Knowing where to position a desk to boost productivity is a handy hack we promise will make getting into that high-performance mindset when working from home just a little bit easier.
There’s never been a better time to consider your home office layout. After all, recent years have seen our work and home lives become tied together more than ever before. A 2023 survey found UK employees work from home an average of 1.5 days a week – a figure that’s only going to rise as hybrid working increases in popularity.
Thankfully, all of this working from home is seemingly having a positive impact on our happiness levels. A 2023 study found that those who worked from home 100% of the time were 20% happier on average than those who couldn’t. However, research also suggests we’re 10-20% less productive at home.
So, while before you might have gotten away with working away under the duvet covers, or propped up on a dressing table - the likelihood of even more days working from home means you’re going to have to find some solid, productive solutions.
Turning a space into a home office, separate from your living room or bedroom, will work wonders for your productivity. If you’re lucky enough to have this separate space in your home for an office, then the first question you might be thinking is where to position your desk.
It sounds like a simple question, but many factors can play a part here – from the size of your home office to whether you have a window. Lucky for you we’ve called in the experts to help you put that desk in exactly the right spot whether you are wrangling small home office ideas or trying to carve out a working zone in another room.
How can desk position impact productivity?
'There are common work-from-home mistakes that many fall victim to, like unnecessary distractions, blurred work-life balance, and bad posture leading to discomfort,' says Cathy Lawson, mental health & wellbeing coach at Westfield Health. 'However, the position of your at-home desk has a pivotal role in combatting these and boosting your wellbeing.'
Positioning your desk right next to the door can lead to unwanted distractions coming from the rest of your house, while a desk near natural light and a window to the outside world can help productivity in surprising ways.
A 2018 study from Cornell University showed workers exposed to natural light experienced an 84 per cent drop in issues such as headaches, eyestrain, and blurred vision, while a Human Spaces research report on the Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Interface Workplace found that productivity and creativity levels increase by 6% and 15% when an office space has natural interior design elements like house plant ideas or views of greenery.
Finally, an important consideration when it comes to home office desks is less about the position of your desk and more about how you personalise your home office desk ideas. A study from the University of Exeter found that employees who were able to have control over the design and layout of their workspace were not only happier and healthier but also 32% more productive. All the more reason to treat yourself to a fancy new desk lamp or jazz up your home office storage solutions.
What is the best position for a desk in a home office?
Interior designer and founder of AMC Design, Ann Marie Cousins, says the best position for a desk in a home office is 'in front of the window if there is one so that you can give your eyes a break and look into the distance every now and then. It’s soothing to look out if you have a nice view and natural light is kind on your eyes.
'[Also] make sure you have a good desk light and that the overhead lighting is located over your desk, so you’re not sitting in your own shadow on gloomy days.'
Be conscious though of the possibility of too much light coming in while you’re working. 'If possible, place the desk with your window behind the computer screen to avoid glare and reduce squinting and harm to your eyes,' says Cathy. A blind might be a worthwhile consideration to keep the glare away here.
Presenter, DIY interiors expert, and home coach, Georgina Burnett, argues it’s also important to consider the rest of the room.
'Rather than having your back to the door, place it [your desk] perpendicular to the window so you can see the room but still benefit from the light. The only time I'd suggest placing a desk so your back is to the room is if the room is cluttered, which is likely to interrupt your focus.'
Where to position a desk in a small home office to boost productivity?
Placing your desk perpendicular to the window can also help in smaller home offices as well as it uses up less wall space. A small home office will also require you to get more creative with your space saving.
'If there isn't the space for a desk to be out all the time, it's worth investing in drop-down desks or even a Study Bed - a bed which converts into a desk during the day, but is neatly out of sight at night,' says Georgina.
Think about where other items sit in your home office and how this will impact your work. A piece of art, when you look up, can spark joy, while a desk next to an inspiration board can remind you of 'your North Star on your current project', says Ann Marie.
'[And] always avoid placing your desk directly in front of the door, as your chair might get knocked when the door is opened.'
Where to position a desk in a windowless home office?
In smaller offices or those without a window, the only option may be for the desk to face the wall. A poster or piece of art on this wall can act as your view of the “outside world” – helping to keep your creativity levels up and give you something to look at as you momentarily take a break from your work.
And again, light is going to be important here – especially when you don’t have any of it coming from outside.
'When there is only artificial light, the most important thing is to make sure your desk is well-lit,' says Ann Marie.
Make sure your overhead lighting is directly above the desk, and you have a good desk lamp to ensure your eyes are being given enough light.
If you don’t have a home office where should you position a desk to boost productivity?
We understand that not everyone will have the space for their own enclosed home office. But that doesn’t stop you from carving out your own work-from-home haven.
'Think light and sound when it comes to positioning a desk when you don't have a home office,' says Georgina. 'Natural light is always best, but if that is not possible it needs to be in a place where you will benefit from the lighting at least. Ideally, you will be away from sounds that may interrupt your flow. From washing machines to little people, it's important you are not having to listen to anything that might distract you.
‘This goes for reminders of household chores which can become surprisingly appealing when you have a boring report to write. It's important that when you're sat at your desk, you almost forget you're at home as this will also then allow you a better work-life balance.'
To aid that work-life balance think about working away from areas of your home which are usually used for relaxing in.
'It's better to have the desk away from relaxation areas like the bedroom or living room,' says Georgina, 'but if these are your only options, then investing in clever storage solutions will allow you to switch on and off for the working day.'
How do I set up a home office for maximum productivity?
When it comes to setting up a home office for maximum productivity, you’re going to want to position your desk close to your window to allow for all the productivity benefits that come from working in natural light and having a view of nature.
If your workspace is usually cluttered, then it might also be worth turning your desk away from the clutter to avoid the distraction. Avoid placing your desk directly in front of the door as your chair may get hit when someone opens the door. This will also limit distractions from the rest of the house. Look to include a poster or an inspiration board on the wall opposite your desk to help inspire your work.
'The main thing to think about when building an effective home office space is how you work in reality, rather than setting your sights on a magazine-style dream office,' says Georgina.
'For example, if your work calls for papers to be strewn across your desk, make sure you have an oversized desk and lots of storage for tidying it all away, both within easy reach and some good cupboards or filing cabinets.'
Also, think about the space you need for your tech and making sure it’s accessible. 'Think about putting your printer in a cupboard on a pull-out shelf,' says Ann Marie, 'so that you can replace the ink cartridges or clear paper jams easily. [And] about how much space you need for multiple monitors and make sure you have your screens far enough away. Ideally, they should be just at the end of your fingertips when you stretch your arm out.'
What direction should your desk face?
'The ideal orientation for your desk is that it faces east, if possible,' says Ann Marie. 'As the sun rises in the east, an east-facing desk is guaranteed a bright start to the day which is a great way to link to your circadian rhythms so that you feel energised as you start your day.
'North facing is also good, and if your office allows, face the door so that you can greet anyone visiting your workspace.'
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