Whether you’re working remotely for good or not, it’s looking like many of us will still be working from home in 2021. If you haven’t taken the plunge to set up a more permanent workspace, now’s the time!
With any home office, the most important question is: What desk should I get? Makes sense, since it’s the key piece you’ll be doing all your work on. And when it comes to finding the right desk for your work needs, there are a lot of factors to consider—from storage to style to shape.
For guidance, we’re breaking it all down here for you. Read on to get step-by-step on how to choose a desk that’s right for you, your space, and your work style.
Identify how you’ll use the desk
Before you look for a desk, figure out what you’ll be using your desk for. Will you be doing a lot of creative or finance work that requires a big surface? Or do you work mostly on your laptop or computer? Start here with how you need the desk to function for you.
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If you’re only doing computer work…
Will you be working on a laptop with a monitor or using a desktop? Naturally, laptops will require less space, so you can get away with a smaller computer desk. If you’re using a desktop or several monitors, you’ll want a longer and wider desk that allows for cord management, and maybe an evening one that comes with a keyboard tray.
If you work with lots of files and paperwork…
A spacious home office desk or one with drawers and storage might work best for you. You may also want a place to stack, arrange, and store your paperwork as well as a spot to organize writing utensils (like a drawer). You’ll also want to consider a desk height that lets you extend your arms and work comfortably.
If you need a desk for both…
You’ll want to consider desks that can accommodate all our work equipment and paperwork. The key is to edit your work material needs down to 2-3 essentials—laptop and monitor, notebooks, paperwork, and all— that you’ll keep on your desk surface. And then consider the desk size and you’ll need it from there.
Will it be a communal workspace?
A collaborative workspace means a larger desk. You can consider a few different approaches:
You can opt for both people to sit on the same side (so there’s enough legroom underneath for two). Or pick a desk that’s closer in proportion to a dining table, which will allow two or more people to share the work surface all around. Here, a dining table that’s not too wide is made into a collaborative desk for two, with chairs on opposite sides of the table. You can find more creative hacks with our dining room office designs.
Another option? If you have the room, you can try arranging a home office with two desks.
Consider the size of your space
Once you’ve figured out how you’ll be using your desk and how many people will be working at your desk, next is figuring out how much room you have to work with.
If you have space constraints…
Maybe you only have a closet, a nook in your living room, or a tiny area next to your bed. On the contrary, you might have a large office, and it would feel odd to have a tiny desk along one wall. You want to take note of the size and nuances of your room and the exact spot for your desk. If you’re dealing with a small space, also take a look at our small home office design tips.
And don’t forget to measure and check for any physical restraints around getting a desk inside your space, such as the width and size of your doorways, stairwells, etc.
Have a sense of your desk shape
After you know the space you’re working with, think about what shape desk will fit best.
For instance, in a small office, you might want to maximize a corner space with an L-shaped desk. Or maybe you need something even more compact, like a corner desk. On the other hand, with a large office where you need lots of surface space, it may warrant a U-shape desk. Get clear on the desk shape and configuration you need, because that will also influence the other office furniture you bring into your space.
Think through your storage needs
Now that you have your desk space, size, and shape figure out, it’s time to focus on storage.
To start, ask yourself if you’ll need a compact desk with separate open storage or one that lets you keep everything organized in drawers and built-in storage.
For example, with a small office, you may want to explore ladder desk options, which provide vertical storage and will help you save on horizontal and floor space. Similarly, if your office is narrow, that may call for a console-style desk, which won’t take up much width.
Read This Next: Our All-In-One Home Office Furniture Checklist
For light storage, look for a desk with…
Either no drawers or a single drawer that can hold small items like pens, notepads, mail, etc. Light storage means you’ll have to store supplies in other office furniture and accessories, such as bookshelves, cabinets, and bins. Another option is to choose a desk with enough space underneath that lets you wheel in a small filing cabinet or baskets.
For medium storage, look for a desk with…
Multiple drawers or a connected built-in file cabinet. You’ll find many larger home office desks, such as L-shaped desks, with shelving units connected to them, so it might be worth investing in a whole system if you need to spread out your work on multiple surfaces.
For heavy storage, look for a desk with…
Multiple drawers that are large and deep, as well as desks that have large file cabinets on both sides. You may even want to add open shelving additional above your desk to maximize wall space for storage. You’ll also want to choose a desk with a large surface for desktop items.
Don’t forget: Ergonomics play a huge part
Now let’s consider your work style, because how you work matters when you’re choosing a desk. To start, do you like to stand or sit when you’re working?
A standing desk that can be moved up or down could be great for you if you like to stay active and not stay seated for hours on end. In the same vein, a treadmill walking desk can also be a great option. But if you love to sit and lounge while you work, make sure you get a home office desk with enough legroom to pull up a big comfy desk chair.
Read This Next: The Best Home Office Chairs
Will you need different work ‘zones’?
Do you need to swivel between monitors or have it all in front of you? Do you need different work areas, like a computer and monitor on one side and a surface for paperwork on another? Decide what’s most productive for you. Having an L-shaped or U-shaped desk can be perfect if you need to switch gears a lot for your work. Alternatively, if you want all your work and monitors in front of you, make sure you get a long enough computer desk to house it all on one surface.
What about your arms comfort?
Will you need a home office desk that’s deep enough for your arms and wrists to sit comfortably on the keyboard? A good rule of thumb is to make sure your desk isn’t so narrow that your keyboard or laptop is sitting right on the edge of your table—which will strain your arms, wrist, and neck. Also good to note: Monitors should be eye level or higher to maintain good neck posture.
How about legroom?
Will your desk chair and your legs fit comfortably underneath? If you have really long legs or like to stretch your legs while you work, you definitely want to take this into consideration—and you might even want to float your desk instead of putting it up against a wall to give your legs more room underneath.
Keep quality and durability in mind
Finally, materials matter when choosing a home office desk. One that’s made using quality materials and well-designed is worth the investment because you’ll keep it for years to come. One that’s the right size but made with mediocre materials and design will eventually show wear and you’ll have to replace it sooner than you think.
Pay attention to high-quality materials
Solid wood, marble, and natural stone-top desks along with ones that have decorative details like carved wood, metal accents, and exotic coverings will cost more. If you need an extra durable desktop, look for office desks with a veneer wood or a highly laminated top. These are also materials that will last for a lifetime, so if you’re ready to splurge, it’s definitely worth it.
Look at the construction
If you use drawers a lot, you’ll want solidly constructed drawers with dove joinery and good rolling mechanisms. Most vintage or older desks have wood-on-wood drawers, which tend to warp and get stuck more, while newer desks come with soft closing mechanisms that prevent slamming. Either way, make sure you check out all the design elements because a table that keeps up with you and your work should always be the benchmark when choosing a desk.