More often than not the dimensions and the pre-existing contents of your home office will dictate where you locate your desk. But if you could locate it anywhere, what would be its optimal position?
The Perfect Location
The ideal place for your home office desk to be situated would be central to your workspace, a location where you can attain perfect ergonomic access to all the equipment you need to do your work. It must also have ease of access to and from all the ancillaries you need, whilst being in an environment which is optimally adjusted for access, lighting, heating and ventilation.
In theory, you should not need to stand up and move around to do any task that is not your work – if you so wished. Sound a bit weird? Well, yeah…. who really has a desk experience like that? Well, I may not be able to promise you I’ll deliver on all of those factors. But I can give you some pointers as a ‘quick-list’ and then more thoughts on how to go about planning where best to put it.
Everyone will have their own situation, their own unique set of circumstances, their own room, their lack of a room, a big desk, a small desk…. a large window, no window! But humor me for a moment, lets go with the ideal – a blank canvas of having a room with a view. Ok, have I gone a bit Hannibal Lector? Sorry, but let’s opt for a room, with a window and go from there. I may just embellish it a little as I think of some extra facilities that would be nice, but I’ll be honest and call them out if I need to!
To find the right position, you first need to examine your specific circumstances…
Desk Placement Considerations
- Access to the desk – Can you easily get to and from it?
- Desk size – Scrutinize if it’s too big for the room, or too small to use?
- Additional requirements – Can you fit in your other equipment as well?
- Desk Lighting – Where to get the best natural light exposure?
- Desk Lighting – Access to artificial light, is it adequate?
- Desk View – Can it be better positioned for a more pleasant view?
- Room Layout – Does it complement the room and its contents?
- Ergonomic comfort – Does the chair have good enough movement?
- Ergonomic comfort – Is the desk impeded, say in an alcove or a low roof?
- Desk Usage – Will its location allow full functional operation of the desk?
- Clutter Management – Will the desk become a handy dumping location?
Access to the desk
Can you easily get to and from it?
You may be thinking, “huh – how could you not do that?” Pretty easily… in the desire to ‘make something fit’ you can quite easily put your desk in a position which means you can have it fit in with, Aunt Jess’s old Bureau, Uncle Mike’s old Grandfather Clock, your favourite bookcase and your Spin bike! The only problem is it becomes easier to jump in and out of an F15, than to get in and out of your desk.
Contemplate if you’ll soon get fed up with the awkwardness of just getting to and from it, and be honest with yourself. The more troublesome anything is, the less likely you are to do it.
Scrutinize if it’s too big for the room, or too small to use?
Like above, really be honest here. The desk may be an absolute work of art, but if it is simply too overpowering for the space you have, don’t use it. Now is the time to either sell it, or store it. Persevering with it will most like lead to you having a poor home office experience. Get an alternative that is suited to you, your space and what you need it for.
Of course this goes the other way… is it big enough? It may be a family heirloom, perhaps it was what Aunt Jess used to do her make up and jewellery? Is it really going to help you! I’m not saying get-rid here, but maybe it could fit elsewhere and you can buy yourself a more suitable desk.
Can you fit in your other equipment as well?
In finding the ideal place to locate your desk you could inadvertently ruin the access and use of other equipment, resources or storage. Think carefully about what definitely needs to be where in your home office, if it needs to be there at all.
Where to get the best natural light exposure?
For me this is the most important consideration. It may be out of your control – with respect to the desks orientation to a window, but if it is in your control; try to position the desk in a place that makes the most use of natural light, and has the best view.
Access to artificial light, is it adequate?
Even if your desk it situated for optimal light exposure and with a great view; it does not mean you can shirk any examination of your artificial lighting. I think it goes without saying that you’ll be sat at your desk at some point, where the lighting just won’t be adequate enough to reduce eye strain. If you wish to look more into your home office lighting then read this! It will advise you on lighting considerations and inform you about ‘Light Layering’ and review some great office lamps.
If I put the desk where I want it, is there power available?
More often than not you will go and purchase a power extender to provide you with an extended power source or multiple extra power sockets where you need them. Before you nail down your plan, make sure your desk can be served with whatever power needs it has – it might be a powered height adjustable desk? It will almost certainly be housing a device, probably several that will need powering, so review what you’ll need and hopefully you won’t need to employ an electrician.
Can it be better positioned for a more pleasant view?
This will fit ‘hand and glove’ with the citing of your desk in a window location. If you don’t have a window in your home office, or don’t position your desk near a window for any other reason, then choose which aspect of the desks potential location would take priority. Facing the door, perhaps to welcome potential clients? Facing an information board, white board or projector screen?
Or situate it for visual reasons, you could could have a signature wall, or a wall with family photographs on it. Another option would be to face the desk towards a wall with a large mirror, or make up of modular mirrors to give you the feeling of having more office space. Ultimately this is down to your personal preference, but remember you need it to be interesting – not a blank wall! That will sap any any interest of spending a decent amount of time sat there.
Does it complement the room and its contents?
When planning to locate your desk in a specific location, after thinking about the previous points, just try to imagine or position the desk in place. Does it actually look ok? Does it look like a tiny desk lost, and all alone…awwww, or cramped and overpowering? Does you room lend itself to having a ‘U’ or and ‘L’ shaped desk instead? Is it Aunt Jess’s 1950s desk, and it just does not go with your cool Ergohuman ergonomic office chair and modern furniture?
These are really secondary considerations when assessing comfort and practicality, but… you want it to still look cool. Or for it to look professional and in keeping with your profession. Aesthetics are important… I’m trying not to sound too ‘shallow’ here, but you want your home office to be inspiring.
Does the chair have good enough movement?
If you’ve read any other of my articles on ergonomics you’ll understand the importance of how you interact with your workspace. Not only how ergonomic your tools are, but how ergonomic they are with one another. Having an amazingly ergonomic chair is pointless if your desk is situated in a way that prevents it getting close enough for you to make the most of it.
Also, you need to have the ability for the chair to roam around the desk, so you can make adjustments to your position. You may not realize it, but you’ll constantly be making minor changes to your seating position. You don’t want to have a desk positioned in a way that makes this difficult. It can come down to details… maybe putting the desk near a floor threshold strip or carpet edge prevents the chair legs or wheels from easily moving?
Is the desk impeded, say in an alcove or a low roof?
More important, and a more common mistake to make than you may realise is to position the desk in such a way that makes maximum efficiency in terms of the area that it consumes; but, is in fact poorly located. An example is if it’s placed too near a doorway, where the desk is constantly clipped by an opening and closing door. Over time it will damage the desk and the door, as well as bug you!
Another example might be if you placed your desk in an alcove or rebate, perhaps underneath a staircase. These can be a great use of space, but consider if it will still allow the full range of use you might require your desk for. If you wish to buy a standing desk or standing desk converter, will that increased height still fit into that space? Can you fit those dual monitors on those adjustable monitor arms – so you can change the monitor orientation to work in Portrait or Landscape modes? Basically, make sure where you consider any variables of use, or account for changes you intend to make with your desk equipment.
Will its location allow full functional operation of the desk?
Related to the previous points above, but this is specific to having a height adjustable Desk, or desk converter. Ensure you consider where you are in relation to the desks height settings, when it’s being used standing up as well as sat down. If you use it standing up will you have clearance for your head?
If you go for a ‘U’ or ‘L’ shaped desk, will each aspect have clearance so you’ll be able to be sat under the desired part, or will it fit a particular piece of furniture beneath it? Will it work in harmony with its surroundings, maybe with a printer, scanner or copier?
Will the desk become a handy dumping location?
Your desk might be located conveniently on the way to a storage room, garage or the kids bedroom. In which case it might become the perfect place to ‘drop off’ stuff. Nothing you want or need, but finds itself a home on your desk. Not really the biggest concern for you to have, but having experienced… experiencing it, it can be annoying! Just one for you to bear in mind maybe?
What about Cables, peripherals and other ancillaries?
Before finally rubber stamping your desk location plan, think about all the items that will exist on or under your desk. Will the PC have a network cable available (if you use Ethernet cables)? Will all the cabling you need be wired into or around the desk? Consider your cable management, there are a lot of solutions you can get that will integrate the cabling for your devices with your desk.
If you didn’t get the message when we discussed ‘Desk View’ then think more about putting something inspirational in front of your desk – seeing as though we talking about where we put the desk here – make sure you have it somewhere where you can apply a stimulus that will motivate you when you’re sat at it. A facility where you can add something to energize or encourage yourself. A poster, powerful quotes, a picture of your boss? Ok, maybe not the the last idea!
Some of the above will just sound obvious, and common sense, which it is of course. But they are simple considerations which just seem to become issues that everyone makes when setting up their home office. Just glance back up at each header, and spend a moment to reflect on them… any of them seem familiar? Just maybe, if you’re being honest, you see affecting the location of your own desk. If you don’t, then I commend you Sir or Madam on having an optimally situated and ergonomically refined desk!
If I was to confess, I struggle badly with ‘Clutter Management’ which is partly the kids… mostly me, I’m just not the neatest person.
Might be why I haven’t posted a picture on here…
Amelia & Theo – Co-owners of ThinkHomeOffice.com
We have professional backgrounds in Software Testing and Business Analysis, both with extensive experience of working for commercial enterprises and as a freelancers. We toggle between working from corporate premises and our own home offices. We have a passion for home working, and for using equipment that is ergonomically functional, well designed and elegant.