Office Desks Buying Guide
Are you refurbishing your office or moving to new premises? Perhaps you have just started up a new business and are looking to kit out your office ready for your new employees to move in. This can be a very exciting time, but also a critical one, as it can be too easy to go overboard and spend money on things that won’t serve your business. It is important to make sensible decisions on every single purchase, which is where a buying guide can come in handy.
One of the first things you will need to think about are desks. Desks are a fundamental part of any office and it would be almost impossible to run your business without them, but do you know exactly what you need for your specific office? Do you see a desk as just something with four legs and a wooden surface that’s there to dump work-related stuff on? Have you already started searching for desks online, only to be met by pages and pages of desks in different shapes and styles, which have left you completely confused? There is so much choice these days, with different styles of desks to suit different purposes. What works for one office may not necessarily work for yours, and you might even purchase what you think looks like a sensible, cost-effective option, only to find your employees complaining that it doesn’t fit their needs. But don’t panic! Follow this guide and you’ll have your office workspace sorted within budget in no time!
Step One: Plan your office layout
Of course, you could go ahead and purchase what you think you need without making a proper plan, and you might get lucky and find that everything fits exactly how you imagined it would. But with the variety of desk types on offer, it is worth taking the time to plan your office layout, so that you know what size desks you need and how much space you will have left to play with when all the essentials are taken care of. An office plan is something you will refer to again and again during the desk-buying process, and it can be altered if needed to accommodate other furniture you may like the look of while browsing. But when it comes down to it, the plan will be a constant reminder of exactly where you need things to fit, regardless of price, style and functionality.
There are several different things to bear in mind when purchasing desks for your office. In the first instance, you will need to work out how many you will need and exactly where they will go in the available space. If you are simply refurbishing your office or replacing old desks, then working out the number you require will not take much effort at all, although you will need to factor in the size of any new desks in order to ensure they will still fit in the allocated space. If you are moving to new premises, then a floor plan could help you visualise the new layout. This would also be useful in planning where other office furniture such as filing cabinets, chairs or shelving units could fit in. You could either produce this floorplan yourself on paper, or, alternatively, employ a Computer Aided Design (CAD) expert to do it for you. Some office furniture suppliers offer CAD as an additional service and it can provide a truly invaluable and extremely accurate representation of your office. If you do need to make any alterations, a CAD picture is easier to edit than a pen-and-paper drawing, allowing you to try out lots of different layouts so that you can find the one that makes the best use of the space.
Remember to allow sufficient space around each desk for people to be able to comfortably sit and move around. You need to have room for people to push their chairs back in order to stand up, without crashing into somebody who may be walking past or the desk behind them. Ideally there should be around three feet of space between the desk and the next nearest piece of office furniture and about three-and-a-half feet of room for the person sitting behind the desk. Don’t forget to factor in additional space around the desk if extra chairs are likely to be needed for visitors. You may think that packing employees in is more important than creating space, but a workplace with lots of room is often a more inviting and motivating area than one where chairs are constantly nudging up against each other. Conversely, an office with too much space will seem cold and intimidating, and employees will not appreciate having to shout across the room to talk to each other. It will also create an intimidating area for visitors to walk through, as they will feel as though they are on display. Factor in the size of your room and consider purchasing desks that will fill the space in the most efficient way.
The final useful thing to remember when planning your office layout, is that desks need not just be for people. If you have a shared office printer, scanner or fax machine, then these are likely to need their own desk(s) or table(s), which need to be factored in to your floor plan. You may also want to purchase a few side desks for storage or ornamental reasons – particularly if you have a space to fill. A small desk with a vase of flowers can really brighten up a room and make a difference to the mind-set of your employees. However, you don’t really want to purchase more desks than you need, even if you have the space, as they will look untidy and out of place. Every desk should have a purpose.
Step Two: Work out a viable budget
Once you have established how much desk space you will need and where in the office they are going to be located, you need to set yourself a realistic budget to pay for your new acquisitions. Have you already set aside a specific amount within your office budget for desks? If not, do you really know what you can afford to spend? You don’t want to spend all your money on desks and then find you have none left for chairs, and conversely, you don’t want to scrimp and save on desks if you are able to spend a little more on higher quality furniture that will better suit your needs. If necessary, confer with your accountant or the finance department within your company to arrive at an appropriate figure. With this figure in mind, think very carefully about what you can afford and what you really need to spend on the desks. What is the role of your office? Do the desks simply need to be functional or do they need to create a certain kind of impression for visiting clients? You don’t necessarily need to buy the most expensive desks that you can find on the internet. You may have heard the saying ‘You get what you pay for’, and that is certainly true to an extent, but there is not much point in busting your budget on expensive desks that look good, without necessarily doing what you need them to do. This is especially the case if no-one sees them, apart from the members of staff who actually use them. It is quite likely you will find functional furniture that looks good and will make your employees happy for a reasonable price.
Equally, it can be a false economy to buy a ‘job lot’ of cheap identical desks – even if you are on a very tight budget. There is little point in saving money if the desks themselves are not built to last and are of limited usefulness, because they lack the functionality required. Chances are, these desks will need replacing in a short time, and so you will actually be spending more money in the long run. You need to think about the type of desks that will be most practical and functional for your work environment and then investigate the best options within your budget – aiming to spend mindfully on good quality, practical items that will last as long as possible. Don’t forget to budget for any supplementary items, which are directly related to the desks rather than other office furniture. These can include items such as, desktop screens, like the Aeon Desktop Screens, desk extensions such as the Solar Arc Desk End Meeting Table and mobile under desk pedestals, like the Commerce II Drawer Pedestals. Also remember to factor in any ‘hidden extras’ in your budget, such as delivery charges or installation fees. Some companies offer guarantees and warranties with their furniture, but these can be an added extra that you purchase at the end. If this is important to you, reserve funds for this. You may also want to put money aside for insurance for an added peace of mind.
Step Three: Talk to the people who actually use the desks
It is very unlikely that each and every employee within your organisation uses their desk in exactly the same way all the time. It is more likely that different employees need to use their workspace in a variety of ways and the desks you choose for your office need to reflect this. You should talk to individual members of staff to work out what type of desk would best fit their needs and then investigate the best options within your budget. Do they need space for paperwork as well as a desktop computer? Do they only need to use a laptop and therefore not need quite as much physical space on their desk? Do they need to hold meetings at their desk or work closely with others? Do they need to be able to move the desk easily? You will also need to consider the physical comfort and long term health of your members of staff. This will be discussed further in step four.
When discussing the desk with each member of staff, you will need to make it clear that you would like to enhance their work environment and you appreciate and will act upon their input. However, you will also need to stick to your budget and the general style of the office, so make sure they understand that they might not get exactly what they have asked for, but that you will do your best to accommodate their requests. Something ultra-modern or very brightly coloured, for example, may be something that they would like now, but it may not blend in with the rest of the office colour scheme. It could also date very quickly. Also, it may not be practical to purchase a number of completely different desks in different styles as these might not fit in with your floorplan and may result in your office feeling very chaotic and messy. You might want to look for two or three different styles that meet the majority of your employees needs and steer their choices towards these pieces. You will obviously be limited by what will be functional and you can actually afford, but this might not correlate exactly with the kind of desk that your employee would like in an ideal world. However, the advantages of bringing your members of staff into the decision-making process regarding their own desks in this way are two-fold. Firstly, an employee’s productivity will be maintained, or could even be increased, if their desk is appropriate for their work. Secondly, the employee will feel that you take their needs seriously and their opinion is important to you, even if you are unable to provide their absolute dream desk. This is likely to maintain office moral and ultimately it could even help with staff retention. Keep your employees happy and they will have more motivation to do a good job for you.
Step Four: Make your employees comfortable
Before we go on to consider the different kinds of desks which may be appropriate for your office environment, we should first consider the basic requirements of most, if not all, office desks. There are some common features which should apply to all desks. Firstly, the desk must be comfortable as well as practical. Your employees are likely to spend a great deal of time at their desks and a desk which is not fit for purpose can cause long term health issues, such as back pain or repetitive strain injury (RSI), which may end up costing your company a great deal of money in the long run. On top of this, an employees’ productivity is likely to be decreased dramatically if they are uncomfortable. If they are constantly moving around in order to find a posture at which they can work most effectively, they will be spending less time actually working. And if they begin to feel pain due to their discomfort, this will naturally make it more difficult to concentrate. Your employees’ comfort is almost certainly related to their output, so if you want to get the best out of your workforce, you need to consider the following:
Have you considered the comfort of your employees from an ergonomic perspective? If you haven’t already done so, you need to do this, because ergonomic guidelines issued by the UK Government aim to ensure that all employees are comfortable and safe at work. Therefore if you do not facilitate this, affected employees could bring a case against your company if they develop health issues or injuries over time. Many people think that ergonomics and comfort begin and end with the office chair, because the member of staff has to spend between 8 and 12 hours sitting in it. While this is certainly a big part of the puzzle, ergonomics is equally essential to bear in mind in your purchase of office desks, because employees have to spend an equal amount of time using the desk, often with their hands and arms moving across the whole area. There is little point having an all-singing, all-dancing office chair if the desk you are sitting at isn’t in-line with your ergonomic needs.
Did you know that the ideal average height for an office desk is around 72.5 cm? To visualise what that means in practical terms, consider a desk like the Solar Rectangular Cantilever Desk, which is exactly that height. This is comfortable for people to use for extended periods of time with their hands on, or in the vicinity of, the desk. Of course, as with everything else, while this height may work for the majority of your employees, it is not a one-size-fits-all answer, and you are likely to have some staff that will find it uncomfortable to work at this height.
Have you heard of ergonomic desks? Ergonomic shaped desks offer a ‘cockpit’ style of working with a curved or sweeping left or right desk return. This allows the user to sit centrally and have everything they need within easy reach around them providing the maximum degree of comfort and functionality. They simply need to swivel their chair into position depending on the task. As well as this, the return section offers more usable desk space than a traditional rectangular desk.
Ergonomic shaped desks are also ideal for use in clusters of four for example, to create creative and collaborative team working environments. The curve on Ergonomic desks allows for computer monitors to be placed at a comfortable viewing angle. Experts agree that the optimum distance a monitor should be can vary from person to person, and when this is not taken into account, users can suffer from a range of aches and pains, mostly in the neck, shoulders and upper back. The perfect location for your computer monitor would allow your employee to reach out and touch their computer screen with the tips of their fingers from a comfortable sitting position. The top of the screen should be at eye level and tilted slightly forward. Ergonomic desks are ideal for monitor placement as well. A good example of the kinds of desk that you should be looking for in this instance are the Next Day Solar Ergonomic Panel End Desks.
You don’t necessarily need to purchase desks that are branded ‘ergonomic’, but you need to ensure that you fulfil your obligations as an employer by providing the most comfortable and functional workspace in compliance with the UK Government’s guidelines. Sticking to these rules will keep your employees happy, as well as the government, which in turn will save you headaches in the future.
Each desk should have enough room underneath it for the user to be able to stretch out their legs comfortably. They should not be impeded by anything stored under the desk, such as box files, drawer units or surge protector socket towers. This is not the best place to store files or printers or anything else that may impede the movement of the legs. Clutter under the desk will mean your employees have to sit at an awkward angle, and if they are working in this way for a long time, the risk of injury is greater and their work output is likely to be much less. There may also need to be room for a computer tower unit under the desk, and so the area should be wide enough to accommodate this. This should preferably be situated on a stand, with space around it for ventilation, rather than placed directly on a carpeted floor. Commerce II Executive Rectangular Office Desks are good examples of desks with the kind of leg room that your office staff are likely to need.
Would your employee prefer to work standing up during the day? Some members of staff who have back or posture problems can often be more comfortable if they can work standing up for at least some of the time they are at work. However, back problems can be complex issues, so don’t assume everyone who complains of back pain would necessarily be aided by a sit-stand desk. Over the years, various health studies have linked sitting too long at work to medical conditions, such as obesity and even cancer. Bearing this in mind, some of your employees may feel that they need more flexibility at work than simply the opportunity to get up from their chairs and walk around the office or the building every so often. So, what are sit-stand desks and how do they work? The earliest forms have been around since at least the nineteenth century and were famously used by writers such as Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway.
Step Five: Look For the common factors
It is highly likely that each desk you purchase will need to accommodate, at the very least, a desktop PC and possibly a landline phone. You will need to consider the type of PC that your employees use when purchasing the desk. Is it a ‘tower’ unit, which is tall and narrow and able to work under the desk? Or is it low and wide and designed to sit next to the monitor? Or, is it an all-in-one unit, like a desktop Mac computer? Whichever type of computer it is, remember to allow enough space for it as well as access for monitor power leads, a keyboard and a mouse or trackball. The Impact Rectangular Bench Desks have two dedicated cable ports to help your member of staff easily manage their computer leads and cables as well as space for the computer and all the necessary accessories. Although it is highly likely that most people who work in an office will need to use a desktop PC, an increasing number of your employees may be using a laptop (either company-issued or a personal one). These can, of course, be used on smaller desks and there will be no need to ensure there is space for a tower unit. You may also consider purchasing laptop risers such as Lapjack for these employees, so that they can position their laptop at a comfortable angle while still making the most of the limited space.
If your employees do use a desktop computer, you could free up space on the desk with the help of monitor arms. These attach to the desktop and enable you to place the monitor at the perfect ergonomic height off the desk. The CBS Dual Flo Monitor Arm and Laptop Mount gives you the ultimate in flexibility, allowing you to position your computer screen wherever needed, as well as including a separate mount for a laptop. This is perfect for employees who need to transfer information between systems or who often work on more than one screen at once. They can continue to work as they usually would but will have more desk space to utilise – perfect if they are also making notes or dealing with paperwork. Accessories like this can make the desk purchasing decision easier, since they remove ergonomic obstacles.
Step Six: Spot the differences
Now you will need to refer back to the conversations you had with the individual members of staff, in order to choose the desk that is right for each of them. It is likely that your employees can be roughly broken down into four groups.
Step Seven: Think outside your main office space
Does your premises have a meeting room, reception or breakout area, as well as a main office? Don’t forget to factor into your budget enough money for appropriate desks or tables for these areas. There are ranges of desks which have been specifically designed for the meeting room. One such example is the Gresham Executive Consult Ergonomic Desks which has a radial meeting table end for employees to gather around. This type of desk could also be another option for your multi-tasking group of employees, although you would probably need to add a drawer unit, mobile pedestal or other storage option. There are also dedicated boardroom tables which fall into the office desk category. A good example of this is the Boss Design Apollo Rectangular Meeting Table, which can seat up to 6 people. However, larger boardroom furniture has its own category and will have its own guide, since these desks throw up their own issues and factors to consider when purchasing.
Step Eight: What would you like your desks to be made of?
Now that you have some idea of the number of desks you need, where they will go and what they will be used for, it would be sensible to consider what they will be made of. If you have a specific desk, or office style in mind, then this decision has effectively been made for you, although you should still read on to ensure the material is right for you. If not, then it is worth considering the different types of material from which office desks are made and which might be the best option for your office environment. Your final decision could well come down to a budget issue, since the materials used can significantly impact on the final price of a desk. But you will be pleased to know that the most expensive desks are not always the most functional, so don’t feel that you have to choose the priciest desk in order to keep up appearances.
The three main choices for the desk surface are as follows:
You will probably want to consider what the legs and supports of your new desks are likely to be made of. Metal is the most popular choice for desk legs and supports for melamine, wood and glass. Metal legs are a feature of the Solar Cantilever Wave Desks With Desk High Pedestal. However, this doesn’t necessarily apply to other types of desk. Wood and wood veneer desks, such as the Spectrum Deluxe Real Wood Veneer Desk Walnut can often be the exception to this rule as their legs are made with the same material as the top. Metal is still often used to stabilise the desks, especially on uneven surfaces.
Step Nine: Colour scheme choices
Having considered your employees’ comfort and the functionality and practicality of the desks, you might want to think about the aesthetics of your office. How will the desks blend into the overall colour scheme? If you have been focused on your budget up to this point and have not really given much thought to the kind of impression you would like to create in your office as a whole, then now would definitely be the time to start! After all, looks may not be everything, but they can certainly help to create a motivating and unified workspace.
The kind of impression you would like to create will largely depend on the type of business and what the office is being used for? Is it a functional space for just your employees to work in? Or does it need to create an instant impression on visitors? Is there an existing colour scheme? What colour are the walls and carpets, or perhaps you intend to change this in order to fit your vision?
Many people assume that office desks must be Beech. Beech is a reasonably neutral and functional colour, which harks back to the traditional wooden desks of the earliest offices. Even today it is still popular. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many more contemporary and authentic looking melamine wood effect finishes available these days. If your company is, for example, a modern tech company and you wish to give a vibrant first impression to your visitors, there will be a desk colour to enhance the impact of your office.
White office desks, such as the Pure Cantilever Rectangular Desks, would work well in offices with blue walls. Office colour experts believe that blue is the most productive colour, perfect if you want to promote team work and co-operation. White desks would also work in green or yellow offices. Green is supposed to be a balancing colour that boosts creativity and brainstorming and bright yellow energises and stimulates mental activity. A deeper yellow or orange can add a warm tone and welcoming aspect for your office visitors. White office desks work with most colour schemes, although they can quickly become grubby and stains are easily visible, so regular cleaning and maintenance is advised.
Black desks, like the Eclipse Black Rectangular Panel End Desks, would look good in offices with red walls. Although red is traditionally perceived as an overpowering aggressive colour, it can also have a positive effect on your employees’ brain wave activity. If you want to go for a less dramatic look, then you could tone down the shade of red and go with white desks. If you are going for a minimalist, stark effect, then black desks can look striking in offices with white walls.
Desks can also be more than one colour. The Kaleidoscope Rectangular Double Bench Desks With Fixed Pedestal have silver or white frames, with red, blue, green, orange or yellow drawers. These would fit in well with schemes that feature those colours. Offices that need to have more of a fun, playful vibe would work well with these desks, although the walls and carpet would need to be a fairly toned-down colour, otherwise the overall effect could be far too busy and chaotic.
If you are furnishing more than one room, you should stick with the same colour and style of desk in each room where possible. This gives the overall impression of a professional, co-ordinated and coherent office space, which looks good for visitors as well as providing a pleasant and functional place for your members of staff to work in.
Office Desks Final thoughts
When you buy something, especially online, do you read the reviews left by previous customers? No? Well, in the case of office desks, you probably should. You think you’ve found the ideal desks for your office and they are within budget and the right colour. But what if, once they are installed, they don’t live up to expectations. If you have paid for delivery and installation, it would be a shame to have to send the desks back because they are not quite right. It would be good to find this out before you spend your office budget on them, wouldn’t it? Equally, you might find yourself torn between two different styles, and reading customer reviews might be just what you need in order to sway your decision.
Hopefully, this guide has assisted you in choosing and purchasing exactly the right office desks for both your employees and your office space. It has aimed to get you thinking about what you need to do as an employer to enhance the work environment and to assist your members of staff to maintain or even increase their productivity in a happy office. Who knew that desks could be so important?
Office Desk Jargon Buster
Bench Desk: As the name describes, a bench desk is a desktop on a single four-legged metal frame. These desks are often assembled in runs to make use of limited space and are frequently used for team work. There are ‘slim’ or narrow versions of this desk, if the office space requires it.
Cantilever Desk: A type of desk which has a c-shape leg design supporting the structure rather than four separate legs. A very popular desk design.
Cluster Desk: A workspace comprising several desk areas fitted together. A cluster desk can be sectioned into individual areas with the use of screens.
Desk Extension: This is an extra section of desk which has either one or two legs (depending on desk style), which simply extends the work surface.
Desk Pedestal: A desk pedestal refers to desk-side drawer storage.
Desk High Pedestal: Drawer unit which will sit at the same height as the desk creating an extended work surface.
Double Wave Desk: This desk is named for its wave like shape. They feature a curve in the middle if the desk which allows the user to sit close enough to the computer or other items on their desk while maximising the rest of the workspace.
Ergonomic Desk: Offers a ‘cockpit’ style of working with a curved or sweeping left or right desk return. This allows the user to have everything they need within easy reach around them. The majority of ergonomic desks have a Radial Desk form (see below).
Four-Legged Desk: This is one of the more basic styles of office desk, which often simply looks like a standard table.
Height Adjustable/Settable Desks: Manually or electrically adjusted desks which support DDA regulations and add to ergonomics and user comfort.
Hot Desking: Desks for use in call centres and open plan offices. Perfect for mobile workers. See Bench Desks.
Mobile Desk Pedestal: A mobile desk pedestal is a drawer or shelving unit on castors, designed to slide into position under the desk.
Panel End Desk: Standard desks with wooden panel legs not metal legs. Traditional design.
Radial Desk: Allows the user to access the whole of their desk without having to move from their chair. This is also known as 90-degree desk access. These are ergonomic desks.
Single Wave Desk: There are two types of single wave desks: left hand and right hand. They allow the user to sit a close as required to their computer while keeping paperwork on either their right or left hand side.
Sit-Stand Desk: A electric height adjustable desk, which can be used equally comfortably while sitting or standing.