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I'd like to know if there's been any studies done on ergonomic keyboards and mice, and their effect on productivity. This might help me and others in deciding whether it's worth investing and getting used to new device(s), when considering the long-term gains.

I am not very interested in personal experiences here, but rather looking for an actual study with a representative group of participants and statistically significant results.

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Healthy wrist angle is encouraged by a curved keyboard, which can increase productivity by reducing the wrist pain like I experience when using straight/flat keyboards. Also, I switched to using the mouse with my left hand which helps balance out the stress a lot. –  MarkHu Aug 3 '11 at 1:52
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7 Answers

As of the term "ergonomic" it should be immediatly clear, that at least concerning mice and keyboards, the "improvement" is in the "health" (or the strain on it, e.g. RSI) of the user not on his or her productivity!

As noted before, due to the sub-optimal keyboard layout these days, there's not much you can do. Especially considering that you might not want to be unable to type anywhere (for your new employer, at a clients desk or in the hotel lobby business center), because they don't provide the other keyboard layout or a way to attach your beloved custom keyboard.

The only productivity improvement that I see in this regard and about which also studies were made, are those of proper chairs, desks (variable in height) and flexible monitor arms etc. (like those produced by the company "Ergotron"). I don't know which (monitor) company it was, but they made a study about how much large(r) [in inch-diameters] and or double-/multi- monitors will improve your productivity in regard to typical office work.

So, following up on this, it also depends on the type of work you (are expected to) do! Are you on the road much? Do you think, you can take those things with you? (I don't know about New Zealand, but if you go by train, it would be a bit of a hassle, it you go by car, ok.) Or are you just in your nerdy closed-door room ;) or a cubicle? What kind or work do you usually have to do, e.g. CAD vs. Excel? I think you won't be able to do CAD or similar without the keyboard, but sure I heard you're able to navigate around Excel just by keyboard! ;)

Thus the improvement in productivity from the "micro" perspective, would be in more speed through learning the keyboard shortcuts. But as said, more information would help, as I don't think you can seriously answer this question even if we'd assume you're a "white collar worker / office drone"! Because there are so many different kinds of office jobs. And many of the older folks rarely using their PC and still making loads of money (mostly using their pens, text markers and the phone) would declare you as crazy.

But luckily you're in the safe haven of "productivity.stackexchange". ;)

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It's a good answer but on a tangent I think. What I had in mind as proof was something like: "ergonomic" keyboard reduces time to do/type [xyz] by [123]; "ergonomic" mouse allows [quicker/better/stronger] performance in [xyz]. –  Dmitry Selitskiy Jun 28 '11 at 0:46
    
Just came back to this after this long time. I think your expectation of "x seconds shaved off" is a bit too technocratic/idealistic. While we all hope for this, I am still convinced that it highly depends on the individual how (s)he leverages their tools. A bigger monitor will help you avoid to rearrange or tab through windows, as you can see them side by side. If you use a higher mouse sensitivity (like Pro-Gamers ;)) you will need less time to scroll past your small or large screen. But sometimes miss your target, e.g. a small button. i.e. often there's a trade-off. –  grunwald2.0 May 8 '12 at 20:01
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One possible productivity gain for you may be to change the keyboard layout (rather than the physical keyboard) to the Dvorak layout. The Wikipedia article cites that there has been little in the way of scientific studies done recently to support the claims that the layout is more efficient, but there is a fairly vocal community of users who do swear by the layout. One reported benefit of using Dvorak is that it results in a more "ergonomic" use of the fingers, relieving RSI related symptoms. For a pro analysis see Dissenting Opinions.

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This is a good answer to a different question, not the one I asked. I shall put up a question about DVORAK layout so your answer has a legitimate place to be :) –  Dmitry Selitskiy Jun 23 '11 at 12:05
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This answer will probably be considered on a tangent too, but the truth is that the main point of ergonomic devices such as mice and keyboards is to "maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort" (quote from thefreedictionary), so you're unlikely to find studies that measure pure productivity gain without concentrating on health/comfort effects. Yes, technically ergonomics isn't only about fatigue and comfort, but that's how most people see it and that's what computer peripheral manufacturers are going for.

The extent to which you'll see productivity improvement with an ergonomic keyboard depends mostly on whether you're currently experiencing any fatigue or discomfort. If you aren't, then ergonomic keyboards that are simply shaped a bit differently, have easier-to-press keys, and such, but keep the same key layout, are unlikely to do much for you. There are some keyboards that also claim to directly improve productivity by useful and sensibly located shortcut keys and such, which may or may not go together with an ergonomic physical design. (see "hotkeys" for the Kinesis Freestyle keyboard for an example).

With mice there's a bit more variability, since they don't all stick to the same layout. Having additional easy-to-reach buttons you can customize to perform commonly-used actions will obviously decrease the time it takes you to do these actions, but the shape of the device may or may not help depending on whether you have trouble with your current one.

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I'm not sure about productivity benefits, but I know that using an ergonomic mouse has cleared up the RSI I used to get in my right index and middle fingers (clicking and using the scroll wheel). Having a bunch of extra buttons around my thumb has eased the load on the rest of my fingers as well.

For the record, this is the mouse I now have:

http://www.logitech.com/en-us/mice-pointers/mice/devices/5845

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Subjective, but thanks. –  Dmitry Selitskiy Jun 28 '11 at 0:20
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We're using Advantage Pro and it is outstanding! I'd said must have for programmers ;)

In combination with VIM it gave real boost.

Our most advanced contoured keyboard yet...Compatible with PC & Mac operating systems, instantly configure the layout for Windows, Mac and non-Windows operating environments as well as advanced programming features.

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I wonder why this go a negative vote... Kinesis is awesome. –  Lex Mar 20 '13 at 1:28
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Just a tiny-mini-little change in my setup that has turned my regular mouse into a much less torturing tool:

  • With windows (not tried with linux yet) you can set up the Speed of the pointer of the mouse. If put to the Highest speed possible value, the mouse can be led by the top of the fingers without even really moving the wrist, and you can cover the whole area of your screen(s).

I alternate the regular mouse: one week at my right hand, one week at my left hand. I have also a pen tablet, that helps change the position of the hand. And a touch pad I only use at home.

It made the pain disappear, so really improve my typing productivity.

Though this doesn't really answer the OP question, I think it's still related.

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I'd say, without any shadow of a doubt, yes, some of them do provide significant productivity improvement. The problem is that, as far as I know, no major system of measuring such improvements exists. At this stage you can judge mostly by the subjective feeling of comfort that users can share.

You could easily check with yourself if you ask yourself how you would feel more productive: with an old styled ball mouse or with a modern optical mouse, for example?

An attempt to go towards specific criteria and measurements is this list: http://capsoff.org/checklist.

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