What is the impact of your keyboard choice? A 2010 article outlines a trial of a split, adjustable ergonomic keyboard and separate number pad (the Kinesis Freestyle Solo keyboard with accessory package), and compares outcomes with this keyboard to the use of a traditional “standard” keyboard model (1). The split, adjustable keyboard included “clip-on tenting” accessories that can incline the keyboard 10 to 15 degrees, reducing the amount of pronation in the forearm. The ability to open and completely separate the keyboard to reduce ulnar deviation is also possible with the design.
In this study, findings show significantly reduced ulnar deviation in both hands when using a split keyboard. This effect was especially prevalent for obese individuals. There appears to be a greater impact on improved alignment in the right hand, which the study authors attributed to the fact that the participants were no longer skewing their bodies to the right to adjust for the numeric pad placing the mouse farther away. Findings also showed a reduction in discomfort measures, but most interestingly was that the greatest reduction of discomfort was found in the upper back and hips and thighs indicating that the split keyboard may have a large impact on spinal postures by reducing reach requirements, and encouraging participants to sit back in their chair.
Interestingly, there was less of an effect on discomfort ratings for the upper limb. To partially explain this, the authors note that while the postures of the upper extremity improved, the high exposure to frequent and repetitive keying remained; therefore, by not being able to remove all ergonomic risk factors the discomfort improved, but to a lesser degree in the upper extremity.
It is also interesting to note that this study only showed a mild reduction in keying performance in the first week of introduction of the keyboard and that 75% of participants wanted to keep the keyboard (75%), and another 21% were willing to extend the trial. Only 4% did not want to keep the keyboard.
In summary, the split compact ergonomic keyboard demonstrated an overall positive effect on individuals of all sizes and shapes. It may be particularly beneficial for individuals with specific discomforts and symptoms.
1. Atlas White Paper. An Evaluation of a Totally Split Compact Keyboard and its Impact on Posture, Discomfort, and Performance. March 2010. Sourced from http://atlas-ips.com/media/1076/officeergonomics_march2010.pdf, April 2, 2015