In the world of office furniture, the topic of keyboard platforms is controversial. People seem to love them or hate them and for a variety of reasons. From an ergonomics perspective, they are often the first line of defense in creating an adaptable and flexible workspace set up. And yet there seems to be a growing perception among furniture dealers that end users are no longer needing or wanting keyboard platforms.
I just wanted to thank you again for the demo keyboard tray. It’s already been a huge help for my shoulder and back; it feels so good to be able to work comfortably! You’ve been a pleasure to work with and I look forward to our future correspondence.
Facilities Planning, Design & Construction
Division of Finance & Administration
University of North Texas
Phys: 2204 W. Prairie Street, Denton, TX 76201
While it’s true that they are not suited to all end users, keyboard platforms are a valid and vital tool in building a proper and ergonomically sound workspace. So why all the differing opinions? As far as end user “need” goes, from the stats below, there is very definitely still a place for keyboard platforms. As for “want”, I think its due to a lack of knowledge on the end user’s part as to the value that keyboard platforms offer.
Addressing the issue of like or dislike is easy enough. If you’ve had a poor experience with a bad product, and you’ve never used a quality keyboard platform system, it stands to reason that your view could be negative. Further, you could have used a solid product but were never shown how to properly adjust for your body. This could also create a negative mindset.
To be clear, not all keyboard platforms are created equal. A quality product should be easy to adjust and personalized ergonomic instructions should be given to every end-user. While simple to use, achieving the ideal posture with a keyboard platform is not something your average end-user is knowledgable of.
As mentioned above, there are two end users where a keyboard platform may not work. For someone who is really tall, there may not be enough room under a standard height desk for the end user’s legs and the keyboard platform when not in use. The second example, and I say this gently, is someone who is “plus” sized. Again, there just may not be enough room under the desk for the end user’s legs and the keyboard platform.
Hi Kelly and Arnold,
I am happy to let you know that the keyboard tray, installed just one week ago today, has made a huge difference in my work day—the strain my arm was feeling is gone! It’s really amazing, and I wish I had known to get a keyboard tray years ago.
Thanks again for your help,
Office of Graduate Studies
The University of Texas at Dallas
So why do I believe so strongly in the use of keyboard platforms? Outside of height adjustable desk, the standard height worksurface in the furniture industry is 29″. A 29″ worksurface is scaled to fit someone who stands approximately 6’3″. If you’re less than 6’3″ working at a standard height desk, you have very little chance of sitting in an ergonomically correct position.
The diagram below shows several examples of ideal seated postures.
The chart below shows the recommended keying heights for both men and women from the 5th to 9th percentile…which covers the vast majority of end users. Whether man or woman, you have to be roughly 6’3″ to work at a standard height desk correctly without the use of a keyboard platform system(1). The biggest deviation for those less than 6’3″ and not using a keyboard platform is the need to “reach” to get to their keyboard if it’s just sitting on their desk.
When you have to reach to get to your keyboard, you engage the muscles of your upper back, shoulders, and neck placing them under strain. Other common deviations include sitting towards the edge of your chair and not allowing the chair back to support your body. Along with this posture comes a flexed forward position which now places your spinal discs at risk.
With these postural deviations in mind, then it’s a matter of the following critical elements:
- How much deviation?
- How long is the deviation?
- How often is the deviation?
In layman’s terms, the longer you sit with poor posture, repeated day after day, the more likely you are to experience back, neck, and shoulder pain. The pain does not come without a price. The pain is a signal that you’re doing damage to your body which could lead to the development of a MSD. The technical term is Muscular Skeletal Disease and according to www.boneandjointburden.org, our country spends billions every year on these conditions.
- 1 in 8 persons of prime working age reported lost work days due to a musculoskeletal condition – a total of 216 million days – in 2012.
- Musculoskeletal diseases cost $796.3 billion dollars in 2011, 5.7% of the annual GDP.
- In any given year, 12% TO 14% of the adult population will visit their physician for back pain.
- Musculoskeletal diseases account for more than 50% of disabling health conditions reported by adults.
- 54 of every 100 persons in the US, 126.6 million age 18 and over, reported suffering a musculoskeletal disease in 2012.
As these statistics show, pain issues related to poor posture are no joke. Think of pain as a signal in that your body is telling you something is wrong. Just realize the pain is not going away unless you’re willing to make changes to your current workspace set up. Please don’t fall victim to Einstein’s famous quote on the definition of insanity:
“Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
There’s an existing opinion that states that the use of an adjustable height desk eliminates the need for a keyboard platform. Refer back to the image above and specifically look at the male sitting in the “neutral” position and then the female sitting in the “reclined” position. While his position is considered ideal, your body does not do well with static postures for extended periods of time.
The biggest challenge with this posture is that sitting with your hips and upper body at a ninety degree angle is placing your hips in a strongly flexed position. When your hips are flexed, you’re placing stress on your lumbar spine compliments of your Psoas muscles. These twin muscles tie off the lumbar spine and run down into your legs. If you sit excessively and do nothing in the way of flexibility work to maintain proper mobility in your hip flexor group and particularly your psoas, low back pain is pretty much inevitable.
Beyond flexibility work, or simply spending part of your day working standing up, the reclined position shown above is a great alternative versus the neutral posture. The reclined position opens up your hips and takes stress off the hip flexor group and thus places less stress on your lower back. In my experience, this position is easier to approximate with the use of a keyboard platform and monitor arm…even when using an adjustable height table.
Take home point for my readers:
Your body craves movement…not static postures. You are not designed to stand or sit all day and a blend of the two based on individual needs is the best off all worlds regardless of what you do for a living. If you’re less than 6’3″ working at a fixed height desk without any ergonomic tools, you are likely placing your body at risk, and the addition of a quality keyboard platform could be a great investment in your health.
As a Certified Ergonomic Assessment Specialist II, I do evaluations for my clients on a regular basis. If you have doubts about your current workspace set up including interest in adding a keyboard platform, please feel free to reach out for help. I am always open to new opportunities to serve.
Best of luck in your journey.
(1) If you’re less than 6’3″, foot stools are valid tools that will help bridge the gap and allow you to sit higher in your chair and better reach your keyboard. They are not designed to be a stand alone solution and work most effectively when combined with a keyboard platform.
Further, foot stools have a limitation due to their relatively small foot surface. This limits you’re ability to move your feet and thus your legs. Think of sitting on a commercial flight for several hours. If you’re like me, your knees are pretty much done by the time you get off the plane. While foot stools have their place, I think having your feet sitting flat on the floor is a much better way to go allowing you greater maneuverability throughout the day.
Very informative Kell, learned a lot about keyboard trays from this blog, thanks for sharing…
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Kelly, I am new to your Blog and agree with your analysis, I work at a University here in California, we are in the process of redesigning our ergonomic product catalog and have incorporated a lot of the Workrite products, looking forward to reading your blogs as it pertains to Ergonomics and its very refreshing to learn your prospective not only with ergonomics but your stance on your walk with Jesus, thank you. Jeff Boster, Safety and Ergonomics, University of La Verne, La Verne, California.