper position leads to many short term issues, like painful wrists. Then there are long term permanent injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome which is difficult and sometimes impossible to cure, even with surgery. Add to this, back pain, shoulder tension, stress in the neck and eye strain which can trigger migraines. Obviously the placement of the modest keyboard suddenly becomes an issue of huge proportions.

Ergonomics, the science of designing items to conform to the natural movement and posture of the body, has come up with a number of solutions which can greatly reduce the stress and fatigue on the body, particularly as it relates to the use of the keyboard.

First, it's beneficial to explain how you and your keyboard should be positioned.

• The height is of primary importance. Your arms should be at an angle to your body, held slightly away and tilting downward with your elbows open at an angle of 90 degrees or more. To accomplish this, the keyboard should be placed slightly above the level of your lap which is lower than most people expect.

• The keyboard should be slightly tilted to the rear, commonly referred to as a negative tilt so that your wrists are in a neutral position with hands extended over the keys.

• Your body should be centered just in front of the letter B. Keyboards are not symmetrical, with the number pad to the left. Many people center themselves to the entire keyboard instead of the alpha-keys which throws the body off-balance and leads to strain.

Most desk tops are too high or don't allow comfortable access, so the keyboard should be kept on a keyboard tray that juts out from the desk allowing you to sit comfortably with your knees under it, reducing the need to reach and to avoid sitting too close to the monitor, causing eyestrain.

If your keyboard tray is fixed, then consider purchasing and attaching an adjustable tray arm. These devices hold your keyboard but can be swiveled, tilted, raised and lowered to meet your specifications and allow optimal positioning quickly, bringing many ergonomic benefits to the work station.

• As most people do not maintain one posture throughout the day, ease of adjustment greatly increases comfort and reduces strain and the chances of an injury.

• For those using an adjustable height desk and alternately sitting and standing, a keyboard tray arm allows for instantaneous adjustments. Even working at a low, fixed desk while standing becomes possible as the tray arm can be pulled up to avoid bending and reaching.

• The desired negative tilt for proper wrist alignment when working on the keyboard is difficult to attain on traditional fixed trays. A tray arm allows quick adjustments to the tilt.

There are many models of keyboard tray arms available on the market and choosing the one best suited for your needs can be daunting. Here are a few of the things to look for.

  • Stability – the last thing you want is a tray that wobbles, flexes or bounces. This can be worse than no tray at all. Be sure the tray does not move at all when typing. You need rigidity in the tray and a mounting system that keeps the tray stable.
  • Adjustability – the tray arm must be designed to allow quick and easy adjustments in height, tilt, angle and distance from the monitor. The keyboard can then adapt to changes in the user's posture or position.
  • Size – the tray and tray arm should be able to house the largest keyboard you're likely to use, with room for the mouse and mouse pad beside it. Traditional keyboard trays require the mouse to be placed on the desk top rather than beside the keyboard. As computer usage requires frequent mouse movements, the user is forced to reach over the keyboard to access the mouse, possibly hundreds of times per hour.
  • Wrist rests – a wrist pad can be invaluable to allow the hands to rest when not in motion.

Any equipment that assists the computer user to more optimally position the keyboard will reduce the chances of injury, pain or fatigue, but equipment like the keyboard tray arm allows the worker to periodically change posture and position, to stand, to recline and instantly realign the keyboard for comfort and safety. Workers who can shift, move and stretch during the work day are healthier, more alert and more productive.


1. Do all keyboards fit in a keyboard tray?

There are ergonomic solutions available on the market to fit any type keyboard you're likely to use.

2. Does a mousepad fit in a keyboard try?

Most keyboard trays are designed to accommodate both the keyboard and a mouse and pad.

3. How do you adjust the keyboard try?

Standard slide-out only keyboard trays can only be adjusted insofar as distance from the desk. However, a keyboard tray arm allows for far greater adjustment capability. Different models adjust in differing ways. Some utilize levers that are pulled back to adjust and pulled forward to lock. Other models use a loosen/tighten star bolt system. Lift and lock, the most popular, works by tilting upward to unlock and back down to lock in place.