woman stretching comfortably in her home office

Whether you’re remote learning, working from home, or you just need a comfortable space to sit down and study, a proper workspace is essential to productivity.[1]

With so many types of desks and ergonomic chairs on the market, finding the perfect fit can feel overwhelming. Here’s everything you need to know to transform your study space or home office into a comfortable place for getting work done.

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1What should you consider before buying desk and chair?

Whether you’re looking to put your work and study space into an entire room, a dedicated nook or a convertible space, here’s what to consider before buying office furniture:

  • Location: Before you set your heart on a specific piece of furniture, find out its dimensions, and whip out a tape measurer to make sure it will fit in your space. If you’d like, place string or masking tape on the floor to visualize how much room your furniture will take up.
  • Portability: Once the desk is assembled, will you need to take it apart again or will it remain in place for a while? For dorms and other temporary spaces, consider a desk and desk chair that are lightweight and easy to assemble.
  • Primary purpose: Are you really going to sit at that desk and fire off emails or write assignments, or will you secretly be gaming most of the time? Be honest with yourself about your needs and wants. Maybe the most important thing is getting a comfortable study chair, or maybe you should be looking for a gaming setup instead.
  • People: Sharing your office furniture? You may want to consider a desk with extra storage or an ergonomic chair with an adjustable seat.
  • Current setup: If you already have a high-quality chair or desk consider how well your new furniture will fit with it. A chair that’s too low or a desk that’s too high can be uncomfortable, so make sure the measurements line up.
  • Accessories: From keyboard trays to matching storage units to wipe boards that keep you organized, make a list of the features that matter to you.

2What does an ergonomic work and study setup look like?

ergonomic office setup

Considering how much time we spend sitting all day, creating the best possible ergonomic setup is truly part of maintaining good health. It’s so important that Health Canada mandates that employers meet prescribed ergonomic standards.[2]

These guidelines will help you bring your home office in line with the Government of Canada’s standards:

A proper ergonomic setup includes:[3][4]

  • A well-lit area.
  • A station that allows for adjustments (i.e. height adjustable desks or chairs).
  • A chair that is aligned properly to your height. The backrest should fit into the hollow of your lower back, the seat should be just below the kneecap when standing up, and elbows should just graze armrests when bent at 90 degrees.
  • Enough room for your legs to fit under the desk and move around, and for your feet to sit flat on the floor.
  • A work surface that is roughly the same height as your elbows while typing.
  • Room on the desk’s surface to set up a monitor at a viewing distance of 16 to 29 inches away, with a line of sight that ranges from 15-30 degrees downward.

Accessories that can contribute to an ergo-friendly setup:[5]

  • A footrest if you cannot place your feet flat on the floor.
  • A desk lamp to ensure the space is properly lit.
  • An adjustable keyboard and mouse tray if the desk is too high.
  • A back pillow to ensure proper lumbar support.
  • A wrist or mouse rest if you are unable to keep your wrists in a neutral position.

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3What are the main types of desks?

If you’ve never shopped for a desk before you might be surprised by all the options out there. There are desks designed for all kinds of tasks (computing, gaming and writing) plus options for different spaces (floating desks, standing desks).

Understanding the pros and cons can help you select type of desk that makes the most sense for you:

Computer Desks

white computer desk in modern office

The function is all in the name when it comes to computer desks. They’re typically designed with a larger surface to accommodate a computer and monitor, with a bit of extra room for a desk organizer or lamp.

Pros Cons
Easy to assemble. Larger models may be unsuitable for small spaces.
Can hold a lot of weight; often feature extra storage.

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Standing Desks

Adjustable standing desk

The human body wasn’t designed to sit all day. In fact, prolonged sitting slows the blood flow and leaves muscles more prone to injury.[6] Enter standing desks and sit-stand desks, which are designed to help you move more during the day (or night!). If you choose a standing desk, consider purchasing an accompanying floor mat or new indoor sneakers for extra support.

Pros Cons
Standing upright burns twice as many calories as sitting.[7] May not be a good option for those with back or knee issues.
Studies suggest height-adjustable standing desks may increase productivity, concentration and overall health.[8] Smaller work surface than other desks.
Smaller models require minimal space.

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Floating Desks

floating desk

If you have a small workspace or want to incorporate a workstation into a kitchen or bedroom, a floating desk is a great option. Some models even tuck up when not in use, keeping the room nice and tidy.

Pros Cons
Great for small workspaces. Difficult to adjust—will be set to one person’s height.
Increases floor space. Some skill required to install in the wall; holds less weight than other desk types.
Can be used as a standing or sitting desk.

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Writing Desks

writing desk

If your family members are laptop and tablet people who don’t need the spacious surface area or storage compartments offered with a computer desk, a writing desk might be the ticket. Bonus, these streamlined options often offer more design appeal than larger desks.

Pros Cons
Good for small workspaces—less bulky than computer desks. Limited space to work, plus less storage than other desk types.
Plenty of stylish options. Can be harder to assemble than other styles.
May feature drawers to tuck away small objects.

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Corner Desks

corner desk

A corner (or L-shaped) desk is great if you’re setting up dual workspaces or monitors or want to maximize what would otherwise be dead corner space.

Pros Cons
Lots of surface area—great for dual monitors. Unless you’re at a window you’ll probably face a wall.
Can tuck away into an office corner. Harder to assemble, less portable and typically more expensive than other desk types.
Can easily add extra storage space above with a hutch on one side.

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4What are the main types of office chairs?

The main things to consider when choosing an office chair are comfort, durability and price. It’s also essential that the measurements for your chair line up with the measurements for your desk. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common office chair options:

Type of chair Pros Cons
Chairs with armsoffice chair with arms
  • Most comfortable chair for long work sessions.
  • Forearm support can reduce pain in shoulders and neck [9].
  • Typically come with height adjustments and backrests.
  • Armrests need to be configured properly to avoid strain or injury.
  • Bulkier and harder to transport; arms may not fit under desk.
Armless chairsarmless desk chairs
  • Take up minimal space.
  • Less expensive than chairs with arms.
  • Typically adjustable; fit easily under desks.
  • Can be harder to assemble.
  • Less ergonomically friendly than chairs with arms.
Gaming chairsgaming chairs
  • Specifically designed for people who sit for long stretches.
  • Come with high-tech options to enhance the gaming experience.
  • Adjustable; extra lumbar support.
  • Sporty designs may not suit all décor styles.
  • Cool features may go to waste during regular, non-gaming chair use.
Kneeling chairskneeling chairs
  • Designed to tilt pelvis forward and correct alignment in the spine while evenly distributing weight.
  • Intended to strengthen core muscles when used properly.
  • Many models are adjustable for seat height and slope angle.
  • Can put extra pressure on shins and may restrict leg circulation with prolonged use.
  • Getting in and out can be tricky.
  • They sit higher than traditional chairs which means you may need to adjust your desk height.
Stoolsstools
  • Affordable.
  • Easy to transport.
  • Great for small spaces.
  • Few adjustment options.
  • Poor lumbar support.

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5What should you consider when shopping for a kid’s desk and chair?

kid's pink desk and chair

Adults aren’t the only ones hitting the daily grind from home! If you’re setting up a study space for children, there are some extra factors to consider:

  • How old is the child and how will they use the furniture? Elementary-aged children tend to use more workbooks and do arts and crafts—ideally this means providing a desk with a large surface area and a chair that moves easily. Young high school students can benefit from a durable desk that they can then pack up and take with them to university or college in a few years.
  • Where are you setting up their workspace? Smaller kids who are learning remotely or who are just starting with homework tend to be easily distracted and will need a more central spot with easy access to adult support—like the living room or a nook in the kitchen. Where you decide to set up shop will likely influence the size and type of purchase.
  • How much storage will they need? If you don’t want your child’s things finding their way all over the house (or worse, piled all over that brand new desk), select a unit with good storage to keep everything neat and tidy.
  • What are your kid’s ergonomic needs? Like adults, kids should be able to align their bodies properly in a home office setup. Ensure their elbows are relaxed and at a 90 degree angle to the desk or table, and that they don’t have to tilt their neck back to look at the screen (the top of the monitor should align with your kid’s forehead). The screen should be about an arm’s length away to minimize any potential strain on the eyes, and be sure to adjust the brightness and text size for them as well. Kids also need good lumbar support, so if they seem uncomfortable consider adding pillows.[10]

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Article Sources

  1. InderScience Study. Impact of workspace design on employee’s productivity: a case study of public sector universities in Hazara division.
  2. Health Canada. The Fundamentals—Ergonomics.
  3. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. How to Adjust Office Chairs.
  4. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Positioning the Monitor.
  5. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Wrist Rests.
  6. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Health and Safety Report.
  7. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Health and Safety Report.
  8. International Journal of Workplace Health Management. Stand Up to Work: Assessing the Health Impact of Adjustable Workstations.
  9. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. The effects of forearm support and shoulder posture on upper trapezius and anterior deltoid activity.
  10. Canada Safety Council. Ergonomics for Kids.

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