Tips for setting up the ideal workspace

 Are you still working with a laptop perched on your knees? As your business grows, so do your requirements for an effective workspace. At the heart of that is your desk.

Whether you are in a small space, shared area or working from home, there are tweaks and tips you can implement to perfect your desk set up. The ideal fit will support you to deliver your best work.

Placement: Where to put your desk

Tidy desk and bright minimalist workspace

Move out of high traffic areas

Consider how you (and others) move around the area. “Clear your space so high traffic areas can be easily walked through and ensure your desk isn’t in a thoroughfare,” says brand and lifestyle consultant Rachel Torti. “If you work with others, you don’t want to position your desk where people stop to rest or chat, as you will be constantly disturbed.”

Keep it practical

“Make sure you have space to push your chair back and forth comfortably,” Torti says. “Little things that irritate you every time you do them (like bumping your chair on something) will end up adding to your stress.” Torti suggests clearing everything out of the space, then placing your desk and other essential items back in, trialling various set ups before locking one in. “Get it right from the outset.”

Natural light is key

Seek out light wherever possible and place your desk near a window. Natural light has been proven to boost workplace effectiveness and improve health. Make sure the light won’t create glare on your screen. Facing a window is preferable to sitting with your back to one.

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Adopt useful feng shui lessons

Whether you’re a devotee or not, feng shui principles make a lot of sense when it comes to desk placement. Firstly, they recommend that you should be able to see as much as the room as possible, as you can’t control what you can’t see. Secondly, they say you must be able to see the door from your desk so you can view people coming and going. This also puts less strain on your body if your desk is in a spot where you’re constantly twisting and turning. Both are logical and powerful options that will steer you to success.

Support: Getting the most out of your space

Spacious white home workspace

Create a place for everything

Your desk is your business ‘command centre’. It needs to be effective, efficient or supportive. Assess what’s on top and ask if it fits into one of those three categories.

“Consider how often you use something and have essentials in easy reach, but remove the items you don’t use often,” says Torti. “Don’t hold onto things you don’t need. If an item has done its job – get rid of it.”

Your brain has been trained to look instinctively from left to right. Structure your desk with things that need your attention on the left and less important items on the right.

Get flexible

If you’re in a small space or an area that plays double duty – like your kitchen bench that transforms into a desk by day – then you need to come up with flexible solutions. Kristina Duke, aka the Decluttering Diva, is an expert professional organizer who advises; “I love the use of a trolley or storage tub – all the items needed [are] kept together and can be stowed away when not in use.”

Surface: What’s on top

Set up the ideal workspace for success

How to get through your to-do list

Manage your workload from lists, rather than stacks. That means storing the books, folders and documents you need for all your jobs out of sight and getting them as required. Your desk is for working, not storage.

Duke says a ‘to-do list’ is the most essential item you can have on your desk. “Note what you need to do and then prioritise that list depending on the time it takes, the deadline or what headspace is needed to perform the task. It is far better having a list on paper than a jumble to to-dos running through your head distracting you from the task at hand.”

Set up drawers the right way

Adding a small set of drawers can help clear the clutter off your work area. A particularly useful way to set up drawers is to nominate a set purpose to each – a temporary storage space (your keys, sunglasses and wallet), stationary supplies, reference documents and filed items.

Duke warns not to simply ‘shift’ the clutter out of sight. “It is better to declutter the items at the time rather than stuffing them in a box to do later,” she explains. “Often we perceive the task of decluttering to take longer than it actually does. I like to challenge people to time themselves doing a decluttering task, the resulting time [is] usually far less than anticipated. That positive feeling from decluttering and sense of clarity are well worth the minutes taken.”

Decorating: A perfect finish

Invest in your workspace

Furniture can make a difference

Invest in a good quality chair. Safety and efficiency are important and a chair with good lumbar support and set at the right height will avoid back pain, fatigue and repetitive strain injury (RSI).

Add shelving to the walls around your desk. If you work from home, consider decorating with visually appealing baskets that aren’t typically ‘office-like’, and conceal your work items inside. Or, simply clear your shelves entirely. Switch between home decorations and office items at the top and tail of each day, storing the unused items in a basket. It’s slightly fiddly, but will go a long way towards creating a distinction between home and work.

Top Tip:

“Avoid in-trays. They start with good intention to be the place to collect papers that we need on hand - to do, to file, to reference but the papers keep stacking on top and then the thing we need is often too hard to find. Going vertical is often the best way - using a magazine rack or vertical file system makes sorting into categories easier, retrieval is simplified and clutter can’t collect on top.” Kristina Duke: the Decluttering Diva.