Everything you need to know about office work desks

by Apr 3, 2023

I love my work desk. Since I started at my current job, I have been slowly making it my own. There’s a smattering of colourful art prints from friends, a pinned sticker from a weekend trip to glebe markets, a polaroid of the sunset, and a bear-shaped bin from the dollar store. These little elements make my desk feel like a tiny home away from home, and serve great motivation throughout the day.  

Moving from retail to working in an office environment, one of the biggest adjustments is the change in atmosphere. Retail work is largely on your feet, managing stock, promotions, and people. Any desk work like placing orders, going through emails, or calling people is typically in a transient space that multiple people use. In comparison, a lot of post-uni jobs are based in an office, where you’ll do most of your work from a single desk.

Believe it or not, there is a lot that you might not know about desks. If you need advice for your first internship, are entering a graduate role, or need tips for your first office job, this post can answer the questions you didn’t even know you had. In this blog post, I’ll be going over everything you need to know about your in-office work desk, from decorating, to ergonomics, to the unspoken desk etiquette to keep in mind. 


Let’s start with my favourite part: decorating. Personalising your space can help you to feel more comfortable and content at work. Familiar items and pictures at your desk can help remind you of home, your family, and your friends. The trick to successful desk decorating is making sure you are striking the right balance between personalisation, professionalism, and organisation.

It’s important to keep in mind that your desk is in a workplace. Keep photos and décor work appropriate, try to avoid too much clutter, and prioritise function over aesthetics. Avoid making any changes that can’t be easily reversed. Easy ways to bring personality to your desk area could be bringing a favourite mug to work, finding an interesting cup or jar to use as a penholder, displaying a fun calendar, or putting up a picture of your family or a pet.

Make sure your desk is comfortable

You might have heard the term ‘ergonomics’ thrown around in the past few years. Ergonomic desk chairs, computer mouse devices, and keyboards are just some examples of ergonomic design that can help make your desk space more comfortable. While these devices are useful if you have them, you can do a few little things to improve ergonomics without them.

  1. Adjust your monitor height and distance so that it is at your eye level, and about an arm’s length from where you’re sitting.
  2. Put your keyboard and mouse on a flat surface about 10 cm from the edge of the desk, and position them directly in front of you, so you aren’t having to twist to type.
  3. Adjust your chair so that your hips and knees are levels and your feet flat on the floor, or, use a footrest to comfortably rest both feet.
  4. Try to avoid sitting in one position for extended periods of time. Standing up to stretch or walk around periodically throughout the day can reduce strain and fatigue, and help you stay focused.

Office etiquette

One of the best parts of working in an office is the casual chats that happen throughout the workday. There is a great convenience in being able to go over to someone’s desk and run something by them, confirm something, or ask for more info about a project or task. However, not everyone is comfortable with this practice of dropping by a colleague’s desk unannounced (often referred to as ‘desk-bombing’). Especially post-pandemic, talking face to face can be daunting, with a lot of unspoken social rules, and varying understandings of etiquette from person to person. There are a few ways you can avoid unwanted desk bombing:

  1. Keep it positive. Don’t use drop-by convos to air out grievances or gossip about co-workers.
  2. Check if they’re free to chat. This could mean reading visual cues, like whether they’re wearing headphones, and focused on something, or checking their work status on Microsoft Teams or Slack.
  3. If you’re still not sure, you could send them a short message to ask if they’re available to talk. If you’re doing this, it’s best practice to explain briefly what you want to talk about, to avoid any confusion or concern.

The more comfortable you are with your colleagues, the easier this practice is. While you are building those relationships, try not to be too hard on yourself, and reach out if you are struggling.

Working from home

These days, hybrid or fully remote working situations are incredibly common. If you are regularly working from home, make sure to apply the same ergonomic, and decorating principles from earlier in this article to your home work environment. It’s also important to try to stick to a dedicated workstation, even if your bed or couch look all too inviting. Having a set space where you do your work can help you to compartmentalise, relax when you want to relax and work when you want to work.

Hot desking, open office plans, and shared co-working spaces

Depending on your organisation, you might not have a traditional pod or desk setup. In recent years, many organisations have experimented with hot-desking, or collaborative working environments, where you are not set a specific desk or pod, but can work in collaboration with others or in an ad-hoc capacity. This can encourage cross-collaboration and flexibility amongst teams.

If this is the setup of your workplace, you might not have space to personalise your space. Instead, take advantage of the social or collaborative aspects of this setup. You can also still bring in comfortable objects, like your favourite emotional support water bottle, to bring in that personal touch.

Final notes

We spend a lot of our lives at work, sitting (or standing) at a desk. Making that space your own, making sure it’s ergonomic, and using the office to build relationships, can help you to feel more at home, and connected at work. Make sure to keep your desk clean, professional, and comfortable, and remember that at the end of the day, it’s just a desk, and your life does not have to be all about work the same way your desk doesn’t.  


Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

Amelia Bussing

Amelia Bussing

Communications Assistant

Amelia is a Sydney-based writing and communications enthusiast working at UTS Careers as a Communications Assistant. She is a current UTS Student, studying a Bachelor of Communications (Creative Writing & Advertising), and a Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation. She is passionate about creativity, storytelling, and the art of a well-timed gif, and has a vast collection of crazy socks.