For many people, a desk is just a large, flat surface — nothing more than a landing patch for bobble head dolls, strewn Post-It notes and jars of Jolly Rancher.
For the businessperson, however, a desk is Command Central: the epicenter where research is conducted, decisions are made and strategies implemented.
And that makes the choice of a suitable desk a surprisingly important one for business leaders and entrepreneurs — not to mention a bit more involved than you might assume.
Here’s a checklist to help ensure that your desk is a central element of an efficient, functional home office which probably has a small space:
What’s it for?
This is a question with a surprising number of angles. Far too many of us spot a desk and buy it before considering its function. Be sure to think about how you’re really going to use it — is it just for paying bills and scribbling notes, or will you need more space and features to accommodate other tasks? Make sure your desk fits your needs rather than buying something and retrofitting everything later.
Quality or cost?
Might as well get this one out of the way early. You can always buy a relatively inexpensive, ready-to-assemble desk and hunker down behind it. But understand that a desk built of pressboard isn’t going to last nearly as long as one made of solid oak — nor, for that matter, look as attractive (a consideration to bear in mind if you deal face to face with clients or customers). “Pay attention to the overall décor of your office, particularly if clients are coming there,” Kanarek says. “For instance, do you want a desk that’s open in the front? If that faces out to your office door, it may not look all that attractive.”
But don’t overbuy.
Thoughtlessly dropping a cache of cash on a behemoth desk is just as big a snafu as spending too little. Not only is too much desk a waste of money that could be earmarked for something else, a monster in a relatively modest office is as out of place as an NFL linebacker in Munchkinland. “Lots of people go out and buy this huge desk and find they can’t even fit it through their office door,” Kanarek says. “Measure the desk to see how it will look in your office.”
With those global issues in mind, pay attention to particular elements that go into choosing the best desk possible:
Give some thought to how you use drawer storage and, in turn, how much you truly need. Kanarek suggests that every desk have at least one reasonably sized drawer for office supplies. But, think about how you work and the line of demarcation between adequate storage and pointless hoarding. “If you’re a pack rat, go for as few drawers as possible, so you don’t hold onto things unnecessarily,” she says. “But you also need to focus; so make sure you have enough drawers so your desktop doesn’t attract too much clutter. Don’t set yourself up to be distracted.”
Here, a simple rule of thumb applies: If you have a computer on your desk, make certain you buy a desk designed for a computer. A $5,000 mahogany desk may be pure office eye candy, but things go sour when it seems you’re a quarter-mile from your screen. If you’d rather not have your computer sitting on the floor, find a desk with CPU space — or invest in a small trolley that sits beneath your desk.
A good and suitable desk for a computer work should have enough space for the keyboard. This helps you move your keyboard to a proper position for more convenience.
One essential element of a desk that’s truly built for computer work is an articulated keyboard space. This lets you adjust the position of your keyboard for both convenience and comfort. Give this issue more than passing consideration — a desk with no articulation features or one that’s simply a bad fit can lead to ergonomic problems down the road.
Another oft overlooked element to a truly functional desk is the capacity to keep certain things safe, be they papers, financial records, disks or other sorts of sensitive material. If you have for-your-eyes-only items — or, by chance, want to make sure visiting children don’t march off with important documents or even office supplies — find a desk with at least one locking component.
One final element to effective desk selection is a simple matter of application — that is, applying your derriere to the chair behind the desk that’s caught your eye. If you’re a big person wedged behind the desk the size of an Etch-A-Sketch, it won’t be long before your knees tell you to keep shopping. Likewise for a more diminutive entrepreneur who might have to crawl across the desktop to reach the Rolodex in the far corner. Short of being asked by store security to vacate, give yourself enough time behind a desk to gain a sense of how it feels. Moreover, bear in mind that your decision, like any other element having to do with your office, is central to the success of your business.
“Look at a desk as an investment,” Kanarek says. “It’s a critical one, particularly when you think of how much time you’re going to be spending there once you buy it.”