Working from home can be difficult. Whether you work remote full-time or are currently working from home due to quarantine; you need to find a workspace to help separate work from the rest of your life.
I’ve been working from home for the past two years. While I don’t have all the answers, I can share some tips for how to set up a desk that will make your workspace feel a little more like an office.
I’ll share some tips for elements that make a desk more ergonomic, I’ll talk about the way your workspace can affect your creativity, and I’ll share some DIY desk ideas to get you through work from home, whether you’re here for a couple weeks or a few months.
Creating An Ergonomic Workspace
Before we get into DIY desk ideas, we need to talk about ergonomics.
Ergonomics focuses on adapting the workspace to the worker, instead of having the worker adapt to the workspace. When we talk about an ergonomic workspace, we’re talking about one that is designed to be better for your body in the short and long-term.
Here are some elements to keep in mind:
Desk and Chair Height
When you sit down on your chair, your thighs should be straight and your knees should be at a right angle. You may need a footstool, or even a cardboard box, to help you keep your legs at the correct angle.
Next, you want to make sure that your legs fit comfortably under the desk. You should have room to cross your legs without bumping the desk.
You don’t want the desk to be too high, however, since your elbows should also bend at a right angle. You want your shoulders and wrists to be relaxed while you work.
Another option for an ergonomic desk is to get a standing desk. In this case, you only need to focus on desk height. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your elbows bent at a ninety-degree angle.
Many people work from home primarily with the use of a laptop. They adjust the ergonomics of the desk to make sure they can reach the keyboard well, without realizing that now they are hurting their neck by looking down at the screen.
If at all possible, I suggest purchasing a separate keyboard and mouse to attach to your monitor. You can then place the laptop on a shelf or box to elevate it so you don’t have to crane your neck.
Make sure you don’t put the screen too far away either, so you don’t have to lean forward to see well. A good rule of thumb is to keep the monitor about an arm’s length away.
You want to be able to sit up straight and look directly forward, without moving your neck, to see your computer screen. This applies for monitor height or laptop height. The best way to accomplish this is to have a separate keyboard, mouse, and monitor.
Finally, you want to consider how much you need to move and reach for things while at your desk. If you frequently use a telephone, you’ll want to put the phone close enough that you don’t need to stretch to get it.
This same thing goes for notepads, pens, or other items you might frequently need to grab. You want to avoid reaching as much as possible. Keep your basic supplies close by and stand up if you need to grab something from the far end of your desk.
Using Your Desk to Increase Productivity
Ergonomics looks at adjusting your workspace to improve your physical work experience. There are also some tricks you can follow to improve your mental state as you switch over to working from home.
- Separate work and fun. When working from home, it can be easy to either work too much or not work at all. Separating your work from your home life will help you find a balance and dedicate the hours you need to work while still having time for yourself.
- Avoid distractions. Having a desk can help separate your work space from the rest of your home. Try to find a place in your home that is removed from the biggest distractions. Don’t do non-work tasks at your desk and don’t work in bed or on the couch.
- Clean your desk. Keep your desk clean and well-stocked with the items you’ll need for work. However, it’s okay to add some decorations or plants to brighten the workspace and make it feel like your own.
- Take breaks. Working eight hours at home is different than working eight hours at the office, so give yourself time to adjust to the change. Get up occasionally to stretch, drink water, and walk around.
7 DIY Desk Ideas
Long-Term DIY Desks
Now that you’re ready to set up your own desk, here are some ideas. We’ll start with some long-term desk ideas. These work well if you work from home regularly and have a designated office space. These DIY desks are easy to put together but look great.
Ikea tables are easily customizable and offer plenty of desk space.
The Linnmon table tops from Ikea make excellent desks. These tables are affordable but durable and can easily be customized. You can add normal legs or use a filing cabinet or shelving to set up your desk.
My husband and I each have Linnmon desks, and we also have a set of shelves and a filing cabinet that match. IKEA makes it easy to set up a cohesive room with exactly the elements you need, all for a great price.
Another reason I love the Linnmon table is the space. The table is much wider than a normal desk, so I have space for my laptop and keyboard while also having space to write in a notebook, sort through folders, and keep important supplies nearby like tissues and coffee.
Sawhorse desks are easy to make and create a warm, rustic feel for your office.
If you’re interested in having a little more hands-on involvement, you should consider making a sawhorse desk. It’s easy to find sawhorses from hardware stores, or you may be able to find leftovers from a friend’s construction project or garage.
Attach a wood plank to the sawhorse legs, and you’ve got a desk. This easy setup gives your office a rustic aesthetic that will impress your guests. This desk offers plenty of legroom and can be built to be as long as you need.
If you’re looking for a desk that works well and looks good, this is a great option. Add some plants and a lamp, and you’re ready to get to work.
A floating desk is made the same way as floating shelves. They’re easy to make but give your office a unique look unlike anything else.
A floating desk is another option for a truly stunning office look. Though easy to make, this desk looks complicated and unique.
A floating desk might not be a good idea if you plan to fill it with heavy objects, but it can support the weight of a normal computer setup. With a floating desk, you get even more leg room.
If you are the kind of person who fidgets and spins your office chair while you’re working, this desk might be perfect for you. You can move around all you want without worrying about bumping the table leg and knocking over your coffee mug.
Short-Term DIY Desks
Though there are plenty more options for permanent desks, I wanted to switch over to some temporary ideas. Tons of people around the world are switching to work from home this spring. If this is you, you may be wondering how you’ll set up a workspace without a designated office. Here are some ways you can set up a DIY desk for the next few weeks.
With a bit of creativity, any piece of furniture at the right height can be used as a standing desk.
Makeshift Standing Desk
If you’re used to working at a standing desk in the office, it can be hard on your body to then switch to working hunched over on the couch. Instead, with some creative thinking, you can set up an at-home standing desk.
The most important thing is to find a surface that is the correct height, so you can relax your shoulders and type with your arms at a right angle. People have found that they can make a standing desk out of a liquor cabinet, bookshelf, hall table, or even kitchen island.
This standing desk may not be a great solution as your main desk, but it’s a great idea to schedule out some time during your work day to work standing up.
Working at the dining room table is a quick way to set up a desk without much effort.
Dining Room Setup
One of the easiest ways to start working from home is to use your dining room table. Your table should be the right height to work comfortably, and it will have plenty of room for you to spread out a bit while you work.
Depending on your situation, you could designate half the table as work space and half as eating space. You could also make a habit of clearing away your work supplies at the end of the day. This can be a good way to make a distinction between work life and home life.
If you need a little more space than you can get with some of our other options, try a folding table for a cheap DIY desk with room to spread.
Finally, you can use folding tables for a cheap temporary desk. Folding tables are easy to find and very affordable. They come in different sizes so you can get one as big as you need. If you have an empty corner, you can buy two folding tables and make an L-shaped desk.
I use a folding table for my craft work. It’s much larger than a desk so I can spread out and work on more than one thing at a time. Many folding tables are sturdy enough to hold a sewing machine, and could also easily support a computer.
If you live in a small apartment, you can clean up and fold away the desk at the end of the workday to give yourself more room in the evening.
DIY Desk Personalization Ideas
Determine Your Necessities
In order to make your desk really feel like your workspace, you want to make sure it has everything you need to be successful.
Take stock of what office supplies you need to work. Besides your computer, do you need a notebook, pens, pencils, graph paper, a to-do list, sticky notes, a phone? Make a list of the essentials and find a way to get these essentials on or near your desk.
Next, figure out what goes into your perfect work environment. If you’re working from home with other roommates or family members, it might be impossible to have silence, but you can try to find a quiet place or work with noise cancelling headphones.
Bright lights, especially natural light, can help improve your focus.
Create Better Lighting
In order to do your best work, you also need to be able to see well. Natural lighting is usually the best option to help you see well and feel better. If you can set up your desk near a window this is your best option.
If not, lamps are your friend! You can move lamps around to adjust the lighting until you find a setup that works for you. It’s usually best to have a lamp beside your computer. If the light is behind you it might create glare, and if it’s in front of you it might hurt your eyes.
If you’re at your computer most of the day, you should also consider buying blue light filtering glasses. These glasses block out blue light from your computer, which may help reduce eye strain and help you sleep better at night.
Feel free to express yourself in your workspace through pictures or objects that make you happy.
Make Your Desk a Happy Space
Finally, the best way to make your desk feel like a workspace is to also make it a happy space. Even if you’re setting up a temporary desk in a closet, you should feel comfortable in your space.
You can start by adding decorations to your desk. Have a favorite photo? A coaster you love? A fancy pen? Even the smallest items can make a desk feel personalized and give you more motivation to get to work.
So, set up your DIY desk, grab some coffee, and get started!