Steve Fenton

Where to Place your desk in relation to your windows

Half-human, half-bird; the sirens lured hapless sailors to their destruction. Your window could be doing the same to you in your new WFH set up.

Over the years I have been responsible for several office redesigns. The most common trigger for me to wade in and start moving furniture is the location of desks in relation to windows. When the furniture police (see Peopleware, DeMarco & Tim Lister) first chuck desks into an office, they are normally just trying to fit in as many as they can. People can also become distracted by constraints that could easily be resolved, such as power socket positions and network ports; and these may well have been installed by prior generations of misguided facilities personnel. The result of this is desks with bad lighting.

Bad lighting is a classic Goldilocks scenario. You don’t want too little, you don’t want too much. You need to get just the right amount. Additionally, you need to be careful about which direction the light is coming from.

If you have a strong light source, which windows often are, you don’t want it directly in front of you or directly behind you. Being at right-angles to your during light source gives you the benefits of a well lit work space without the problems. ‘What problems?’ You may ask.

If you face onto a window, your screen will never seem bright enough and you’ll squint yourself into frequent headaches or migraines. In your home office set up, you’ll also feel additional stress, because in most modern rooms facing the window means having your back to the door. As a species we have developed a natural fear response to situations that allow people to sneak up on us.

Conversely, having your back to the window will cause problems with reflections and result in you missing out on a potentially calming view.

If you have unlimited scope to fix up your office, for example you’ve decided to build it, your ideal desk position would be one that allows you to view the door, while remaining at right-angles to your strong natural light source. In most home set-ups this will be hard to achieve, so work with your light source in the first instance and solve the door issue after that, for example by adding a mirror to your set up so you know when someone is approaching.

In short, avoid putting your desk right in front of your window, even though it is the most tempting place to drop it. Don’t forget to check the NHS advice on how to sit correctly too.

Written by Steve Fenton on