Organizing Your Computer Work Space

We are a connected world!  Everyone has a computer or mobile devices with them wherever they go.  Some use the devices for jobs and others for fun.  If a desktop computer or laptop is necessary for your work, it should be kept in your primary work area along with a surge protector for power or charging it.  Be sure to use a surge protector and keep the wires out of walking area for safety.  If possible, keep cords off the floor and out of traffic areas.  If this is not possible, tape down cords to prevent tripping in traffic areas.  Cords under a desk may be bundled together in a plastic or paper tube to prevent tangling.  Secure the tube to a wall or work surface with hooks or tape to prevent rolling.  Below are more tips on computers you may find helpful. 

Laptop Computers
If you are not using your laptop computer in a permanent work area, such as a desk or table, then store it in an alternate location to save your work surface for other work or projects.  When traveling with your laptop for work, load as much presentation information as possible directly into the computer for sales or presentations so there is no need to carry papers, disks, or other drives that could get lost.  If you are working in sales, try to have your sales database or electronic version of forms on the computer for quick data entry.  When traveling with your laptop for fun, pre-load movies, books, and games before leaving on a trip. If your primary work computer is your laptop, then be sure to lock the laptop in a desk or cabinet if you are not taking it with you when leaving your work or current project.  If you are taking it with you, cable locks which attach to the laptop and then to a chair or table leg are another way to secure the laptop in or outside your regular work area. 

Desktop Computer
If your computer is a desktop version, it may have everything built into the monitor or it may have several pieces that include a Central Processing Unit (CPU) which houses the hard drive, removable drives, and various internal boards.  The CPU should be out of the way of the normal work, yet easily accessed when necessary to attach accessories or external disks and drives.   If the CPU is a tower style, then it may be easily placed on the floor rather than work surface to allow more space.  Be sure to place the CPU where bumping it by legs when moving around will not occur  However it still needs to be convenient for inserting disks, drives, or cords. Wherever placing the computer CPU, allow 3 to 6 inches behind the computer for cables and wires. 

Keyboard and Mouse
The computer keyboard should be directly in front of your computer.  In other words, you or other users should not have to lean forward to use the keyboard.  Keyboard extenders or trays may be useful to increase space between the computer monitor and face as well as lower or raise the keyboard to correct height for personalized use.   If using a mouse, it should be next to keyboard on whatever side is your dominant or preferred hand (right or left). If desired, reset mouse buttons for preferred hand using operating system options for mouse.  A wireless keyboard or mouse may be a consideration as they may prevent safety issues and arm stress problems due to pulling caused by wires. Track balls and touch pad devices are also substitute options for the mouse, if the mouse is uncomfortable or does not meet your needs.  These options also eliminate the requirement of space for a mouse pad.  Mouse and keyboard wrist pads or rests for safe and comfortable use are also options for consideration if computer use is frequent.  If you are planning to use a wrist pad or rest, be sure to allow space for it on work surface.

Monitor or Screen
Wherever you decide to put your computer, the monitor should be approximately 18 to 24 inches from your face for optimum viewing.  If your computer monitor must be on the work surface, be sure the depth of workspace is large enough to support selected monitor size and keyboard.  Using a flat screen monitor will save work surface space.  If the monitor is large and comes too close to face for comfort, consider pulling work surface out from wall to accommodate more space behind the monitor.  Monitors may be put on a risen open surface to provide space under the monitor for storing keyboards or other items not in use.  A swing arm to provide extra space on the top of the work surface is also an option that allows more surface space for other work and easily adjusting monitor to location to where work needs to occur. 

To increase ease of viewing and reduce strain from using a computer, tilt the monitor where there is no glare from lights and at slightly below eye level to reduce head and neck movement.  If your find your or other computer users are squinting at the monitor, enlarge icons or text for easier readability.  Adjust monitor brightness to where your eyes feel comfortable with it in room while the work lights on.  Keeping the monitor clean insures visibility, as dust on the monitor can actually contribute to glare.   Reduce your neck strain, while working on the computer, by limiting your head movement.  To limit head movement, place documents for computer processing at the same level as monitor using a document stand next to it or a paper-holding clip on the monitor.  

Files and Folders
Be sure to make folders (directories) on your computer using the same types of categories you might use for paper files.  Then each individual file (or document) related to that category would be placed in that folder.  Be sure to name the files in a way that what is in them is easy to figure out without having to open the file.  Do not use periods (.), spaces, or other symbols in file names as this may confuse the system regarding file extensions.  However you may use the underscore symbol (_) to separate words in a file name.  See the example file and folder names in the following table. 

Save files often while working so if the computer goes down during working session, many hours of work is not lost.  Some computer software applications have the option of setting automatic saves every few minutes.  Check the applications help documentation to learn how to set the time for automatic saves.   Key words for help search to try are “automatic save” or “save interval”. 

It is wise for you to have a contact database on your computer to avoid having to keep files or books of this data.  Many email tools come with a contact databases.  Place all contacts from business cards and other resources into your contact database.  This way retrieving the data can be quick.  Remember to back-up your database in case of computer problems.  If desiring a paper version or your contacts, you may print out the database and store it in a file folder or notebook for travel purposes or in case of computer crashes.

Back-up Files
Be sure to store backup copies of important files on storage media such as disks, USB drives, or “cloud” storage on internet sites.  This way if your computer crashes, retrieving some version of the file is still possible.  Keep your disk and drives in a storage box or case in a specific location where they will be safe from excessive temperatures and magnetic sources.  Be sure to label the media with the type of information stored on them so you can easily and quickly locate the correct one.  This will save your lots of time having to view several storage devices in order to find a specific file.

Back-up important computer files often to prevent loss in case of a hard drive crash.  Archive your computer files on a regular basis (quarterly, bi-annually, or yearly) in order to keep hard drive efficient.  Items to consider for archival are after a project has completed or after a year has passed and files are no longer referenced.  Zip and USB drives are an efficient way to archive much data into a small storage space.  Zipping does not use as much space on a disk so it reduces having multiple disks or drives to store.  Using zip software is also an excellent alternative to sending large documents or graphic files as email attachments.  Zipping a file will compress the file size and make the item upload and download faster.  However, the person on the receiving end must have a compatible software program to unzip the file attachment.  

Unless it is absolutely necessary, you may not want to keep paper copies of files that may be stored in a computer for your easiest access.  Where possible, transfer any paper files to computer disks via scanning to prevent having to have file storage for the paper.  Be sure you name the scanned files appropriately and do not accept the default names that may be assigned v=by the scanner software.


Most computers now allow setting up a password login to assess certain file locations on the computer.  Explore how to accomplish this on your computer and take advantage of it to protect documents and contact lists on the computer.  Try searching computer help files for “password” or “secure” to find out how this may be done.  If working at a company with computer support, ask them to help you set it up.  This is especially important to protect computer work and file access, if more than one person in work area may be using the same computer.    Have virus check software on computer and keep it set to automatically check each time a file comes in and keep it up-to-date for the latest viruses, as new ones come out almost every day.  

No comments: