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What Is an Ergonomic Keyboard? The Complete Guide

If you're a writer, programmer, IT professional or just someone who spends hours at a keyboard, you're at an increased risk of muscle discomfort and strain. Research shows that 60% of IT professionals who spend more than eight hours a day on the computer are likely to suffer from repetitive strain injuries (RSI). Additional research has show that long weekly hours of keyboard use (above 28 hours per week) may lead to or aggravate carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as poor posture from the misalignment of your neck, shoulders and upper back. 

The solution? Ergonomic keyboards. Designed to support a more natural hand and wrist position, ergonomic keyboards aim to reduce muscle strain and the risk of injuries associated with standard keyboards. In this guide, we cover everything you need to know about ergonomic keyboards, including the types, pros and cons, and what to look for when buying one.

What Is an Ergonomic Keyboard?

An ergonomic keyboard is a type of keyboard designed to provide a more natural wrist, hand and arm position in order to minimise muscle strain and the risk of repetitive strain injuries (RSIs), such as carpal tunnel syndrome or tendinitis. Specifically, an ergonomic keyboard allows your wrists to rest outward, instead of forcing you to turn them inward.

How Can You Tell That a Keyboard Is Ergonomic?

An ergonomic keyboard usually has a contoured, split or angled design that looks different to a standard QWERTY keyboard. It's also more likely to have low profile rather than chunky keys, which are easier to push down. 

Types of Ergonomic Keyboard

Ergonomic keyboards come in several different shapes and layouts. Some of the most popular types of ergonomic keyboards are as follows.

Split Keyboards: These keyboards are divided into two separate sections to keep your hands, wrists, and forearms at a comfortable width, in line with your shoulders.

Tented Keyboards: As their name suggests, tented keyboards elevate the middle part of the keyboard, creating a tent-like shape. This design reduces forearm pronation (the rotation of the forearm inward) and keeps the wrists in a more neutral position.

Contoured Keyboards: Contoured keyboards feature a curved design that follows the natural shape of the hands and fingers. The keys are often arranged in a well-like shape, reducing the distance the fingers need to travel when typing.

Compact Keyboards: Compact keyboards come without a numeric keypad, reducing the overall width of the keyboard. This design encourages users to keep their mouse closer to the keyboard, reducing the need to reach and strain.

Handheld Keyboards: Also known as ergonomic handheld or split-hand keyboards, handheld keyboards are designed to be held like a game controller. This allows users to type while keeping their hands and arms in a more natural position.

What Is the Difference Between a Standard Keyboard and an Ergonomic Keyboard?

Standard keyboards in countries that use a Latin-based alphabet, otherwise known as QWERTY keyboards, are rectangular and have a uniform layout. The name comes from the order of the first six keys on the top letter row of the keyboard: QWERTY.

While standard keyboards require users to bend their wrists inwards and pronate their forearm—which can lead to unnatural hand positioning and a higher risk of RSI—ergonomic keyboards come in more unique shapes and layouts to keep the hands, wrists, and forearms in a more natural position, reducing strain and discomfort.

For a lot of people, their biggest concern around switching to an ergonomic keyboard is that it’s going to feel unnatural, when actually the opposite is true.

Research has shown that fixed-split, ergonomic keyboards lessen the pain and functional status in symptomatic individuals, as well as reduce the likelihood of developing musculoskeletal disorders in asymptomatic typists because of their natural design. Another study found that wrist posture, as measured by the angle of ulnar deviation, was shown to significantly improve for all participant groups, resulting in a moderate decrease in discomfort. In addition to this, participants reported significant reductions in upper body and lower back discomfort. 

In other words, ergonomic keyboards are more comfortable and less associated with discomfort than standard ones. 

A compact ergonomic keyboard, which does not have a number pad. 

Pros of Ergonomic Keyboards

1. Reduced Risk of Injuries

By promoting a more natural typing posture when working at your desk, ergonomic keyboards help reduce the strain on muscles and tendons and minimise the risk of repetitive strain injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis.

In one trial on the effectiveness of an ergonomic keyboard for typists with work related upper extremity disorders, continuous ergonomic keyboard use was effective in maintaining improvements obtained after six months of use.

2. Improved Posture

Ergonomic keyboards encourage better posture by aligning the hands, wrists, and forearms which can have a positive impact on overall body posture, reducing the risk of back, neck, and shoulder pain.

Remember: Your elbows should be at an angle close to 90 degrees, your feet should be flat on the floor, and your computer screen should be to eye level when you're working in a sitting or standing position

3. Increased Comfort

The design of ergonomic keyboards prioritises user comfort, making it easier to type for extended periods without discomfort or fatigue.

Cons of Ergonomic Keyboards

1. Learning Curve

Switching to an ergonomic keyboard may require an adjustment period. After all, most of us have spent our whole lives using a standard keyboard! Be prepared to give yourself the time to adapt to the new layout and typing posture.

2. Space Requirements

Some ergonomic keyboards, such as those with split designs, can take up more desk space than standard keyboards. This can be an issue for users with limited workspace, so the width and depth of your desk should be considered. On the contrary, a compact keyboard can take up less space.

3. Higher Cost

Ergonomic keyboards are generally more expensive than standard keyboards because of the specialised design and materials used.

Which Ergonomic Keyboard is Best? Our Recommendations

Choosing the best ergonomic keyboard depends on individual needs, preferences, and typing habits. Here are some of the top features to consider. 

  • Typing Habits: Consider your typing style and the amount of time you spend typing each day. If you type for extended periods, a keyboard with more ergonomic features might be better. 
  • Adjustability: Look for keyboards that offer adjustable features such as tenting angles, split configurations, and custom key layouts. This allows you to tailor the keyboard to your specific ergonomic requirements, which is ideal if you have more complex needs.
  • Workspace: Evaluate the size of your desk and the space available for a keyboard. Split and tented keyboards often require more room than compact models.
  • Compatibility: Ensure the keyboard is compatible with your computer and operating system. Some ergonomic keyboards have specialised drivers or software that may not be supported on all platforms, e.g. a keyboard for 
  • Budget: Ergonomic keyboards can vary significantly in price. Determine your budget and find a keyboard that offers the best balance of features and cost.


Ergonomic keyboards offer several benefits for those who spend long hours typing, including increased comfort and reduced risk of RSIs. This makes it a worthwhile investment for your long-term health and productivity levels. However, with so many models on the market, it's important that you pick a keyboard that matches your specific needs. Consider your typing habits, workspace and personal preferences before you decide on which type, make and model of ergonomic keyboard you go for. 

Looking for a keyboard for your home office or workspace? Check out our full collection of ergonomic accessories, available for next working day delivery if ordered by 3pm.

Need additional help choosing a keyboard? Get in contact with our expert team with any queries. 

Otherwise, our blog provides more useful tips on ergonomic office accessories for a more balanced lifestyle. Feel free to contact us with any questions, with the handy live chat feature on our site, or via email at info@ergodesks.co.uk.