Select the Right Work Desk
by Patricia Schaefer
Will that desk you’re thinking of purchasing suit your workstyle and meet your job needs? Will its size fit well within the parameters and constraints of your office or work space? Can the desk surface withstand the daily-use demands of your particular job and work environment?
These are just a few of the things you need to consider when choosing a work desk. And that’s because the right desk can aide immeasurably in accomplishing work tasks in a comfortable, ergonomic and productive manner.
Identify Just How You Will Use Your Desk
Mostly computer work:
Select a desk or workstation specifically designed for computer use. If using a PC, be sure the desk offers space or a compartment to hold the CPU underneath. Look for built-in wiring holes or channels for electrical connections; this allows for a safe way to keep cords out of your way.
Choose a desk or workstation that will have the roomiest surface possible so you can accommodate those spreadsheets, bulky books, or piles of important papers. You may also want to consider a desk with shelving or overhead cabinet space.
Combination of computer work, paperwork, meetings:
For a home work desk:
Consider a computer armoire if you want to hide work clutter in your home. “L”-shaped desks are often a good solution and fit when your work desk needs to share space in another room like a bedroom or family room.
Tight on space:
Choose a compact computer desk or mobile computer cart.
Consider Your Workstyle Habits and Tools
Do you consider yourself the creative-genius-messy-work type? If so, you’ll need more desk/workstation space than the neat-and-frugal type. Neatniks may find a smaller desk sufficient for their work needs. The amount and size of tools needed within easy reach on your desk should also be a consideration when selecting a work desk.
Ergonomics and Space
Your desk should provide clearance for your legs; standard desk heights of 29 to 30 inches from the floor are sufficient for most users.
Sitting behind the desk, there should optimally be at least three-and-a half feet of space. A minimum of three feet of space should also be available in-between the desk and another piece of office furniture, and in front of the desk if you use a guest/client chair.
For computer-users, keyboards need to be placed at a comfortable height. Keyboards placed on traditional desks may be at too high a height and may result in significant discomfort or muscle strain for the user. Computer desks should either be equipped with a keyboard platform, or legs that can be adjusted. Be sure that any keyboard platform is large enough to hold a mouse.
Desktop equipment and materials should be within easy and comfortable reach, and should have sufficient space so as not to overload the desktop.
If the desk has a sharp edge, consider placing a wrist pad along the edge to help prevent unnecessary pressure and pinching on the inner surface of the wrists.
Laminate: the most popular choice
A plastic finish that is applied to a wood core, laminate is affordable, durable, and withstands more than pure wood or veneer. It also comes in a wide array of colors and wood grain patterns. For a quality laminate that will better withstand daily use and abuse, look for a desk with a thick, high pressure laminate.
Metal or Steel: the most durable choice
Although not the most professional in appearance, metal or steel desks are reasonably priced and good for desks subject to long-term heavy use or for high- traffic areas. Better quality desks of this type can be assessed in part by checking and feeling the desks overall weight.
Wood or Veneer: the most elegant choice
Veneer is a thin surface layer of wood glued to a more inferior base. Wood and veneer desks generally look more attractive than other types of desk, but they are typically more expensive and considerably more delicate; they nick more easily and are not suited for rough or heavy use.
Quality and Durability
The quality of a desk is often most evident in the construction of the drawers.
Metal suspension rollers show a sturdy suspension. Drawers should open and close easily while bearing weight. Optimally, you want the drawers to slide out to their full length to allow full and easy utilization of space.
High quality wood drawers are assembled with an interlocking (dovetail) construction; this is stronger than drawers put together with just staples or glue. With a steel or metal desk, take a look at the drawers when they’re closed. If you see a gap where the drawer meets the desk, the desk is not set right.
Examine the corners and edges of a desk. You don’t want to see any fraying.
The desk warranty itself will give you a good idea of the quality, durability and life expectancy of a particular desk. Warranties typically range anywhere from a one-year limited to a lifetime warranty.
Give Your Back a Break
The Stand-up desk:
Thomas Jefferson invented it and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld swears by it.
As we’ve all been told, sitting for hours at a time can wreak havoc on a person’s back, especially for individuals with existing back problems. Consider giving your back a break by using a stand-up desk, where you quite literally “stand up” while working. Many users claim this work method also makes them feel more alert and productive on-the-job. Desk stools are also available to be used in conjunction with these desks.
Today’s desk is no longer the simple table with drawers of years gone by. Take advantage of the myriad of desk choices out there; many now available at relatively reasonable prices at office supply superstores. Give some thought to the considerations listed above when selecting your next work desk. It will serve as a valuable tool in establishing a comfortable, ergonomic and productive workspace.
Consider an “L”-shaped desk setup to allow for both work and meeting space. If finances or space allow, a “U”-shaped model will provide even more space and makes an impressive presentation for clients or guests.