The Definitive Guide to Choosing an Office Desk

Posted on by Mike Harley

The Definitive Guide to Choosing an Office Desk

A high-quality office desk is a smart investment that can pay off in the form of increased productivity. You can work faster and more efficiently when using the right desk. With hundreds of different types of office desks, though, how do you know which one to choose? Whether you’re looking to purchase a new desk for a home office or a commercial office, the following tips will help you choose the right one.


Choose an Appropriate Size

Choose the right sized desk for your officeWhen shopping for an office desk, choose a size that’s appropriate for your office space. If it’s too big, it will restrict your ability to use other furniture, such as file cabinets or trash cans, in your office space. If your office desk is too small, on the other hand, it may fail to offer a sufficient amount of surface area for your work-related needs.

Of course, office spaces vary in size. Cubicles, for example, are often just 6-by-8 or 8-by-8 feet, whereas the home offices can measure anywhere from 10-by-10 to 50-by-50 feet. In the United States, research shows the average office space is a little over 150 square feet. Regardless, you should choose an office desk in an appropriate size for your office space. It should offer plenty of surface area for writing and reading while still leaving room for other furniture.


Check the Height

Measure the height needed for your deskWhile size dimensions such as length, width, and depth are important when choosing an office desk, height is equally, if not more important. According to Cornell University Ergonomics Web, 28 to 30 inches is the ideal desk height for most office workers. In other words, the top surface of an office desk should measure between 28 and 30 inches off the floor.

Why does the height of an office desk matter? If it’s too tall or too short, it may cause discomfort. A tall office desk will force you to raise your arms and wrists when typing, as well as tilt your neck upwards to view the computer monitor, whereas a short office desk will leave your legs feeling cramped due to lack of space. To prevent problems such as these, you should choose an office desk that’s about 28 to 30 inches off the floor.

Keep in mind, however, that office desks are available in both fixed- and adjustable-height models. With the latter type, you can adjust the height by raising or lowering it off the floor. Fixed-height office desks, unfortunately, can’t be adjusted.


Look for a Slide-Out Tray for Keyboard and Mouse

Slide out keyboard tray for deskIf you’re planning to use a computer with it, you should consider choosing an office desk with a slide-out tray. Without a slide-out tray, you’ll have to place your keyboard and mouse on the same surface as your computer monitor, which can lead to eyestrain and wrist strain. With your arms and wrists elevated, you’ll have to tilt your neck downwards at an unnatural angle to view the monitor, which can strain your eyes and wrists.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) explains that a slide-out tray is a particularly useful feature for fixed-height office desks. Without the ability to raise or lower them off the floor, some fixed-height office desks suffer from poor ergonomics. A slide-out tray makes them a little easier to use by providing a separate surface on which you can place your keyboard and mouse. At the same time, you can rest your wrists on the slide-out tray to reduce typing-related wrist strain and discomfort.

Here are some tips on how to maximize the ergonomics of a slide-out tray:

  • Choose a wireless, rather than corded, keyboard, and mouse.
  • Place your keyboard a few inches up the slide-out tray so that you’ll have room to rest your wrists when typing.
  • Place your mouse directly to the right of your keyboard.
  • To prevent your keyboard from shifting when typing, place a fitted non-stick mat underneath it.


Make Sure It’s Durable

Choose a durable office deskA durable and high-quality office desk can last a lifetime. But not all office desks are durable. Some are made using cheap materials that, when combined with poor craftsmanship, leaves them susceptible to premature wear and tear. Neglecting to choose a durable office desk will only reduce its usable life, forcing you to spend more money to replace it shortly down the road.

To determine whether an office desk is durable, check to see what it’s made of. Cheap office desks tend to feature low-quality materials that lack the strength and durability of their premium counterparts. Plastic, for example, is commonly used in the construction of cheap office desks. While plastic doesn’t succumb to rot, decay, or corrosion, it can still break.

Durable office desks may feature some plastic components, but they are typically made of higher-quality materials to achieve a superior level of protection against premature wear and tear. You can find durable office desks made of real hardwood, such as mahogany or maple, as well as tempered steel.

Laminate wood is another common material used in the construction of office desks. Upon hearing the word “laminate,” you may assume that it’s weaker than solid wood, but this isn’t necessarily true. High-quality laminate is actually stronger than solid wood, making it a great choice of material for office desks.

Laminate itself consists of real wood that’s coated with a liquid plastic finish. The presence of the liquid plastic finish helps to protect the underlying wood from scratches, scuffs, and other forms of superficial damage. The only downside to using a laminate is that it doesn’t always offer the same classic and stylish appearance as solid wood. Nonetheless, there are dozens of high-quality and durable laminate office desks from which to choose.


Match the Color to Your Office’s Décor

Color matters when choosing an office desk. To maintain a cohesive décor in your office, choose an office desk in a color that matches the surrounding furniture, decorations, and other visual elements. If the color doesn’t match, your office desk will clash with the décor, which could have a negative impact on your productivity.

Prior to purchasing an office desk, take a few minutes to survey your office space and identify the colors used in its décor. In the past, office spaces were primarily designed using basic color schemes consisting of brown, beige, and other neutral colors. Over the past decade, though, more and more companies have transitioned to brighter and bolder color schemes for their office’s décor. Whether your office’s décor includes neutral colors, dark colors, bright colors, or any combination thereof, you should choose an office desk in a similar color. Doing so promotes a cohesive office décor that reflects positively upon your company’s brand image.


Consider Storage Options

Choose a desk with storage optionsYou should consider storage options when shopping for a new office desk. With the exception of space-saving and standing desks, most office desks feature storage space. As an office worker, you’re probably well aware of the importance of storage space. From invoices and receipts to pens and printer paper, you’ll need space to store these and other common office items. The good news is that you don’t always have to purchase separate furniture, though; you can choose an office desk with built-in storage options.

Many office desks feature one or more drawers. The drawers are typically on the bottom right or left side, where you can easily access them while sitting. Some office desks even feature built-in file cabinets, thereby negating the need for separate file cabinets in your office space.

In addition to drawers, some office desks feature shelving units. An office desk, for instance, may feature an attachable hutch with several shelves. Using these shelves, you can store common office items or add decorations to improve your office space. The bottom line is that you should consider storage options when choosing an office desk.


Left-Handed Office Desks

Left handed desks have the file cabinet on the left hand sideAre you left-handed? Well, you aren’t alone. Research shows that approximately 15% of all adults are left-handed. Even with its relatively high rates, though, most furniture manufacturers design their products for right-handed use – and manufacturers of office desks are no exception. Office desks typically feature a design that’s ergonomic for right-handed workers.

There are some office desks, however, that are designed specifically for left-handed workers. Known as left-handed desks, their features are generally reversed to that of right-handed desks. If you’re left-handed, you’ll experience greater comfort and less stress when using a left-handed desk.


Support for Devices

Make sure your desk has support for devicesSomething else to consider when choosing an office desk is whether it supports devices. At minimum, you’ll probably use a computer at your desk. And with a computer, you’ll need to place the monitor on your office desk. Other common devices used on office desks include printers, fax machines, and telephones.

If your office desk doesn’t feature grommets, it could become cluttered with cables and cords from the devices mentioned above. Grommets prevent this from happening by offering a small and discreet passage through which you can run cables and cords. Rather than running a cable from the back of a device to the nearest outlet, you can run it through the grommet found towards the back of the office desk.


Read the Warranty

Never purchase an office desk without reading its warranty. A strong warranty indicates the manufacturer is confident in the quality and performance of its product. If an office desk comes with a short warranty – of it doesn’t come with any warranty – there’s a good chance it will fail shortly down the road.

If an office desk has a 10-year or longer warranty, it’s safe to assume that it’s well-made. If the desk breaks, falls apart, or otherwise fails during this timeframe, the manufacturer will repair or replace it at no additional charge. While a 10-year warranty may sound like a long time, many office desks come with a lifetime warranty. The specifics of the warranty, though, vary, so you’ll need to read them before making a purchase. Check to see not only the length of the warranty but also what types of damage and failures it covers. With this information, you can choose a high-quality office desk that’s backed with a strong warranty.


What About Standing Desks?

Safco Standing DeskStanding office desks have become an increasingly popular alternative to traditional “sitting” office desks in recent years. As you may know, they are characterized by their elevated height – they are much taller than the standard 28 to 30 inches of traditional desks – that allows you to use them while standing comfortably.

Sitting is taxing on your physical health. When you sit, there’s about two to three times more pressure on your spinal column than when you stand. Over the course of an eight-hour workday, all that pressure on your spine can cause back pain. With a standing desk, you can work while standing to minimize pressure on your spine.

According to research cited by The Washington Times, standing desks don’t just offer health benefits; they offer productivity benefits. In the study, researchers from Texas A&M University compared the effects of sitting desks to those of standing desks. They found that office workers who used a standing desk were both healthier and more productive than their counterparts who used a sitting desk.

Whether or not a standing desk is right for you is a decision that you only you can make. If you’re on the fence, consider purchasing a small standing desk that you can easily move into and out of your office space.


Don’t Forget the Chair

Choose the right ergonomic chair to prevent lower back painAn office desk is an essential piece of furniture for a functional office space, but you shouldn’t overlook the importance of an office chair as well. Even if your desk is high quality and ergonomically designed, you may experience discomfort when working if you use the wrong office chair. Check out this infographic for some visualized tips on how to choose the right office chair.

Purchasing a new office desk is a big decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you get the wrong desk, you may have an uncomfortable and long journey ahead of you. Use this guide to find the perfect office desk for your needs.


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.