REDMOND, Wash. — Sept. 19, 2012 — Logging long hours at a computer is a bit like running a marathon, only it’s your fingers and forearms that pound the proverbial pavement – and most of us return to the starting line the very next day.
Like a marathon, all that typing can cause pain. Left unchecked it can become a repetitive stress injury (RSI). So just as runners need the right shoes, office workers need the right equipment to comfortably grind out the miles.
Today, Microsoft Hardware announced the newest member of its ergonomic lineup, the Windows 8-enabled Sculpt Comfort Keyboard. The keyboard includes a number of ergonomic features designed for maximum comfort and efficiency, including a contoured layout, a detachable padded palm rest, and a split backspace-spacebar key.
The Sculpt Comfort Keyboard is part of Microsoft Hardware’s ongoing efforts to keep its customers comfortable as they spend ever-increasing hours on their computers, says Suneel Goud, senior product marketing manager in Microsoft Hardware.
“At the end of the day, we want our customers to have a great computing experience,” Goud says. “And that comes from both the software experience and the hardware peripherals used to interface with the computer. Our lineup of keyboards and mice are designed to keep our customers comfortable and to keep them healthy by helping to reduce the risks associated with repetitive stress injuries.”
For businesses, ergonomics can have big economic implications. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates that RSIs cost employers US$15-20 billion a year, with employees missing an average of 12 days of work and making US$38,500 in worker’s comp claims.
Goud encourages everyone to take a look at Microsoft Hardware’s ergonomic lineup and create a comfortable workstation for themselves. Certified ergonomists help design, test and approve peripherals from Microsoft Hardware, and the Sculpt Comfort Keyboard reflects a vast body of research. For example, it’s the first Microsoft keyboard to feature a split backspace-spacebar key. Internal research at Microsoft shows that more than 90 percent of people hit the spacebar with their right thumb, leaving the left side virtually untouched. (Go ahead, look at your keyboard – you’ll probably notice a shiny spot on the right-hand side where your thumb strikes.) That’s a lot of wasted real estate.
At the same time, the backspace key is the third-most used on the keyboard – perhaps a comment on our collective typing skills – trailing only the spacebar itself and the letter ‘e.’ These statistics led Microsoft to split the spacebar and add optional backspace functionality into the left-hand side. The result aims to improve both ergonomics and typing efficiency.
(If all that change is overwhelming, don’t worry. The default mode is the standard keyboard set up we’ve used for years; customers must activate the split functionality.)
Microsoft also increased the actual size of the space bar, making it easier to strike, since it’s the most frequently used key; included a palm lift to straighten and support wrists; and added Windows 8 hot keys so customers can quickly search, share, access device settings and more with the tap of a finger.
Goud notes that RSIs are often the accumulation of smaller injuries, and people often neglect the warning signs. He speaks from experience. When Goud first joined Microsoft on the U.S. Retail team, he noticed carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. He ignored them for a while, then started taking frequent breaks. Finally he picked up the Microsoft Natural Desktop Ergonomic 7000 keyboard.
The pain went away and never came back.