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Why I started using a keyboard tray, and why you should too

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Welcome back to the thrilling conclusion of my journey to fix my back with tech upgrades. Yes, I’m still using the posture-tracking app, and the monitor arm upgrade is still a treat. But I wanted to go one step further.

For comfort reasons, I needed to drop my keyboard and mouse down a few more inches, and after lifting the monitors up so I could drop the desk down, there was only one real solution: I had to use a keyboard tray.

It felt like a betrayal of my gorgeous standing desk to use some piece of faux-carbon fiber plastic clamped onto the butcher block, but you know what? It definitely helps. Bonus points? I have a lot more desk surface space now.

Chasing the perfect posture

Woman using a laptop on the floor.
My new hobby is finding stock images of people in work postures I could only dream of. ThoughtCatalog

As a relatively sedentary home office worker with hobbies that almost exclusively revolve around staring at a screen, or down at a board or book, I’ve had to take a keen interest in my posture over the years. I’m in a long war with back pain and, lately, I’ve been losing. So. I’ve been making some changes to my working setup, including lifting up my monitors with a third-party arm, and it’s great.

But frankly, balancing all these components to find the right height for everything is a chore. While standing centered with the monitor, I’m supposed to keep my eyeline a third of the way down my main monitor — but I can’t stand too still, which is why I use a rocker. But due to desk height, that means lifting my arms slightly to be at “rest” for typing and gaming.

I’m lost in the weeds on this, and if I still haven’t managed to create a comfortable and future-proof position in which to use my computer regularly after everything I’ve done so far. I’m in trouble. So it’s on to the next thing: A keyboard tray.

The right height for me

I’m not sure if I’m overly susceptible to back pain, am just short enough to fall outside the norm for using a standing desk comfortably, or maybe this is a problem everyone who sits and stands at desks struggles with. I know a handful of fellow tech writers who have that lightning pain in their shoulders, or whose heads are permanently jutted forward because we’re all just leaning over our laptops too much.

Whatever the reason, the keyboard tray has put my keyboard and my mouse at a much more comfortable height for me. Now, I stand on my rocker, with my monitors at eye level, and my keyboard and mouse in a comfortable, easy to reach position. My forearms are about parallel with the desk, just a few inches under it.

I don’t feel cool using it, though. It has some serious corporate vibes that make me feel like I should have asked my manager if we have the budget for it. But sacrificing my status as an ultra cool tech journalist is worth it to ward off back pain. Even for a little while.

Look at all this space

Desk tray showing lots of desk surface space.
I actually don’t know what to do with all this space. Before I cleared it up for this shot, it was just full of junk. Jon Martindale

While I might not be sure what to do with all the added space, it is nice to have. I have other hobbies I can enjoy on the same desk now without having to move my keyboard and mouse out of the way every time, which is nice. If I have a project I’m working on where I want to take some handwritten notes, I now have the space for that while still being within reach of my keyboard.

It’s no major upgrade, but when I don’t just clutter it up, all this negative space does feel slightly calming, too.

It goes well with wireless

Logitech G Pro Wireless Mouse
Digital Trends

If you’re thinking about a keyboard tray for your desk, it’s a quick and easy way to hide your peripherals’ wires. Instead of them having to be routed across the desk, you can just run them under the surface instead.

I didn’t get to enjoy that benefit because I switched to a full wireless set up last year, with a Logitech G Pro Wireless mouse and G915 TKL keyboard. But that made the process of switching to using a keyboard tray super easy, and more versatile.

When actually making the switch, I didn’t have to route any wires — save for the one for the Powerplay mat — so it was as simple as picking up the keyboard and mouse from the desk, and putting them on the tray. It helps with the transition, too. In the first few days of using the tray, when it didn’t feel quite right, I could just put the keyboard and/or mouse back on the desk and use them there for a while instead.

A fitting conclusion … I hope

With a regular physical therapist, a new exercise regime, and a resolve to never return to the slouching days that caused so much back-related strife for me, I’m hoping that all my technological attempts to improve my posture and comfort will have a good long-term effect on my quality of life, whether I’m working or playing. While this isn’t some super-exciting conclusion, it feels apt to end this journey on rather a dull note — I certainly wouldn’t want it to end with any kind of bang. My back couldn’t take it.

But I do like my keyboard tray. I don’t know whether it’ll ever feel cool enough for me, but it’ll have to do.

Look after your backs people. Or you might end up writing multipart articles about it. And I’ve done enough of that for everyone.