Any desktop setup requires, at a bare minimum, a computer, a monitor, a mouse, and a keyboard. Most people put quite a bit of thought into the computer and the monitor, but go for basic models when it comes to mice and keyboards. Ergonomic keyboards and mice, however, can make a world of difference when it comes to comfort and productivity at your desk.
If you’re interested in ergonomic mice, we’ve got you covered. But here, we’re going to focus in on what makes a keyboard ergonomic and why you should invest in one. Because ergonomic keyboards are pretty pricey, it’s understandably an intimidating purchase. After this quick read, you’ll be an expert on ergonomic keyboards and be able to choose the right type for your needs.
You might’ve seen the word ergonomic thrown around as a top-selling product feature, but what does it actually mean? When something is ergonomic, it’s designed with comfort and efficiency in mind. In other words, it’s built to withstand long periods of use without causing major discomfort to you.
An ergonomic keyboard is designed to be more comfortable for you, encouraging a more natural wrist position and improving your overall posture. There are many ways a keyboard can be designed ergonomically, so you’ll see a variety of keyboards with different shapes, heights, keys, and more. The one thing that all ergonomic keyboards have in common, though, is that they’re all much more pleasant to type on.
As you might have seen while shopping, the term ‘ergonomic’ can be applied to more than just keyboards. Any item you use regularly that causes any sort of pain or discomfort probably has an ergonomic alternative. When talking about a home office, the most common ergonomic upgrades you can invest in are keyboards, of course, computer mice, and office chairs.
When you put your hands on an ergonomic keyboard, you’ll immediately feel the difference between it and the flat keyboard you’ve probably been using. Your wrists rest at a more natural position and you’re able to more freely adjust your posture. After a slight learning curve, you’ll be on your way to comfortable typing in no time.
- Promotes Wrist Comfort: When you use a flat keyboard with no palm rest, most people’s wrists are turned inwards. Because this is an unnatural position for your wrists, it causes discomfort, especially when typing over long periods of time. Ergonomic keyboards are designed to help your wrists naturally hit a position that puts less stress overall on your wrists and hands. Of course, different types of ergonomic keyboards take different approaches to how your hands and wrists should be positioned for maximum comfort. Regardless of which style of ergonomic keyboard you go for, they’ll all be way more comfortable than a cheap, flat keyboard.
- Encourages Shoulder Comfort: With flat keyboards, your arms are generally tilted inward, making somewhat of an upsidedown ‘V’ in front of you, with your hands at the point. This position makes it easier to slouch both your shoulders and back. On the other hand, ergonomic keyboards often keep your arms straight in front of you, which makes it easier to keep your shoulders rolled back and your back straight. Even just moving your arms from the upsidedown ‘V’ position to straight in front of your shoulders, you can feel the difference in your shoulders and overall posture.
- Increases Typing Speed and Productivity: There will definitely be a learning curve with a new ergonomic keyboard. You’ll need to spend some time with your new keyboard, getting used to a different keyboard shape or even a different key layout. During this learning period, your productivity and typing speed are bound to take a hit. However, once you’ve mastered your new ergonomic keyboard, you’ll probably be typing faster than before because your hands and wrists are more comfortable throughout the day. You won’t need to take as many breaks to stretch or shake out your hands. And when you’re more comfortable throughout the day, a boost in productivity happens by default.
If you do a quick search for ‘ergonomic keyboards,’ you’ll see a plethora of options pop up. There are so many different keyboard shapes to choose from and they all look a bit wacky. Ergonomic keyboards are about comfort—not style—though some options actually look pretty cool.
It’s also worth mentioning that an ergonomic keyboard isn’t restricted to one type or design. For example, you can have a keyboard that’s both split and tented. That said, let’s take a look at the perks behind each of these popular ergonomic designs.
Because of the way the keys are set up in a split keyboard design, this type of ergonomic keyboard helps straighten your arms and wrists. There are two variations of split ergonomic keyboards.
The first, pictured below, is slightly closer to a traditional, flat keyboard in that it’s all one big piece. Split keyboards like these typically come with a built-in palm rest and an upside down triangle of empty space between the two halves of the lettered keys.
The second variation of a split keyboard, pictured below, comes with two separate pieces instead of one. You still have all the same lettered keys in the same format they’re typically in, but your keyboard is split in two. This makes it easy to keep your arms straight in front of you while typing, and therefore keep your wrists straight too.
Tented keyboards also help support your wrists, but they also help keep your forearms in a neutral position where they don’t rotate much. A tented keyboard (pictured below) is split and tilted up toward the inner portion. With most tented ergonomic keyboards, you can adjust the tilt degree; so although the highest degree of tenting might be most optimal for your wrists and forearms, you can start off with the lowest degree until you get used to how it feels.
A concave ergonomic keyboard is one of the weirdest looking designs, but it’s highly effective. If someone looks at a concave keyboard (pictured below) on your desk, they might not even recognize it’s a keyboard at first. It’s a great talking point, though, and you’ll be able to tell them all about how much better your wrists feel and how you can type for longer periods without discomfort.
The concave keyboard below also features thumb clusters. Because of how the keys are set up in this style of keyboard, your hands and fingers both don’t have to stretch as much while typing.
The concave style definitely looks strange to new eyes, but a thumb cluster style keyboard wins the award for wackiest looking keyboard. When you know the purpose behind the design, it makes total sense, but a thumb cluster keyboard is one you’ll have to get used to visually and physically.
Thumb cluster keyboards, pictured below, typically have different key layouts compared to a regular old flat keyboard. A thumb cluster keyboard replaces the space bar with two groupings of useful keys near each of your thumbs. Depending on the keyboard, these clusters of keys might contain customizable shortcut keys or other useful keys redistributed for comfort, like Ctrl, Alt, or the Windows key.
Because of how different thumb cluster keyboards are, it takes a little while to get used to. You have to retrain yourself to learn where keys have moved from where they used to be on your old keyboard. That learning curve is worth it though for the boost in comfort you’ll feel.
A tenkeyless ergonomic keyboard can be any of the above types, just without the number pad on the righthand side. You’ll still have numbered keys above the lettered keys, but you’ll be able to keep your mouse closer to the main typing area without the extra number pad taking up space on the right side.
Many of us type every day, whether it’s completing tasks for work or typing for fun at home, researching the best restaurant to eat at, or shopping for the perfect item. While ergonomic keyboards can benefit anyone, they’re especially helpful for those who use a keyboard all day for work.
If you spend a lot of time at your desk, typing away from nine to five, an ergonomic keyboard will make a world of difference. Although a few styles do take some getting used to, learning new key layouts or new resting wrist positions, the learning curve is well worth it for the benefits. An ergonomic keyboard is an expensive investment, but it’s one that’ll stick around for a long time.
While some keyboard manufacturers often claim that an ergonomic keyboard will prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or other repetitive stress injuries, there’s no clear evidence that supports this. That said, an ergonomic keyboard is certainly more comfortable than a flat keyboard and daily typists will treasure that fact.
For people who spend less than 30 minutes or an hour at their keyboard every other day, you might not experience the typing discomfort that daily typists do. That discomfort can easily creep up on you, though, especially if you start typing more and more over a long period of time. For this group of people, an ergonomic keyboard might not seem worth it compared to a more affordable, flat keyboard.
Investing in an ergonomic keyboard is a smart move. Your wrists and overall posture will thank you, and you’ll find yourself actually not dreading all the typing you have to do in a day. Luckily, we’ve already done the research and scoured the internet for the best ergonomic keyboards out there.