No aspect of your office contributes more to your productivity than your office desk. You can have the best computer equipment, the best coffee machine and the best view in town, but if your office desk isn’t good enough then your days are going to be uncomfortable and unproductive. Fortunately, finding a good office desk isn’t hard to do, and it doesn’t need to be expensive. Pronto’s Office Desk Buying Guide will help you find the right office desk for your work style so you can get the job done right.
Overestimate the amount of flat work surface you think you need based on the work you actually do at your desk. Returning phone calls and e-mails will require less desk space than work that involves referring to papers, files or books. You’ll find uses for extra desk space, but you won’t be able to expand an office desk that’s full.
Rectangular desks are still the most common, but they’re not your only choice. Consider corner desks or mobile computer carts for tight spaces or rooms that have multiple functions. Choose L-shaped desks to maximize your work surface in corner areas. Choose a hutch-style desk only if you don’t need to reach for supplies and you have a safe place to install it.
Look for flip-top power cord and cable systems to keep electronics safely organized and out of the way. Choose desks with at least one shallow drawer for office supplies, a deep drawer for files and shelving that is easy to access.
Your desk needs to fit your room and your body as well as your work style. Desk heights between 28” and 30” along with an adjustable desk chair will have people of average height sitting pretty. Unless you’re placing your office desk against a wall, strive to have three feet of clear space on all sides.
Choose laminate desks for the best combination of affordability, durability and variety of colors. Wood desks are beautiful but tend to damage or discolor easily. Luxury marble and glass may suit your décor, but these are investments that require regular maintenance. Marble and stone will interfere with wireless networks, while glass makes it impossible to use an optical mouse without a mouse pad.
Holes with plastic lids that flip open in the top or back wall of an office desk, allowing you to keep power cords and computer cables out of sight and off the desk surface.
A large drawer that can accommodate standard-size hanging file folders. Some desks have molded edges that you can hang the files from, while others require a file frame that is sold separately.
Either a storage unit that sits on top of a desk or a style of desk that looks like an upright chest of drawers with a desk surface that folds down or slides out for use.
Plastic finish applied to a wood core. Laminate is the most popular desk finish because of its affordability and durability. Available in a variety of colors and wood grain finishes.
The decorative outer finish of a piece of furniture. Veneer materials include laminates and wood.
Before you begin shopping, take stock of your work habits. The most common mistake when it comes to purchasing an office desk is choosing one with inadequate workspace—unless you use your office desk primarily as a command center for returning telephone calls and reading and writing e-mail.
If your work involves stacks of paper, you’ll need to dedicate a percentage of your office desk to accommodating them. You’ll also need to take into account whether you work with a laptop or desktop computer and other pieces of office equipment that you need to keep in sight and within easy reach. Flat-screen monitors take up less space on an office desk than CRT monitors. If you have a CRT monitor, you want to be sure the depth of your office desk allows the monitor to be placed so that you can just reach it with your fingertips while seated in your normal position.
How you organize—or don’t organize—your files, books and project materials also affects how much desk surface you’ll need. If you don’t have a place for everything and everything in its place, you’ll need a larger office desk. The general rule of thumb? Overestimate your work surface needs. You can always find uses for extra space, but you won’t be able to create more if all available surfaces have been filled.
Once you’ve determined how much work surface you need, think about how you want that space to be configured. Rectangles aren’t the only choice in office desks. Think about where the desk will live in your home and how frequently you need to access files or computer equipment.
Basic computer desks with broad work surfaces and one or two shelves beneath may work well in dedicated home offices, but they disrupt the traffic flow in a room that serves multiple functions. If space is tight and you use your home office only occasionally, look for computer carts on casters or corner desks with triangular work surfaces that maximize space. L-shaped desks are designed for corner placement and offer a bigger work surface, but they are also physically larger than corner desks.
No matter how tidy or untidy you are when you’re working, there are a few things to look for when you’re buying an office desk:
Your office desk needs to fit more than your work habits; it needs to fit your office and your body. Average desk height is between 28” and 30”, which is suitable for people of average height. If you’re on the tall or the short side, look for office desks with adjustable heights or adjustable keyboard platforms. Keep the following desk-height guidelines in mind when you’re shopping:
Most desks come with at least some (and usually all) assembly required. Before buying, pay close attention to the desk’s specifications when assembled; it may not fit back through the door once it’s put together, and you don’t want to spend a lot for a large piece of furniture you’ll have to leave behind if you move.
You also want to be sure that the room where you intend to put your office desk won’t be overpowered by its size. Unless you’re placing your desk against a wall, most interior designers recommend having at least three feet of space around all sides of a desk.
Most office desks come with laminate surfaces available in a variety of colors and patterns. Laminate desks are much more durable than they used to be, and many are resistant to ink stains, spilled coffee and even printer toner. Laminate desks easily wipe clean and are better choices for heavy use, those who work with art supplies or homes with children. Look for high-pressure laminate desks for maximum durability.
Wood office desks add elegance to your workspace, but wood is extremely fragile. Simply writing with a pen can gouge the surface, and wood can be warped and discolored by spills. If you choose a wood office desk, consider getting a separate glass or plastic top to protect the main work area.
Marble and glass are durable, although marble will require special cleanings over time to maintain its luster. Both of these desk surfaces also present challenges to computer equipment; marble desks interfere with Bluetooth and other RF wireless devices, while glass desks make it impossible to use an optical mouse without a mouse pad.