Whether in the office, hybrid, or fully remote, millions of people in the UK work from a desk. As well as being employed to sit at one, desks are places we revise, study, game from, and read from. So, with so much time spent sitting at them, it’s important to get the best out of desks, but how do we do this?
To help answer this question, The Recommended has done some work to put together a helpful guide to maximising your workspaces. We’ve explained how a good desk space can increase your mood, health, and productivity and how to tailor desks to suit your personal needs.
We’ve also explained how you can create the most productive work environment at home or in the office, why it’s important to think about your current desk setup, and when you might be wise to consider a change.
How to set up your desk for better productivity
When sitting at your desk, the last thing you want to do is come away and feel like you haven’t achieved anything. You want the time spent at your desk to be worth it and not find yourself distracted, dozing off, or struggling with the workload.
If you are revising, you might want to cover a certain amount of topics, answer a certain amount of emails if you’re working, or complete a level/levels if you’re gaming. For all activities done at your desk, productivity can be affected by several factors. Luckily, there are ways to tailor your desk to increase your chances of productivity and lower your risk of distraction.
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Declutter and organise
Experts at Business News Daily report that distractions are one of the biggest limiters of daily productivity, so getting rid of these from your desk is key. Also, scientists at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that clutter reduction improves focus and the ability of people to process information.
To keep your desk clean and free of clutter, you should remove unnecessary items and only keep the essentials within arm's reach. Maybe bring a bin bag around with you so you can chuck out anything you don’t need and store anything which is rarely used in a safe place from your desk. If you find there is still a lot on your desk, then you can use desk organisers, trays, and folders.
Lighting and technology
Experts from The National Sleep Foundation have found that dim and dark areas are proven to make you feel sleepy and have less energy. Having a well-lit desk space will help improve productivity and avoid feelings of tiredness.
Lighting is also important as you don’t want to strain your eyes when working. You should therefore try to optimise the amount of natural light your desk receives, and if this isn’t an option, then use a natural light lamp imitator.
The technology on your desk should also be correctly positioned to avoid strain. Don’t have the computer too bright or too far away, and make sure the mouse and keyboard are comfortable to use.
Personalise and make sure you’re comfortable
A boosted mood can help with your productivity levels, so by adding personalised touches to your desk, you can make it a nicer place to work from and enjoy your time spent there. You can see below what features you can add to the desk to help this, and ideas include photos, plants, and quotes.
Comfort is also important for both physical and mental well-being, so you should make sure you’re sitting at your desk properly and choose the right desk for you. You can find tips on how to improve your desk posture and comfort in our section below.
Why should you be improving your desk space
The British Psychological Society estimates that, on average, Brits spend over five hours sitting at a desk each working day. Shockingly, this equates to over 1,200 hours and makes up 50 full days.
With such a large proportion of our lives centred around our desks, it’s no wonder they can play a big part in affecting our mood, productivity, and overall health. It makes sense then that by improving our desk spaces, we can enhance these areas of our life. So what will an organised desk help with?
Experts from Business Desk explain that having a clean, attractive, and well-organised desk space can lift your mood and make you feel more motivated. On the flip side, desks that are small, dark, gloomy, and badly set up can lead to feelings of sadness and lower your energy levels and motivation during the day.
By personalising your desk and thinking about where to position it, you can help keep your mood in check. There are also features you can add to your desk to create a space where you feel more encouraged to spend time and have more enjoyment.
Physical health benefits
Another one of the main reasons you should look at bettering your desk space is to raise your physical health level. Experts from Spine Health explain that having a bad desk set up and sitting at your desk wrong can put you at risk of problems such as back, neck, and eye strain. By setting up a good desk space, you can support your body and reduce the risk of straining yourself. Check out our section on how to sit at your desk properly for tips to avoid strain.
Increased productivity and lowered stress
David Allen, a productivity expert and creator of “Getting Things Done,” a work-life management method, explained how setting up your desk can help increase your overall productivity and lower stress levels. He said that an organised desk can help you stay focused, and if you reduce the amount of clutter on your desk, you can create a clear and clean working space.
This will improve concentration as you can work without getting distracted by unnecessary items. Also, by having an organised desk, you can also find things easily, which saves time and reduces stress. Productivity and stress benefits also come as a result of boosted mood and health benefits because you’re encouraged to work more when you feel better physically and mentally.
What features to add to your desk to reduce stress
Stress can come for us at any time during the day, but if you find yourself feeling the pressure at your desk, then you should think about incorporating some of these features into your workspace. They don’t promise to rid you of all your stress but can be used to create a positive working area that encourages a calm approach to work.
- Comfortable chair: Invest in a comfortable chair that supports your back and promotes good posture. This will take the stress off of your body and let you focus on the task at hand, whatever that may be.
- Stress ball: Exactly what it says on the tin, a stress ball can be used to release stress and is great to add to your desk.
- Desk plant: Japanese researchers found that adding a plant to your desk can help reduce stress and improve your mood. You can check out our best house plants guide and maybe add one of these to your desk space.
- Noise-cancelling headphones: If your desk is in a noisy area or you work better with music, then you can invest in some noise-cancelling headphones These can reduce the stress of a busy workroom or noisy house.
- Relaxing scents: If you're feeling stressed out or tired, scents can help to lift your mood and help you to feel calmer. Choose scents used in aromatherapy - essential oils used to improve psychological and physical well-being. Check out our guide on how to use essential oils if you’re just starting out.
How to sit at your desk properly
Unless you stand at your desk (impressive), sitting at your desk properly is key to avoiding physical strain. You’ll be able to focus more on what you’re doing and keep your body in check so you can stay mentally focused as well. Here are some tips to follow to make sure you’re sitting at your desk right.
- Sit up straight: You should always aim to keep your shoulders relaxed and your back straight. Try not to slouch or hunch forward as it creates unnatural positions for your body to rest in.
- Keep your feet flat: Make sure your feet are flat on the floor, and your knees are at a 90-degree angle, as this helps align your body.
- Adjust your chair height: Adjust your chair so that your hips are level with your knees or slightly higher.
- Use support: Use a cushion or rolled-up towel to support the natural curve of your lower back. Newer desk chairs are usually curved to support this already - check out our best desk chair guide to find one that’s right for you.
- Keep the computer at eye level: Adjust your computer screen so that it is at eye level to avoid neck strain.
- Position keyboard and mouse: Keep your keyboard and mouse close to your body and at elbow height, as this encourages a relaxed body position.
- Take breaks: Take frequent breaks and stretch your body to avoid stiffness and improve circulation.
If you want to learn more about sleep, productivity, and improving your feelings of overall wellbeing, then head over to The Recommended Wellness section. Here you can find guides to breathing exercises for better sleep, tackling tiredness, and how to create a morning routine to boost your mood.
Finn Byrne is a Digital Writer for Immediate Media. He works across several brands including The Recommended, RadioTimes.com, MadeforMums and BBC Gardeners’ World. Finn has previously written for publications including MyLondon, The Mirror, The Express, and The Star. When not writing Finn enjoys spending time on the football pitch and getting stuck into a book.