Most desks aren’t very ergonomic. If you work in an office, you don’t own your desk so you can’t replace it with a more ergonomic model. But what you can do—whether or not you own your desk—is add a keyboard tray under your desk to help position your keyboard in exactly the spot that is the most comfortable for you. Here’s what you need to know about keyboard trays before you consider a purchase.
Keyboard Tray Basics
An under-desk keyboard tray works a bit like a drawer. It mounts onto the underside of your desk’s surface, and slides in and out so you don’t have to move your chair too close to the desk This can be especially helpful if your chair’s arm rests and the height of your desk collide. Like many drawers, a keyboard tray usually glides along a track that’s attached to the desk using wood screws.
However, that’s where the comparison to an ordinary drawer ends. A keyboard tray should not only move in and out, but it should also move from left to right—and also have options to tilt the platform forward and backward.
And don’t forget your mouse! You’ll want to have enough room to put your mouse on the platform, as well as enough room to move it around. Some keyboard trays have a separate mousing platform that can be adjusted separately from the keyboard tray platform. Many mousing platforms can be mounted on either side of the keyboard tray to accommodate left-or right-handed users.
Why Use an Under-Desk Keyboard Tray?
A keyboard drawer can help you position your keyboard and mouse in an ergonomic fashion that allows you to type and use your mouse more comfortably. When your keyboard and mouse are close to your body, at a height and distance where you can keep your elbows and wrists in a neutral position, you can reduce fatigue. And reducing fatigue can help you avoid musculoskeletal disorders like repetitive stress injuries.
Evaluate Your Desk
Keyboard trays mount with screws. You’ll want to be sure the surface of your desk is thick enough to screw in the hardware required to hold your keyboard drawer. Your desk’s surface should be at least 1 inch thick to accommodate 3/4 inch screws.
You’ll also need to measure the depth of your desk’s surface. For keyboard trays that slide on rails, your desk should be at least 1 inch deeper than the length of the rail in order for the keyboard drawer to slide all the way under the desk when it’s not in use. Some people don’t mind if the keyboard tray doesn’t slide all the way in for storage—so if that’s not a problem for you, then the depth of the desk’s surface may be less important.
Different desk shapes may require certain types of keyboard tray or have special mounting options. For example, if you want to position your monitor in the corner of an L-shaped desk, you’ll need to be sure the keyboard tray can come out from under the desk far enough that it’s not partially hidden by the two sides of the desk. In some cases for corner desks, an extension will need to be added before the keyboard tray can be installed.
Keyboard trays that are mounted on arms have different height adjustments as well as different arm lengths. Make sure you know the height of your desk and the height you want the keyboard platform—and ensure the keyboard tray you select accommodates the heights you need. Some keyboard tray arms are long enough to adjust to heights appropriate for sitting or standing.
To summarize, here are the most important points to keep in mind when reviewing keyboard tray options before you buy. After all, you don’t want to have to return a product because it wasn’t right for your desk.
- Mounting options. Be sure your desk is compatible with the mounting options for the keyboard tray. Determine whether you’ll need a desk extension if you have an L-shaped desk.
- Adjustment options. Your keyboard tray should move in and out, left and right, and the platform should tilt backward and forward.
- Room for a mouse. You want to keep your keyboard and mouse close together on the same platform, but you’ll also need enough room to move the mouse. You may need a keyboard tray with a mousing platform that mounts on either side, especially if you use the mouse with your left hand.
- Track length. Do all the measuring you need to do while you are researching. Your keyboard tray should position your keyboard within your optimal reach zone.
- Platform size. Because keyboards come in a variety of shapes and sizes, make sure your keyboard will fit on the keyboard drawer’s platform.
- Proper height. Make sure keyboard tray adjusts to position your keyboard and mouse at the right height for you.