Keyboard Tray
Buying Guide

Keyboard trays are one of the most functional and helpful ergonomic accessories for building an efficient and productive workstation.

How to Choose the Best Ergonomic Keyboard Tray

Some of us are minimalists who do not like to surround themselves with a lot of extraneous extras, but once you try a keyboard tray you will never want to go back to your old ways of working. However, don’t just trust us. According to the Ergonomics Health Association, the placement of your keyboard has an enormous effect on your posture. If it is positioned the wrong way, it can lead to musculoskeletal disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, rotator cuff injuries, muscle strains, low back pain, and a host of possible lifelong injuries.

Luckily, these issues can be prevented with the help of an ergonomic keyboard tray. They have a plethora of positive advantages. They increase productivity tremendously by allowing you to work more efficiently and comfortably — and they free up valuable real estate on your desk. Humanscale, a pioneer in office ergonomics, calls it the “heart of an ergonomic workstation.” Here’s all you ever needed to know about how to choose the best ergonomic keyboard tray.

What Is a Keyboard Tray?

A keyboard tray is a platform that runs on a track system under your desk and holds your keyboard. It allows you to position your keyboard and mouse in an ergonomically ideal position at your workstation that lets you to work in a comfortable, relaxed manner all day. Some keyboard trays feature a single level platform while others have a separate platform for the mouse.

Why Should I Get an Ergonomic Keyboard Tray?

The average desk is around 30” tall, which places the keyboard either too high or too low for many people, causing them to sit and work in an unhealthy posture. Picture yourself leaning forward and slouching to reach down for your keyboard, causing misalignment of the spine and losing the support of your chair’s backrest. Alternately, if the keyboard is placed too low, you might raise your shoulders and elbows to reach up for it, causing muscle strain and fatigue. Both awkward sitting positions can lead to serious repetitive stress injuries and musculoskeletal disorders over time, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and back pain.

With a keyboard tray, you can easily position your keyboard and mouse to work in your neutral reach zone. This is the area where you can perform tasks while maintaining a neutral posture with your spine’s natural S-curve properly aligned. The neutral (or optimal/primary) reach zone is the most accessible area of your desk that includes about 50 percent of your workspace when using a 30″ deep desktop.

To prevent injuries from mousing and typing, the keyboard tray should be properly adjusted for height and negative tilt. Its armrests also keep your wrists in a neutral position to prevent strain and the compression of nerves. In short: A keyboard tray invites you to work in your easy reach zone, with your arms relaxed by your side, your elbows relatively close to your body and your shoulders relaxed. A keyboard tray also frees up space on your desk.

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Ideally position mouse and keyboard

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Work in your optimal (neutral) reach zone

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Prevent musculoskeletal disorders

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Prevent repetitive stress injuries

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Improve posture

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Free up desk space

Optimal Reach Zone

What to Look for in an Ergonomic Keyboard Tray

With sitting-related ailments and back pain on the rise, an ergonomic chair is not negotiable, but a properly positioned adjustable keyboard tray can help relieve pain and discomfort in your neck, shoulders and upper back. It should offer easy adjustability, i.e. make it simple to move it up or down, allow for easy tilt and feature a platform that works for your specific needs.

For instance, you might prefer a surface that holds both the mouse and keyboard on the same level or one with a separate tray/platform for the mouse. Some choices are completely modular so you can customize them for virtually any desk. Last but not least, some feature built-in cable management.

Ergonomic Keyboard Tray

Before You Buy a Keyboard Tray: Check Under Your Desk!

Before you contemplate buying a keyboard tray, You need to make sure the “keyboard tray track can be installed.  Look under your work surface to see if there are any support beams — these are especially common with height-adjustable desks. 

If there is a support beam, measure from the edge of the worksurface to the support beam. You would need at least 11 inches to install a track.

The standard track length is 22″-24”, allowing your keyboard tray to retract completely beneath your desk when you’re not using it — but they come in sizes such as: 11″, 14″, 16″, 18″, 22″, 25″ and 27″. 

Humansolution keyboard tray tracks

Keyboard Tray Adjustment — Height Matters

Here’s a shortcut for figuring out where to position your keyboard tray after you have customized your ergonomic office chair for your height, preferred working position, and body type. Sit down in your chair and relax. Slide the keyboard tray out from under your desk and position it at elbow and fingertip level. Your shoulders should be bent at 90 degrees with your wrists straight. This keeps blood flow open and prevents carpal tunnel syndrome and other complications.

Keyboard Tray Tilt — Work the Right Angle

Many keyboard trays have a so-called negative tilt. This prevents pressure on your wrists and overextension of your elbows and strain on the arm muscles, which could create health problems in the long term. The slight negative tilt is much more comfortable for your wrists.

Keyboard Tray Platform — Keep Things Level

Some people prefer a single level platform that keeps the keyboard and mouse on the same surface. This way the mouse isn’t too low where you have to reach for it, creating misalignment of the spine. Some users prefer the mouse on a separate mousing tray, or on swivel or clip-on platform, which can be adjusted for height and positioned for both right- and left-handed users.

Keyboard Tray: Size Matters

The size of keyboard platform you require depends on the type of keyboard you use — a bigger keyboard calls for a bigger platform. Typical platform sizes feature 25.0″ of rectangular space and accommodate both left and right-handed users. Depending on your size needs, you can generally choose between widths such as 19.0”, 25.0” and 27.0”. There are also options for diagonal corner worksurfaces and platforms that suit wave-shaped keyboards; or get one that flips to fit both a natural and a standard keyboard. Keep in mind that you need at least a 22” track to support your keyboard tray system.
Keyboard Tray

Palm Rests for Your Ergonomic Arsenal

Palm rests, which are usually made of gel or foam, also help to keep your wrists in a neutral or negative tilt position. This means they are neither flexed nor extended to prevent strain and injuries. If this is difficult to picture, put your hands in an imaginary push-up position and hold. Feel the strain on the upper arm muscles. Palm rests allow your wrists to rest comfortably on the keyboard tray.

Keyboard trays are one of the most functional and helpful ergonomic accessories for building an efficient and productive workstation. While they can seem like a trivial tool at first glance, wait until you try one. Your health and back have to last a lifetime, and an ergonomic keyboard tray is a great partner in workplace comfort. We have partnered with ESI and Humanscale, which are the authorities in ergonomic accessories.

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