Sharing a desk in a workplace can be rather different to sharing a desk at home. Generally, work desks are shared amongst individuals who work at separate times. However, at home, there may not be the option to have your own personal desk. With that in mind, let’s investigate how to share a desk at home?
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How to share a desk at home?
When sharing an office desk at home, the below 8 factors should be considered:
- Determine each other’s work times and patterns
- Consider the shared desk ergonomic setup
- Establish boundaries and ground rules
- Set up a desk cleaning routine
- Arrange for separate storage areas
- Create separate spaces on the desk
- Agree on shared gadgets and stationery
- Consider sharing an L-shaped desk
However, at home, there can be limitations to having a dedicated desk for each person. Whether it’s due to space constraints or financial reasons, you may find yourself having to share your desk with a family member or housemate which can be difficult to navigate. Let’s dive deeper into these topics. More importantly, find out how to avoid the conditions that are likely to lead to disruptions and disagreements!
Your personality type should be considered as it can affect how well you perform in a work environment. For instance, your response to distractions and awareness of personal space. Source
Determine each other’s work times and patterns
For shared work desks, it’s usually a clear divide where there’s a shared desk between a night and day worker or 2 part-time staff members. This isn’t always the case at home though.
It will be important to map out exactly when you intend to use the desk and for what types of activities. If you both work on a routine 9 – 5 style job and you are primarily desk-based, then it is probably straight forward.
However, if you operate on a flexible working or study pattern, then some organizing, and coordinating will be required.
This will help to ensure that you can both share the desk without interfering or getting in the way of the other person.
Once you have established these work times and patterns, discuss how you will both be able to work from the same desk.
Some questions to consider include:
- Is there enough space on the desk to fit both individuals at the same time?
- If not, does your work schedule allow you to work around each other?
- What happens when you both need to have the desk at the same time?
- Are there certain meetings or tasks which require silence or privacy, e.g., important or confidential meetings, study time?
- What types of activities will you be completing during those hours?
- Will those activities generate noise and distraction, e.g., phone calls, clients/study partner visits?
- Will you need access to shared desk gear at the same time, e.g., headphones, printers?
- Does your work need to be completed at a desk or could it be relocated for certain times or tasks?
- Can you take phone calls in a separate room to minimize disruption?
Tip: By mapping out your work or study hours, it allows both individuals to agree when they’ll be using the desk.
Consider the shared desk ergonomic setup
Very few people will have the exact same ergonomic dimensions for their desk, chair and monitors. So, when sharing all the commodities, often people will simply just leave the monitor heights or chair height at the setting they are already at.
This can lead to discomfort and even poor posture which could ultimately cause degeneration of your back and pain in your neck and shoulders as you try to work in unfavorable conditions.
Therefore, in an ideal world, people will either try to share with people of a similar height or they will have their own chair.
Chairs are one of primary pieces of office furniture which need the most adjustment to perfectly accommodate an individual.
However, if you need to share the chair, then make sure that you at least adjust the height.
At the bare minimum, the below items should be adjusted on a shared workstation:
- The height of the chair so that your feet are flat on the floor, thighs parallel with the floor and legs at a 90 degree angle.
- The height of the monitors or laptop so that your eyes are in line with the top third of the screen.
- The location of the keyboard and mouse so that your elbows are at a 90-degree angle and you have space on the desk to rest your wrists.
Here’s an easy to follow guide of work at home ergonomic tips – dos and don’ts
A height adjustable table is one of the most effective solutions to simultaneously achieve the above 3 conditions by simply adjusting the height of the standing desk.
Plus, it encourages an ergonomic shared workstation for people of varying heights.
Recommended product: Ergotron Standing Desk Converters
Establish boundaries and ground rules
Working next to someone has advantages and disadvantages. Some people prefer to work in a quiet and calm environment, whereas other people thrive off the buzz and find silence deafening.
If there’s a clash of personalities, then it can make it even more difficult to work together.
For that reason, setting some clear rules and boundaries will help to make sharing a desk as pleasant and seamless as possible.
Avoid relying on unspoken rules and assumptions! Instead, set out some rules and courtesies from the very beginning and add to them as you get to know each other’s behaviors.
Factors that can be considered include:
- How do you want your partner to approach you when they want to interrupt you?
- Do you want your co-sharer to limit conversation during work hours?
- Do you prefer to work in complete silence and without distraction or with some radio or music playing in the background?
- What items are you willing to share?
- How will you keep the desk and area clean?
- What to do when you need to make confidential calls?
- Is it ok to eat in the room or should all food be consumed in the kitchen?
- How to manage when you both need a shared item, such as a printer?
Set up a desk cleaning routine
With a shared work space often being used for 40 hours or more, it’s bound to get dirty and unorganized. It’s only fair that both parties contribute to cleaning and maintaining the area.
Therefore, it’s often best to establish a regular desk cleaning routine.
By establishing an effective desk cleaning schedule, both individuals are fully aware of how often the area needs to be cleaned, what should be cleaned in the process and to what standard.
Furthermore, each person should be responsible for their own belongings. Therefore, you should be responsible for keeping your paperwork and drawers organized.
The desk itself should also be kept in a clean state at all times.
If you’re sharing a divided desk, the other person’s belongings shouldn’t be spilling over onto your section of the desk.
A good approach is to adopt a 6S approach to cleaning and maintaining the desk. This involves ensuring that everything is in its place and to a certain standard.
This check could be completed every day or every week to make sure that the shared office desk is kept to an agreed level of tidiness.
Related: How to organize your desk drawers – 12 fool proof steps
Arrange for separate storage areas
If your work or study involves paperwork, books or materials, then you’ll need to consider your storage space. More importantly, there will need to be dedicated storage locations for both individuals.
These storage compartments should be labeled and kept organized to ensure that items do not get mixed up or lost.
Furthermore, the storage area on the desk should also be arranged, especially if you’re not dividing the desk in two.
Create separate spaces on the desk
In an idealistic world, you will have enough space on your desk so that you both will have separate workstations to perform your tasks.
This will probably require either a large straight desk or an L-shaped desk.
Alternatively, you could opt for folding desks for a compact dedicated desk solution.
However, space constraints may not permit that to happen, so you may need to make do with an average sized desk.
If you will both need to work at the desk at the same time, then consider how much space you will both need. This can be based on the equipment and paperwork space you’ll require.
For laptop activities, you’ll need at least a desk depth of 18 inches to fit the laptop while having enough room to type. Obviously, if you can afford to have a deeper desk, then do!
I measured out the minimum space that I required to be able to fit my laptop (15.6 inch) and Logitech MK710 keyboard with wrist rest (9.5 inches wide).
To fit a laptop, keyboard and mouse, allow for a desk with a depth of at least 22 inches and a width of 30 inches.
A desk that’s 30 inches wide allows me to fit a bottle, keyboard and mouse with enough space for moving the mouse around.
However, if you work with computer monitors, laptop, keyboard, mouse and you also require space for paperwork or other gadgets, then this could consume the majority of the desk and leave little room for your partner.
In order to save on space, try moving objects as much to one side of the desk as possible as opposed to having them sitting in the center.
As well as that, consider what items are needed on the desk and what can be removed.
Once this is completed, there may be some space on the side of the desk that can be allocated to the other person.
You could also consider a desk that’s designed for two people, such as the Bivi Table for Two
Tip: When sharing a desk, one person can sit length ways, and the other person can sit at a 90 degree angle to give you both some elbow room.
Agree on shared gadgets and stationery
Stationery or frequently used items should be either separated or designated as shared materials, such as pens or headsets.
This can help to avoid arguments over your belongings being used or misplaced.
Larger items, such as printers, are probably going to be shared.
With such shared items, agree some ground rules so that the:
- equipment is kept clean
- equipment is in good condition
- supplies are maintained, e.g., ink and paper
If items are to be shared, ensure that you won’t both need to use them at the same time, e.g., headphones, printers.
Consider sharing a dividable desk
While straight desks can be shared for the most part, it can be easier to create a desk divide when using a desk designed for 2 people. Alternatively, you could opt for an L-shaped desk.
If you do opt for an L-shaped desk, pay attention to the length of both sides of the desk. Similar to the shape of the letter “L”, one side tends to be shorter.
If you both require about the same amount of space, this will leave one person short of space which could impact on their work and make it feel cramped.
Having an L-shaped desk where both parts are of equal length ensures that both people have the same amount of space.
Plus, it avoids arguments over who gets the larger side of the desk.
If it’s a desk being shared by kids, you’ll definitely want to avoid that hassle!
Sharing a desk at home can be a challenging experience if it’s not properly arranged with some ground rules and desk organization to make it work for both parties.
There will be an element of getting used to each other. But ironing out any problems will help minimize the disruption for both parties.
Ergonomics of the desk should not be forgotten either, following the above tips will be essential to maintaining a good posture and saving you from the agonizing misery of back pain!