Do you like riddles? Check out this one.
I have keys but no locks. I have space but no room. You can enter but can't go outside.
What am I?
One last clue...
You can poke me all day and I will not hurt you.
Yes, it is a keyboard but not just any keyboard. It is a keyboard with an ergonomic keyboard tray.
Would you be surprised to know that as many as 1 in 5 people suffers from Carpel Tunnel Syndrome? This is a painful disorder that can result from repetitive stress on your wrist and hands when typing on your computer.
This disorder and others like Repetitive Strain Injury can be minimized by using a keyboard tray. Not only that but would you believe there is a connection between your keyboard setup and your actual mood, and sense of self-worth?
Read on to learn more and see what are the best features of an under-desk keyboard tray.
The Chain of Pain
The body is a remarkable system of engineering. For example, your hands are incredible tools that can be used for a multitude of purposes from typing an email to playing Mozart on your piano.
Everything in the body is connected in some way. That means movements of your hands will affect your wrists and this will, in turn, affect your elbows and shoulders as well as your neck.
Your movements are connected like a chain.
On the whole, this is a brilliant system as it gives your body strength, flexibility and balance. The problem comes when some of our actions or movements are repeated long term and they are out of balance with the rest of the body in some way. This leads to pain coming from somewhere in the chain.
In the case of using a standard keyboard and position, our fingers remain free to move and type as we wish but this may put an unhealthy strain on your wrists which is then cascaded back through the bodies chain, and may cause other negative effects on your body's posture.
Posture and Mood
Researchers have made a connection between our posture and how we feel about ourselves. They have found that if you have good posture you are more likely to have more self-confidence, be a more productive and successful, and less likely to experience depression.
In contrast, slouching has been associated with a list of negative emotions including feeling more fearful and anxious. It is also associated with a weaker pulse rate and general sluggishness.
It's thought-provoking to consider the cause of slouching. It may not originate with your mood and your general sense of well being. No, it can simply result from using a standard keyboard position and computer. That is scary!
What are Human Factors?
After reading about the chain of pain and the relationship between posture and mood, you may have guessed about human factors. This is also called ergonomics. It is basically the science of studying how the human body interacts with its environment, including psychological factors.
This area of study is having an increasing impact on the design of nearly everything we use in our lives. Of special interest to us are the human factors that affect how you use a keyboard and computer.
Every joint in your body has its own natural range of motion that can operate in a certain range of angles. However, certain angles are more comfortable and offer the least strain on a particular joint.
For example, it is rare to see someone with their arms completely straight by their sides unless they are in the army. It just isn't optimal or comfortable. The same principle applies to the wrists. There is a comfortable operating angle.
Everything is Connected
You might think that you can overcome some of the challenges when typing on a standard keyboard by simply adjusting the 'operating angle.' That may help, but your wrists are only part of the human chain.
Self-adjustment of the angle of the wrists to compensate will have a knock on effect to the elbows, shoulders, and neck. Good ergonomics adopts a holistic approach and endeavors to take into account the whole human chain.
Take Control of Your Environment
Rather than trying to compensate for bad design in your environment, it is far better to take control of your environment and use systems that allow you to adjust and optimize your environment for your unique needs.
Most people will already have a fairly comfortable and supportive chair that can be adjusted for them. The height of the chair needs to be optimized and the elbow supports need to be the right natural height for your elbows.
Most people can also adjust the height of their monitor in some way. Either the monitor's height can be increased using the monitor's own stand or it can be positioned on top of something else. The important thing is that the viewing angle is straight in front and not downwards.
Fully Adjustable Keyboard Tray
Your keyboard position may seem like a small matter but remember it is the end point of the human chain of motion when you are typing. This is one of the most beneficial things you can buy to take control of your environment. For the most benefit, your keyboard tray should allow you to adjust the angle of the keyboard.
This will allow you to optimize the keyboard to your wrists natural operating angle. You may have noted that on a standard keyboard that angle is raised when in fact, the most comfortable angle is slightly negative.
The height of the keyboard and its reach to the desk is also very important. Simply put the more you can adjust these variables the more likely you will get the height of everything else correct such as your chair, elbow support and monitor height.
The KT1 is an excellent example of a keyboard tray that is fully adjustable in these different ways. However, the added advantage of the KT2 is that the keyboard height can easily be adjusted so you can type in a standing position if you want to. This will provide welcome relief for your back at times as well positively affect your state of concentration and alertness.
Want More Tips?
In this article, you have read about the importance of human factors and ergonomics. The human body is a chain. Everything in the body can affect something else in the body if it is not used in balance and harmony.
A well-designed keyboard tray, although being a small part of your office can make a significant difference to your health and well being. Read more here about the importance of wrist posture and to get some tips on typing.