10 Features to Look for When Choosing a Computer Desk

Posted on by Mike Harley

10 Features to Look for When Choosing a Computer Desk

With the digital revolution upon us, computers have become an essential tool in the workplace. Millions of workers use them on a daily basis. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in fact, approximately 67% of all office workers and 80% of all managers now use a computer.

If you fall under this category, you’ll need to choose the right computer desk. While you can use a computer at any desk – or even a table for that matter – some desks are designed specifically for computers. They’ll provide you with a comfortable and effective workspace, thus allowing you to maximize your productivity. Below are several features to consider when choosing a computer desk.

#1) Spacious Surface Area

Choose a desk that has an ample amount of work space

Consider the surface area when choosing a computer desk. The amount of surface area a computer desk has can vary. Some computer desks have a small amount of surface area, whereas others have an ample amount of surface area. If you choose the former type, it may restrict your ability to work in a productive manner.

Computer desks with a large and spacious surface area typically support multiple monitors. You won’t be limited to using a single monitor. Instead, you can set up and use two monitors on a computer desk with a spacious surface area. You’ll also have the freedom to handwrite letters on it, which may not be possible with smaller computer desks. Furthermore, you can personalize your computer desk with framed photos or other decorations.

#2) Ergonomic Height

The height of your computer desk is very important for ergonomics

The height of a computer desk matters! If it’s too short, you may not be able to comfortably position your legs under it. On the other hand, if it’s too tall, you may struggle to reach your keyboard and mouse. Choosing a computer desk with an ergonomic height allows you to avoid these pitfalls while achieving a more comfortable workspace.

How tall should a computer desk be exactly? The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) recommends 20 to 28 inches of leg clearance. Leg clearance is the distance from the bottom of the desk surface to the floor. With 20 to 28 inches of leg clearance, computer desks will offer an ergonomic height that’s comfortable to use.

#3) Durable Construction

For a computer desk to withstand the hands of time, it needs to feature durable construction. Computer desks are available in a plethora of materials, some of which are more durable than others. You can expect to pay more for a durable computer desk, but it’s usually a smart investment for the long term.

Durable computer desks are available in both metal and wood materials. Common types of metal include steel and aluminum. Steel computer desks are particularly strong, but they tend to weigh more than those made of aluminum. Regarding wood, durable computer desks are often made of laminated wood. Laminated wood consists of multiple layers of real wood that are fused together. When used to construct a computer desk, it offers a high level of strength and durability.

#4) Computer Storage

Example of a computer workstation with storage

A computer desk should offer a place to store your computer. After all, they are designed for use with a computer. You can’t just store your computer on the floor. When placed on the floor, your computer will accumulate dirt and debris that could interfere with its performance or even cause it to fail.  However, you can protect your computer from premature failure by choosing a desk with a storage area.

Some computer desks have a cabinet in which you can store your computer. Others have a shelf on the bottom. With either of these storage solutions, your computer will be off the floor.

Of course, a storage solution isn’t necessary if you use a laptop. You can place a laptop directly on the top of a desk. Even if your computer desk is small, it should be able to accommodate a laptop. If you use a desktop computer, though, you’ll need a place to store it. Fortunately, many high-quality computer desks feature either a cabinet or shelf for this purpose. You can place your desktop computer inside the cabinet or on the shelf to keep it off the floor, where it will be better protected against dirt and debris.

#5) Mouse-and-Keyboard Tray

Choose a desk that has a mouse and keyboard tray

You may want to choose a computer desk with a mouse-and-keyboard tray. Most computer-related jobs involve typing. With a mouse-and-keyboard tray, you’ll be able to type – as well as use the mouse – more comfortably.

A mouse-and-keyboard tray is a separate pull-out surface that extends from the bottom of the desk surface. It’s used to support a mouse and keyboard. Most mouse-and-keyboard trays sit about 3 to 6 below the desk surface. As a result, you can rest your hands at a lower level than that of the desk surface on which your monitor or monitors are placed.

If you’re going to buy a computer desk with a mouse-and-keyboard tray, make sure it’s large enough to accommodate both of these peripherals. A small mouse-and-keyboard tray may force you to move the mouse to the surface of your computer desk. According to OSHA, this can strain your elbow and arm.

With your mouse on the desk surface and the keyboard on the small tray, you’ll have to raise your arm to use your mouse. Over time, you may experience elbow pain from constantly lifting your arm. A spacious tray prevents this from happening. In addition, it will provide enough space for both your keyboard and mouse.

#6) Cable Grommets

Computer desk grommets help to run your wires

Don’t forget to look for cable grommets when choosing a computer desk. To say computers have a lot of cables would be an understatement. In addition to a power cable, they often have monitor cables, printer cables, ethernet cables, and more. All of these cables can create a cluttered workspace if you don’t take action to conceal them. In addition, they’ll consume valuable surface space while potentially distracting you from your work activities in the process.

Cable grommets offer an easy and effective way to conceal your computer’s cables. Using these precut channels, you can guide your computer’s cables through the back of your desk. A cable grommet is nothing more than a hole with a plastic top covering it. The plastic top essentially has a slice cut out of it. You can run cables into this slice and through the grommet so that they are concealed.

If your computer desk doesn’t have any cable grommets, you may be able to add them – but doing so requires a little bit of work. Adding a grommet involves drilling. You’ll have to drill a circular hole into the back of your computer desk and then cover it with a plastic top. Grommet tops are sold both locally and online. Since they are made of plastic, they are typically inexpensive, with most grommet tops costing about $1 or $2 apiece.

#7) Attractive Design

Choose an attractive design for your computer desk

An attractive design is a must-have feature in a computer desk. Assuming you use it for work, you’ll probably be seeing and using the computer desk frequently. However, if it features a lackluster design, it could have a negative impact on your mood and, therefore, your productivity.

Numerous studies have shown that workspaces with attractive designs boost productivity levels. When your workspace is appealing, you’ll feel an innate sense of satisfaction and enjoyment in using it. These positive mental changes can then lead to increased productivity.

Here are some tips on how to choose an attractive computer desk:

  • Choose a color that matches the rest of the furniture and decorations used in your workspace.
  • For a rustic workspace, consider a computer desk made of wood rather than metal.
  • Make sure the drawer handles are high quality and flow cohesively with the rest of the computer desk.
  • Choose an office desk in a similar overall style as your office chair.
  • For a more modern décor, consider an office desk with a glass surface.

#8) Built-In Ports

Choose a desk with built in ports

While not a requirement, computer desks with built-in ports have become increasingly popular in recent years. Built-in ports are designed to reduce or eliminate the need for traditional cable connections.  With built-in ports, you can connect devices directly to your computer desk rather than the ports on your computer.

The most common type of built-in port is Universal Serial Bus (USB). As you may know, USB connections are used for numerous devices, including smartphones. If you need to charge your smartphone, you can plug it into a built-in USB port on your computer desk. You can even connect your keyboard and mouse to these same built-in USB ports if the desk connects to your computer.

Built-in ports are still a relatively new feature, so not all computer desks have them. If you can’t find a computer desk with built-in ports, don’t worry too much about it. Cable grommets serve a similar purpose. Cable grommets allow you to conceal cables so that you don’t have to run them across your computer desk.

#9) Suitable Shape

Example of an "L" shaped desk

A suitable shape is an important feature to look for in a computer desk. Unfortunately, not all computer desks feature the same shape. Like most pieces of office furniture, they are available in a variety of different shapes. It’s recommended that you choose a computer desk in a shape that’s suitable for your office or workspace.

There are rectangular computer desks that consist of a straight line. They don’t taper or extend to the side. Rectangular computer desks have a basic, straight shape that’s easy to incorporate into most offices and workspaces. If there’s an unused wall, for instance, you can probably place a rectangular computer desk against it.

Some computer desks are shaped like the letter “L.” L-shaped computer desks are like rectangular computer desks, but they have a perpendicular extension on one side. The extension usually consists of a cabinet with or a set of drawers.

There are also U-shaped computer desks. U-shaped computer desks are distinguished from nearly all other computer desks because they are curved. The back wraps of a U-shaped computer desk wraps around to the sides. When compared to other shapes, they typically provide a superior amount of surface area.

With that said, U-shaped computer desks aren’t suitable for all offices and workspaces. Since they are curved, they won’t sit flush against any traditional wall. You can still place a U-shaped computer desk against a wall, but the back of it will arch around rather than sitting flush against the wall. Just remember to evaluate your office or workspace beforehand to determine which shape works best.

#10) Casters

Office desk casters for mobility

Casters aren’t found exclusively on office chairs. Many computer desks feature them as well. Casters are small wheels that are mounted to the bottom of a piece of furniture. Some of them are made of steel or aluminum, whereas other casters are made of rubber or plastic. Regardless of the material, all casters are wheels that attach to the bottom of a piece of furniture, including computer desks.

With casters, you won’t be tied down to any single area of your office or workspace. If you’re ready for a new change of scenery, you can roll your computer desk to a different location. The casters attached to the bottom of it will allow you to roll it.

There are plenty of high-quality computer desks without casters. If your computer desk doesn’t have casters, you’ll have to lift it to move it. Computer desks can be heavy. In some cases, you may need an extra set of hands to move them. Furthermore, you’ll probably need to remove your computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse, and other items before lifting and moving it. Casters make it easier to move a computer desk. You won’t need an extra set of hands, nor will you need to remove any items from it.

Keep in mind, you may need to occasionally lubricate your casters so that they roll smoothly. Dust can build up inside the frame, and if left unchecked, it can restrict the casers’ ability to roll. Lubricating them will help to eliminate the dust so that the casters will continue to roll smoothly.


Author Bio HeadshotMike Harley

President at Office Chairs Unlimited – I have been in the furniture industry for over 20 years, and I’m an expert (just ask me) on all things furniture. I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.