Even though you sit there regularly, you probably haven't taken a good look at your desk since you set it up.
Maybe you've noticed it has some quirks, but I think about your desk all the time. In fact, everywhere I look, I see desks that aren't right for you because they were designed for someone who's five-foot-ten and neat-to-a-fault. Like a high-end tuxedo with cummerbund and tails -- nice to look at, but not ideal for everyday use.
You should see me on Sunday morning scanning the glossy ads in the paper, grimacing and muttering about at the advertised desks that pass for functional. Or when I'm in the office supply store - woe to the clerk who asks me if I found what I need. It pains me to see these miserable creations because you deserve a desk that allows you to be expansive and creative. Not cramped. Not squinched. Not in physical pain.
So, I want to share with you the three secret problems that make your desk so uncomfortable. These secrets will give you the information you need to adapt your current desk to suit you, or the specific details you need to buy another one that you will love.
Problem 1: Height
A dear friend of mine moved into a new home with built-in desk and cabinets. They were gorgeous, but she's a petite gal - and she was miserable in her oversized digs!
If your back aches and your wrists are sore, don't berate yourself for your bad posture. It's not you, it's the height of your desk! Most desks are designed for an average-height man (5'10") so that the desktop comes to a height of about 29-30". No offense to the guys, but that's too tall for the average-height woman (who's typically 5 inches shorter).
In other words, once size does not fit all -- and this affects your body. If your desk top is too high, your elbows and wrists must be at an acute angle when you type and mouse around. Ouch! If you raise your chair up enough for the desk top to be at a proper height, it causes your legs dangle at an obtuse angle, cutting off circulation, throwing you off balance, and affecting your spine.
To discover what height you need, grab a tape measure and a buddy. Position your chair at a comfortable height and put your hands out as if you were going to type. Have someone measure the distance from your palms to the floor. That's how tall your desk should be, minus the height of your keyboard.
Height adjustment work-arounds:
- Shorten the legs of your desk with a saw (measure twice, cut once)
- Put wood blocks under your desk to raise it up
- Use a height-adjustable bar stool that has a foot rest
- Take off the legs and replace them with IKEA's adjustable height legs
- Get a height-adjustable quilting table from your local sewing center and to use as a desk
- Make an investment in a motorized desk top that can be raised and lowered
Problem 2: Depth
The depth of your desk is the space between the front and back of your desktop. For a lot of people, there isn't much room for anything besides the monitor and the keyboard. Many desks come with attached shelves that have limited functionality, but take up a lot of space. Some desks are triangular and get narrower toward the back so they can fit in a corner.
In any situation where there isn't enough depth, you're likely to have a lot of piles in random locations (on top of the shelves, boxes, on the floor, tucked into crevices) because there's nowhere else for you to put things. It's not you, it's your lack of space.
Ideally, the depth of your desk is about as far as you can reach in front of you while seated in your chair, plus 6-12 inches.
Depth adjustment work-arounds
- If it's possible to remove attached shelves, do it. If you need overhead storage you can purchase shelving that attaches to the wall, but leaves desk space open.
- Attach your monitor to the wall with a special contraption that lets it swing closer to you when you need it.
- Get a keyboard drawer that allows your keyboard to be tucked under the desk (this does affect height, so check it first)
- If you have a triangular desk, seriously consider getting a rectangular one.
- Remove anything from your desktop that you don't use regularly (printers, tape dispensers, and staplers are common culprits)
Problem 3: Width
My first desk was so skinny, there was barely room for a pile and my laptop. Over time, the pile got taller and taller and taller. Where else was it going to go?
Especially for visual and tactile people, having a wide-enough desk is crucial to staying organized. You need enough room to spread out, see what you have, and still have space to work. If you have clumps of piles everywhere or you regularly lose stuff that's right in front of you, having a too narrow desk could be the culprit.
Having a desk that is as wide as your arms can stretch in both directions is a start. In the best case scenario, you'd have two or more equally wide desks in your space at right angles to each other.
Width adjustment work-arounds
- Get out a measuring tape and measure your desk. How many inches short is it from being as wide as your arms can reach in both directions?
- Shop in your own house. Do you have any tables or other furniture that might give you extra space -- either to swap out with your desk, or add to it at a right angle?
- Dream: What would your ideal desk be like? You might want to do some research to see what's available. Use your creativity!
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