keyboard trays
Keyboard Accessories,  Keyboards

What Is a Keyboard Tray – Types and Benefits

If you think of a classic office fixture, a keyboard tray is the first thing that comes to mind. Some modern office and home settings may find it too dated but it’s crucial to the ergonomic setup of a workstation.

A keyboard tray is a small work surface that can be attached to a computer table or a work desk. It has enough room for holding a standard keyboard and a mouse. Some models may have a separate swing-out mouse area. The trays are generally made of ABS plastic but wood and metal are not uncommon too.

No matter how simple the structure of a keyboard tray is, it still has some genius features to be ergonomic and useful. Learn what these features are, how many types of them are there, and their unique benefits.

A keyboard tray
A keyboard tray (Source: Fructibus / Wikimedia Commons)

What Are the Benefits of a Keyboard Tray?

Keyboard trays might not be the first thing to come to mind when you think of a functional office or working environment. But they actually play a crucial role in improving the overall ergonomic quotient of a workspace.
The benefits you get from a keyboard tray are:

Adjustable to User Needs

Unless the desk is height adjustable, it’s a hassle to set the keyboard at the elevation convenient for you. Whether you are a tall, short, or average-height person, the tray allows the correct positioning of the keyboard, so it fits better with your hand postures.

A keyboard should not be too low or too high, requiring your arms and wrists to stretch or bend unnaturally. When you have a desk with a fixed height, an adjustable tray is the only way to make sure that the keyboard is at the correct typing position.

Adjustable keyboard tray
A High-quality tray should be adjustable (Source: jseliger1 / Flickr)

Adjustability always protects you from all types of unnatural postures. For example, when leaning back onto the chair, you would want to slant the tray up and do the opposite when leaning forward.

Right Angles for Your Arms

A quality keyboard tray should be flexible enough for changing elevation, sliding, rotating, and angling. Adjusting features are important for creating a “neutral reach” zone, so you don’t need to raise or stretch your arms.

To create a “neutral reach”, your hands need to be placed just right above your lap when you are seated. The bending of your arms will be at a 90-degree angle, which is comfortable. Also, this angle allows the wrist to be in a neutral position.

Adjustable for a Standing Position

Working at a standing desk is better than sitting because it increases muscle activity and burns calories. A keyboard tray is an accessory you need for achieving the perfect typing position when standing.

If the desk is adjustable, you can just raise it to a comfortable height. For a fixed desk, you can place a small laptop table on the desk and use it as a tray. Or, attach a thin tray with a mechanical arm, so you can tilt or change the elevation as you want.

Protection from Pain and Injury

If your work involves typing for long hours, the keyboard and mouse should be at a comfortable elevation and angle. Otherwise, you can develop various types of pain and soreness that can haunt for the rest of your life.

carpal tunnel syndrome
An ergonomic tray will protect from carpal tunnel syndrome (Source: scientificanimations / Wikimedia Commons)

Without correct positions of the arms and wrists, there is a chance to suffer from musculoskeletal disorders and carpal tunnel syndrome. A keyboard tray in an ergonomic position saves your arms and hands from excessive pressure, unnatural bending, and twisting. You can change the postures whenever you like for any inconvenience or feeling fatigued.

Help with Working Efficiently

You can work more efficiently only when you don’t feel any discomfort or twinge in the process. With a keyboard tray, there is no need to suffer from unnatural postures or awkward reaching. Pain-free arms, shoulders, and back mean you can work in comfort for hours.

Free up Desk Space

If you have a compact workstation or a small work desk, having free space is hard to come by. A standard office desk is 2.5 x 5 feet and you need to keep there one or two monitors, a phone, a few notepads or documents, and some other necessary items. Adding a keyboard and a mouse means there will be hardly any room for anything else.

Work Desk
You can enjoy more desk space (Source: PxHere)

Adding a keyboard tray means having some free desk space for accommodating a notepad or files for taking notes or doing paperwork.

Necessary Features of a Keyboard Tray

What features should you focus on when buying a keyboard tray? Here are some of the important properties. However, remember that a unit may not have all the properties. So, always look for those following factors as they ensure the convenience of the users.

Less than a half-inch depth

A thin keyboard tray is better than a thick one. The ideal thickness should be between a half and one-fourth inch. A clunky robust tray is inconvenient for handling and making the necessary adjustments.

Adjustable height and tilt

A top-grade tray should have the option for modifying the elevation by at least 4 inches and angle at least 15 degrees. At the same time, it should have at least 26 inches of width, which is sufficient for holding a keyboard and a mouse.

Enough clearance underneath

Clearance for the thighs and knees. Some keyboard trays may have knobs or levers that bump into your legs. A high-quality product should allow for free leg movement under the platform.

Solidly built and sturdy

When adjusted to a position, the tray should feel stable. It’s important because the mouse and keyboard will be moving around on their own otherwise. It will be quite annoying if the tray shakes or wiggle when with every keystroke or clicking on the mouse.

Also, poor stability means the tray will lose the fixed elevation and angle over time, which will be bad for your postures and health.

Surface with friction

A keyboard tray can be made of wood, metal, and plastic materials. No matter whatever the material is, the surface should offer a little bit of friction. Some units don’t offer any friction between the surface and the keyboard, which makes the latter slide off when tilting or changing the angle of the tray.

Enough space

A compact tray should have enough space to accommodate an ergonomic keyboard. Also, there should be room for holding the mouse. Some models may have a separate, movable mouse surface, so you can move it from one side to the other without any hassle.

Types of Keyboard Trays

Like any other computer accessories, there are various types of keyboard trays on the market. One size does not fit all, so only one type of trays will not cater to the requirements of everyone.

Slide-out Keyboard Trays

This is the basic design that you mostly see in office environments. Like pulling a drawer, you need to slide these trays out from under the desk. These trays are attached to the underside of a desk and have a mechanism that allows easy sliding out and in.

Slide-out keyboard tray
A slide-out tray (Source: Dennis Hamilton / Flickr)

Slide-out trays are not used for long-hour typing or data entry. They are mostly suitable for intermittent, short-time use. Checkout counters, for example, are the right place to use slide-out trays. Just slide out the tray, input the data, and tuck away again.

Articulating Keyboard Trays

These are the trays with ultimate adjustable features. You can position them at a variety of heights and angles. Raise or lower them, or swivel from one side to the other, whatever seems convenient for your typing position.

A high-quality articulating tray should be fully customizable, featuring a non-slip grip and 180-degree swivel. It should be highly solid for withstanding all the pressure you will be putting on it and allowing maximum flexibility at the same time.

Sit-stand Keyboard Trays

These keyboard trays are truly versatile in terms of adjusting the height. You can frequently change the elevation from a sitting height to a standing height without spending money on a whole new desk.

A sit-stand tray allows users to sit or stand comfortably when using the keyboard and mouse. However, using this tray means you have to invest in a monitor arm too for adjusting the monitor’s height to your standing and sitting posture.

Keyboard Trays with a Separate Mouse Area

Some keyboard trays have a separate mouse surface. This add-on could be of various types, such as a fixed mouse tray or something that can be slid from the right to the left and swiveled from one angle to another. The option to adjust the mouse tray in various positions further adds to the ergonomic quotient.

Some units come with two mouse surfaces, which is great if the workstation is shared by several people. Such keyboard trays are useful to both right- and left-handers as there is no need to change the position of the mouse tray for every user.

Eli Civil

A software engineer, entrepreneur, and keyboard enthusiast. I spend my time click-clacking on keyboards. About Eli Civil

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