If your standing desk doesn’t have a built-in keyboard space, then you’re being deprived of valuable storage space, and putting your wrists in developing carpal tunnel syndrome. People aren’t meant to sit at a desk for hours each day. But sometimes there is no choice. Ergonomics is the battle against this kind of fatigue and injury a person can suffer while sitting at a desk.
Typing on a keyboard activates the posture to almost your entire body, most especially the shoulders, arms, and wrist. Using a keyboard with an improper posture can lead to strain, and could contribute to repetitive strain injuries. But having the right keyboard tray lets you switch between sitting or standing postures, ensuring that your workstation can easily accommodate any posture or position you want.
Under desk trays can provide extra storage space. If you’re working inside a small area, then a keyboard tray will add another shelf to the room. Keyboard trays can be drilled, clamped, or otherwise attached to your desk in different ways. Even desks that you think cannot support an under-desk tray may actually fit with the right one.
Choosing the Right Under-Desk Keyboard Tray
Keyboard trays are composed of a few simple parts. You’ll need to drill or screw the track to your desk, and then attach the platform to the mounting bracket. It may sound simple, but there is a lot more than just screwing the tray in. How you’ll make the attachment to your desk, the adjustability of the tray, and many various points of design are the considerations when making your selection.
A Myriad of Keyboard Tray Choices
There is a selection of keyboard tray styles to choose from, including track, trackless, short, and wall mount. Styles include a tray with a drawer, a simple tray, and a tray with a mouse platform.
Tray platforms are made in four ways:
Phenolic Resin: Phenolic resin is a synthetic resin made from the bonding of phenol and formaldehyde. These resins are one of the most durable and popular high-volume resins systems for a keyboard tray. They offer exceptional heat resistance, surface hardness, keeps their original size when exposed to humidity and temperature, chemical resistance, and has electrical insulating properties.
Laminated Wood: your desk and tray match using laminated wood. These are thick and very stable, but heavier and difficult to adjust.
Plastic: Plastic trays are the least expensive but not very popular anymore.
Metal: Metal keyboard trays are very durable, stable, and have a lower profile. However, these are pricier than the other trays.
Selecting the right tray for you shouldn’t be difficult. Search for a guide that provides a comparison of the different kinds.
Considerations in choosing a keyboard tray:
Think about the dimensions of the tray you’re choosing. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with a track that’s too big or short for your desk. The proper tray should match not only your desk but also the amount of space you need for your computer equipment.
In the interests of ergonomics, your aim is to minimize unneeded movement. Everything has to be well within your reach while resting comfortably. Sitting or standing can affect the kind of tilt you want for your keyboard and in return the tilt you want from your keyboard tray.
2. Attaching to the Desk
Drilling ensures the tray will hold firmly while it’s being used. Other alternatives, like clamps, can provide a fairly sturdy and non-intrusive connection. But they are always felt wobbly when you’re typing, it’s advisable to use the clamps as storage than anything else.
3. Adjustability, Installation, and Measurements
Adjustability is essential for a keyboard tray, especially in height adjustments. Some tracks will help better adjust their tilt and height to set a wide range of sitting positions and postures. There are also trays that swing side-to-side in addition to sliding forward and backward, depending on the adjustability you want.
When it comes to ergonomics, most keyboard trays have a wrist rest. They’re constructed of a soft foam gel, and provide extra support. Aside from the quality of the material, the keyboard platform should reflect the user’s aesthetic preferences and space requirements. Larger platforms may hold a full-sized keyboard and a mouse on one single level. Others are built with a compact spot intended only a keyboard, with a slide-out tray for the mouse.
This is another factor. There should be enough space for your legs once the tray is in place. Some keyboard trays have low-profile designs to ensure knee clearance. Make sure to measure under your desk to see how much space is between you and the desk.
Take the time to measure the dimensions of the mousepad and keyboard before buying a tray. It will give you an idea if your peripherals will fit on the tray. If the tray has a separate mouse platform, make sure the dimensions can accommodate your mouse pad.
There are minuscule differences between working with or without a keyboard tray and maintaining a proper ergonomic posture.
When working at different levels, basically there should be no difference in elbow angle and head level.
One of the basic principles of ergonomics is to work in neutral. Meaning to make sure your body remains under minimal stress for the task at hand. This is done by keeping it aligned and balanced while at a desk or workstation. Whether it’s typing on a keyboard, assembling electronic modules, or any work that requires a horizontal surface.
Proper placement of the keyboard tray helps maintain balance and alignment. When it comes to achieving a proper range of motion for hands and arms, a 3-reach zone reach zone is a useful way to organize the work area. Each zone is defined by the extent of bodily motion required to perform a specific action.
The 3-Reach Zones are:
Primary: The primary zone is called the neutral reach zone. It’s the area that is within easy reach of the bent elbow, where you do the most work and is the most comfortable. The primary region contains all essential items, such as your keyboard, mouse, pen, and paper.
Secondary: The secondary zone is the area reached by extending the arms. Office items so they’re within fingertip reach. This zone contains things needed not much such as folders, tools, or books. These items are easily reached but are outside the primary area.
Reference: The reference zone has items that are reachable by bending over at the waist and extending the elbow. Items in the reference zone are rarely used. This zone is for storage only for things like reference materials.
So, Are Keyboard Trays Really Needed?
Basically, keyboard trays aren’t necessary. But they are a good means of preventing carpal tunnel. As much as height-adjustable desks have improved workplace ergonomics, they have their limits. For the most part, keyboard trays counteract those limits.
When used correctly, the combination of a keyboard tray and adjustable height desk results in a robust ergonomic platform. Despite a changing desktop, keyboard trays remain an essential option in today’s computing world.