What Belongs On Your Home Office Desk, And What Doesn’t?

October 26, 2021

Cat sitting on desk

How To Keep A Home Office Desk Organised

You'd think that setting up your home office desktop is easy. After all, you have years of experience using a workplace desk.

In many ways, for the undisciplined, a home office desk is an open invitation to generate a mess. There are no work colleagues to see what's on your desk and pass comments, so you're less likely to tidy personal documents away. It's a handy place to pile up household mail to deal with during the week. And generally, you don't have someone to take away your empty coffee mugs, and wipe down and sanitise your desk surface. Plus, as it's at home, your desk is prone to being 'shared' by other household members.

Did you know that clutter affects your brain and your work?

Not only does a cluttered desk look untidy, but scientists at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute have used fMRI and other approaches to demonstrate that our brains like order. They found that 'constant visual reminders of disorganisation drain our cognitive resources and reduce our ability to focus'. When participants in their study cleared away the clutter from their work environment, they became more productive, and more able to concentrate and process information.

These are all good reasons to carefully consider what you need on your home office desk, and what's best stored nearby – or not at all.

The yes-on-or-near-my-desk list

  1. Computers, monitor/s, keyboard, mouse and any peripherals like wrist rests, speakers etc.
  2. A printer - although this is better on a stand under your desk to optimise available surface area.
  3. Consumables (that's office supplies to the rest of us). Only keep out what you use daily, for example, a pen, notepad, and post-it notes. The rest should be in a storage unit under or beside your desk.
  4. Hardcopy folders or files that you're currently working on. Prioritise and pile the rest elsewhere. 
  5. An articulated desk lamp.
  6. Noise-cancelling headphones to minimise or eliminate distracting or annoying background noises.
  7. One coffee mug, one water glass. (Also see below).

If you're keen to add personalised items like family photos, go for it. But rationalise how many – or consider scanning them and turning them into screen savers instead.

The not-on-my-desk thanks list!

  1. One coffee mug, one water glass. It's natural that you want – and should - stay caffeinated and hydrated as you work, but that's not the issue. Instead, it's the risk that half-filled drink containers pose when they encounter pets, children, technology and paperwork. The trick is timely removal.
  2. Your mobile phone. While it sounds counter-productive, research from reputable sources such as The University of Chicago suggests that 'The Mere Presence of One's Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity'. So, yes, having your phone on your desk serves as a 'brain drain'.  
  3. Snacks and sweets. It's all too easy to sit at your desk for too long as it is, and having food at hand only enables poor habits. Instead, regular breaks (to fetch snacks and sweets from the kitchen) should be part of your productivework routine.
  4. Pets and children. Treat your home office as you would your official workplace; it's not the place for playtime or cuddles. Make your desk a no-go zone from the outset, and just in case, always use Ctrl-Alt-Delete to lock your laptop if you walk away from your desk. 
  5. Lastly, pot plants and cut flowers in vases. Like coffee mugs and water glasses, these are prone to upset and desk damage.  

Lisa Zaslow, a professional organiser in New York City, says: "Surveys show the average person loses an hour a day to disorganisation. It takes much less time to get and stay organised. Think about how frantic and stressed you are when you can't find something."

And in the words of best-selling Japanese organisaton consultant and tidying legend Marie Kondo: "Visible mess helps distract us from the true source of the disorder."

If you’re ready to update your workspace from office to home, view our work from home desk range today.