If you spend a lot of time working at your PC, you’re very likely to suffer a computer-related physical ailment eventually — if you haven’t already.
There are ways to prevent these workstation-induced injuries, and they start with the keyboard.
Good habits for comfortable computing
Keeping to a minimum the wear and tear of working hours at a PC requires a comprehensive approach. You need regular stretch breaks to keep the muscles moving in new directions and the blood flowing. You need the right equipment — chair, monitor, mouse, and keyboard. And you need to arrange them correctly to reduce stress on your hands, arms, back, neck, and eyes.
Your chair should be comfortable, with strong back support and armrests, The seat should be low enough so that your feet rest on the floor but high enough so your knees are level with your hips. The center of your monitor should be just below the height of your eyes. And the keyboard should be at a comfortable level for your hands when your arms are on the chair’s armrests. For more advice, see the Office Ergonomics pages on the WebMD website (info) and the Mayo Clinic website (info).
But a conventional keyboard, even if properly positioned, can still do you harm. Unless you have extremely narrow shoulders, you have to turn your arms inward to reach the home keys, putting your fingers at an angle. Plus, because the keyboard itself is not angled, you have to turn your wrists outward. If the keyboard isn’t slanted correctly, you have to turn your wrists up or down as well.
Fortunately, not all keyboards are conventional. You can buy an ergonomic keyboard to help protect yourself from the ravages of typing. Some are shaped to be more comfortable for the average human. Others are adjustable, so you can make them comfortable for you.
In researching this article, I tried five ergonomic keyboards, using each one for two full weeks of regular work. Each had a unique design and a consequently unique learning curve for the user. Although they all used the standard QWERTY layout, each keyboard put auxiliary keys such as Delete, Backspace, and Home in different locations.