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Desk Buying Guide


Desk Buying Guide: Choosing the Right Desks for Your Office Design

Whether you’re starting from scratch or refurbishing your workplace, getting expert advice to make the right long-term choice for fundamental elements like desks will optimise your workplace design and enhance productivity.

As one of the major components in the daily functionality of a workplace, choosing desks for an office fit-out requires thoughtful consideration. You need to determine how many desks you need, what type of desks, the style that best suits your company and office space, and the tasks performed at them. A purpose-designed desk is built from durable materials to suit the workplace and fitted with grommet-holes that allow cabling from devices to be conveniently accessed and hidden from sight.

Choosing the right desks for your workplace can be done in one of two ways: you can choose the desks first and then plan around them, or create a floorplan and then find or customise desks to suit. You may have your heart set on a particular style, or your budget may not extend to customisation, in which case you’ll take the former path. The latter will suit you if you already have a fixed floorplan or you want to map out a floorplan to accommodate an Activity Based Working office design.

How many desks do you need?
Whichever way you go you’ll need to start by establishing how many people work in your office. Traditionally offices provide one desk for each worker, although with Activity Based Working you could reduce this ratio to 1:0.8. Factor in any estimated growth you’re projecting for your staffing numbers so as not to short-change yourself.

What type of desks do you need?
The tasks performed in your office and the people doing them will determine the types of desks you need:

  • Reception desks are a welcoming first impression for many businesses and need to be functional as well as stylish. The height of a reception desk allows the user to stand or sit at eye-level to greet people face to face
  • Office desks, whether assigned or unassigned, need to survive the rigours of daily use. A standard rectangular office desk can be freestanding or used to create rows or other patterns. Add desk mounted screens of varying heights for privacy or to attach shelves and other accessories
  • Workstations are a great solution, offering the additional space of a desk return in the convenience of a single piece of furniture. The L-shape configuration maximises space and allows you to work either left or right-handed, or in the corner. Add interlocking partitions to create a network of workstations.
  • Executive desk: The traditionally impressive executive desk designed to convey seniority is still a powerful psychological tool. Pair it up with a coordinated return or credenza for addition storage and work space
  • Sit-stand desks allow you to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day. You can enjoy the health benefits of movement and choose when you want to be in each position. An electronic sit-stand desk makes adjustment easy and convenient

How much space do you need?
Australian regulations require a minimum of 10sqm per person in office design, which includes primary, secondary and tertiary spaces like meeting rooms, corridors and workstations, although it is common, and more comfortable, for this ratio to be closer to 12-14sqm per person. This includes a minimum space of 6sqm per person for each workspace. According to Australian Standard AS3590.2-1990, the optimal layout for a workspace is:

Height of work surface
If fixed - 680mm to 720mm above floor level
If adjustable - 580mm - 730mm above floor level

Area of work surface
Width - 1500mm minimum
Depth - 900mm minimum
Bench thickness over leg span - 25mm maximum

Volume of leg space
Width - 800mm minimum
Depth - 550mm minimum
Height - 580mm minimum

Viewing distance to work
350mm - minimum
750mm - maximum
Height of display - 30mm - 40mm below eye level

Seat pan height
Surface of seat to floor - 380mm - 510mm
Seat pan depth - 330mm - 430mm
Footrest area - 300mm x 375mm

What style best suits your office?
Before establishing a floorplan it is handy to also have an idea of the style you want to use and whether you want fully customised desks and workstations, or modular or standard. You will need to factor in the dimensions of standard or modular desks to your floorplan to make it work or risk your choices not fitting. If you are implementing an Activity Based Working office design, the style for each region will be different, and so may require different style desks for each.

Desk Storage
To keep desks tidy and ready to work at, you will need a suitable storage solution. Shelving and pedestal drawers are a practical universal answer that will provide storage for anyone using the desk. Add desk accessories including document trays, pen cups and magazine stands to tidy up loose items. Larger storage solutions:

  • Credenza: a long, low-lying sideboard cabinet
  • Pedestal: drawer unit, often with castor wheels, that can fit underneath a desk
  • Return: attachment that sits at 90 degrees to the desk to extend its surface
  • Hutch: shelving unit that attaches to the desk surface
  • Bookcase: freestanding, open-fronted shelving
  • Storage cupboard: freestanding cupboard, generally with full or half-length doors and shelves at varying heights
  • Filing cabinet: freestanding deep drawers
  • Lockers: lockable units for storing personal belongings, great for Activity Based Working or other unassigned seating designs

The ideal workplace is an environment that nurtures the wellbeing of people and supports them to be optimally creative and productive. Choosing furniture to make this ideal a reality takes thoughtful consideration and expert advice. Office National has furniture experts ready to help you choose the right desks and other office furniture.

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