Now that virtually everybody in the workplace uses a keyboard to some degree, the stress that repetitive typing causes on the hands, wrist, and fingers has become a major workplace issue. The ergonomic keyboard was designed to to relieve some of that stress and provide a more comfortable platform for typing.
Ergonomic designs for keyboards also help to relieve sometimes painful conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive stress injury that results from extended keyboard usage. These specially designed, contoured keyboards are created with comfort in mind, and are often recommended by therapists and health care professionals.
Sometimes an ergonomic keyboard will be designed in the unconventional Dvorak keyboard layout as opposed to the standard Qwerty layout, in the belief that this keyboard pattern also helps to relieve stress on the fingers and arms.
There is no precise definition or precise design for an ergonomic keyboard, but various models generally create a contoured design that is more comfortable than a standard flat keyboard. Some keyboards have an adjustable slant down the middle, with the two halves spaced several inches apart. Others may have a rounded base or uniquely designed palmrest. The "split hands" design is the central design element of the ergonomic keyboard, and provides a more natural positioning that allows the hands to be more widely separated when typing. Once a typist becomes accustomed to this split design, most will agree that it feels more comfortable and natural.
The ergonomic keyboard addresses several issues. It overcomes the stress that occurs when reaching out to use the numeric keypad and mouse, and frequent extending of the hands and wrists that takes place in conventional keyboards. The little fingers, which are the weakest, are pressed into service to hit additional keys, which causes further problems. The ergonomic keyboard also reduces stress that results from crowding the hands together on the keyboard, the asymmetrical posture one takes when working on a conventional keyboard, and the stress caused by continuous extended shifting.