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16 December 2020

Home office desk buying guide

No home office setup is complete without a sturdy, spacious desk. Use our expert buying guide to pick the right one for you
Home-office-desk advice-lead
Tom Morgan

Finding the best home office desk to suit your job and your space is key to working from home effectively. 

The layout of your home has a big impact on which desks are a genuine option. A corner desk gives plenty of room to spread out if you have space. But for a smaller house you might need to squeeze in a portable desk on wheels or a laptop stand you can rest on the kitchen table.

Discover more about these and other desks for telecommuting, including standing desks, folding desks and wall-mounted desks, plus how much they cost, where to buy and expert tips for healthy desk working.  

Five key considerations for choosing your home office desk

1. How big is the desk?

Opt for the largest home office desk that fits comfortably in your space, as you can never have enough of a work surface.

A standard two-drawer desk will measure around 1m wide. If you're tucking yourself into the corner of the room or in a gap beneath the stairs, a one-drawer desk might be a better fit. Really short on space? An Ikea laptop stand measures around 50-70cm wide.

As well as recording the more obvious dimensions of your room and the measurements of the desk before you buy online, also check whether an existing office chair you use will fit underneath it.

2. Does the desk promote a healthy posture?

Working from home at your desk for hours at a time in an unnatural position is bad news for your back. Make some adjustments to your desk space and you can prevent muscle strain and back pain.

Consider the following when setting up your home office desk:

  • Adjust your chair so your lower back is properly supported
  • Your knees should be slightly lower than your hips – use a footrest if necessary
  • Your wrists and forearms should be straight and level with the floor
  • Your screen should be an arm's length in front of you and the top of the screen should be level with, or slightly below, eye level.
  • A mouse mat with a wrist pad can help to keep your wrist straight
  • If you spend a lot of time on the phone, try using a headset – it's better for your neck

Source: NHS

3. Does the desk offer storage space?

If your compact home office has no room for additional storage, consider a desk with built-in drawers.

To add storage space to a desk you already own, buy a monitor stand with built-in drawers. You can also tuck paper and storage baskets underneath a laptop stand.

4. What is the desk made from?

The majority of looks-like-wood desks are made from laminated particle board or MDF - or sometimes a wood frame with MDF drawers and top. Look out for descriptions mentioning 'wood effect' and 'engineered wood' to help you understand what you're getting. 

The pros of MDF include its strength, value price and that it can come in a multitude of finishes. 

You'll pay considerably more for a desk finished with real wood veneers or a desk made from solid wood. You could knock yourself up a reclaimed wood pallet desk for a lot less if you're a budding carpenter. 

Metal desks are often made with a steel frame, with fittings of brass or copper popping up. They're also fireproof and waterproof, but watch out for rough edges that could scratch wood floors.

5. Is the desk easy to move around?

You might fancy a new view once in a while, or decide to work closer to the window on a sunny day. If so, look for a desk with wheels (and a brake!)

A metal desk might be easier to disassemble and reassemble. Solid metal, as with solid wood, could make for a heavier desk that's a pain to try to drag to a new position.

Desk types

Wall-mounted desk

Typical spend: £50-150

A wall-mounted desk is usually kept in place by brackets. Some models just 'float' in place and have nothing underneath, while others have legs to offer extra support.

If you want to clear some space when you're done with work, you can pick a wall-mounted desk that folds down when not being used.

Desk on wheels

Typical spend: £50-150

Lots of online retailers stock portable work spaces on wheels that you can move around. Wayfair.co.uk is a good place to start, selling a range of wheel-equipped desks that, in some cases, are even big enough to hold a printer.

Corner desk

Typical spend: £150-200

Investing in a corner desk could be a wise move if you're dealing with an awkward room shape.

Corner desks are usually pricier than common, rectangular desks, but on the plus side you get a space-saving design and room for storing your work documents.

Sit/stand desk

Typical spend: £150-200 (manual) / £250+ (electric)

If you like the idea of working on your feet once in a while, a sit/stand desk is the way to go. These shape-shifting desks encourage a healthier working from home routine, improving circulation in your legs and reducing lower back pain.

You'll save some money if you opt for a manual sit/stand desk. These are usually operated by a crank system that lets you decide exactly how tall you want the desk.

If you've got the budget for it, an electric sit/stand desk is even more convenient, transforming at the touch of a button.

Treadmill desk

Typical spend: from £1,000 (for a treadmill desk that fits under your existing standing desk) to £3,000 (for a treadmill desk that includes both treadmill and desk). 

Treadmill desks are the next step up from sit/stand desks in the 'healthy desk' stakes. They're made up of a treadmill that's sat underneath an attached standing desk – this lets you exercise while you work. Alternatively, you can buy a treadmill that goes underneath your existing sit/stand desk.

Are treadmill desks a good idea? Yes, if you think you can still focus on your job while walking. Combining the two is akin to patting your head while rubbing your stomach: it can take a while to master.

Can you lose weight with a treadmill desk? Yes, if you walk far enough. How about running? No, you can't run, only walk swiftly. Hence why you won't burn off quite as much as on the treadmill at the gym.

Computer desk

Typical spend: £100-200

These are built to withstand the weight of a laptop or PC monitor.

Many computer desks arrive with a roll-out tray for a computer keyboard, along with shelving that's big enough to accommodate a home office printer or PC tower.

Compact, lap and foldaway desks for small home office spaces

We don't all have room for a permanent desk setup, especially in a shared household.

If you're looking for a way to save space while working from home, consider the following types of desks designed for small spaces:

Laptop stand

Typical spend: £20-40

This is a good option if you don't want to buy a new table for your home office setup. Using a laptop stand can also work wonders for your posture, preventing you from hunching over while scrolling through emails.

Most laptop stands are made of metal, but we've seen some plastic alternatives on Amazon. Plastic is more likely to buckle under the weight of a chunky laptop, though, so be careful.

Bed / Sofa tray desk

Typical spend: £20-40

A sofa desk works in the same way  a dinner tray does. It's a flat, lightweight platform on legs, so you can sit or lie down on the sofa or bed and use your laptop without it sliding around all over the place. Most sofa tray desks come with textured feet that offer some extra stability.

Foldaway desk

Typical spend: £30-70

Foldaway desks usually consist of a small, square working surface. You won't have as much space here as you would with a standard, two-drawer desk. On the plus side, you can fold up the table and tuck it away when you're done working.

Where to buy a home office desk

When shopping for a home office desk, check the retailer's returns policy and pay attention to customer feedback and reviews.

Popular retailers stocking a selection of home office desks include:

  • Amazon – thousands of home office desks for different room sizes.
  • Argos – basic workstations and premium oak desks.
  • eBay –  offers lots of choice with the majority of the desks built from wood or MDF.
  • Ikea –  stocks both portable laptops stands and large computer desks.
  • John Lewis –  a selection of wood desks in different tones. You'll also spot lots of desk accessories for storing pens and paper.
  • Office Furniture Online –  space-saving desks in a range of styles.
  • Ryman –  sells regular sit-down desks and standing desks.
  • Wayfair –  a good go-to for variety. Sells sit-down desks, portable desks on wheels and wall-mounted desks.

See our rundown of the best and worst online shops.

Popular desks

We don't test desks at the moment but Argos, eBay, Ikea, John Lewis and Wayfair are the most searched-for retailers for desks at the time of writing.

So we asked each to tell us which are their most popular desks. Below is a selection of different types and styles from those picks.

1. Carter Desk, John lewis (£250) – this modern home office desk is made from oak veneer. There are two storage compartments on top – each has a small gap for feeding computer wires through. On the front of the desk, you'll spot another two spaces for additional storage.

2. Calia Desk, John Lewis (£599) – made predominantly from white oak, the Calia Desk will fit well in a space that pairs well with a natural look. For storage, you have a single deep drawer on the left and two mini drawers on the right. This home office desk is available in two colours: oak and dark.

3. Kreitler L-Shape Computer Desk, Wayfair (£77.99) – an affordable, L-shaped home office desk made from manufactured wood and metal. A minimal design means there are no built-in storage spots, so you may want to buy some drawers to sit on top of this Wayfair desk.

4. Sadie Desk, Wayfair (£70.99) – a sub-£100 home office desk with a contemporary feel. The model we've picked out consists of a light wood countertop supported by white metal legs. There are two shelves on the side that could be useful for important documents or a printer. You can swap out the colour of the countertop and the frame to match your surroundings.

5. MICKE oak effect desk, Ikea (£70) – available in black-brown, oak effect or white, this desk has a hidden compartment on its underside to hide ugly cables. If you need to extend your work space, you can attach other products in Ikea's MICKE series to the side of the desk.

6. SKARSTA sit/stand desk, Ikea (£195) – stretch your legs while you're working from home with this sit/stand desk from Ikea. It has a foldable crank handle that you turn to raise the desk higher. For the same price, you can swap the white countertop with a beige alternative.

7. Hetton Computer Desk, eBay (£44.95) – this budget-priced computer desk is designed to fit into the corner of your room. It has two built-in shelves and is available in black, white, pine and walnut.

8. Dark Walnut Computer Desk, eBay (£59.99) – made with a wood-effect finish, has three sliding drawers and a trio of fixed shelves. You can choose from beech, black, dark walnut, white or lilac.

9. Malibu 3 Drawer Office Desk, Argos (£60) – this cheap home office desk comes in white, black, grey or oak effect. You have lots of options when it comes to storage, with three enclosed side drawers and another three open shelves. When assembling the desk, you can choose to have the easy-glide drawers on either your left or right side.

10. Valence Office Desk, Argos (£90) – a sleek, stylish home office desk with a grey wood-effect surface and rose gold legs. Included are a pair of slide-to-open drawers and a single open space for a notepad or two.

6 steps to a healthy desk space

You'll be spending several hours a day working at your home office desk, Here are six ways to make it more healthy for mind and body:

1. Declutter each day. Tidying everything away makes it quicker to start work the next day and it puts a full stop on the end of this working day, both aiding your mental wellbeing.

2. Personalise without cluttering. Add a few treasured items (photos, plants etc). But don't go overboard with the clutter, as that will increase stress. 

3. Make it smell nice. An essential oil diffuser or fragrant plant can help boost your energy levels. 

4. Don't eat at your desk. Step away from your desk for lunch to help take a proper break and prevent crumbs in your keyboard.

5. Watch your posture. Make sure your chair is set up correctly in relation to your desk to avoid lower back pain. See how in Choosing the best home office chair

6. Take regular breaks. The NHS advises that sitting for long periods slows your metabolism, which impacts your ability to break down body fat. Get up and stretch every so often.

For more tips on improving your home office, see 10 ways to stay healthy working from home.