Best Desk Setups For Programming From Actual Programmers

Programmers spend a ton of time at their desks, to say the least. Turns out, a well thought out desk setup can keep you programming for longer hours and even make you more effective! 

This means surrounding yourself with productivity-focused accessories without losing the creature comforts for those long program-heavy nights. 

In this article, we’re going to walk through everything you could need for a super dialed-in programming desk setup. All recommendations in this article are from actual programmers over on Reddit. 

If you want to talk more about programming (including desk setups!), check out the following subreddits!

r/ExperiencedDevs
r/DailyProgrammer
r/LearnProgramming
r/csCareerQuestions

There are much more, find an exhaustive list of programmer subreddits here. Without further ado, let’s get into how you can dial in the best programming desk setup possible! 

Key Takeaways

  • The first step in creating a programmer-friendly desk setup is to invest in productivity tools that let you be more efficient. This results in getting more stuff done in less time. 
  • The next step is to make sure your desk setup is ergonomic. You will be more comfortable for long hours, and your future body will thank you a hundred times over. 
  • Lastly, you need to make that workspace inviting. It helps that it’s a productive and comfortable space, but you should add touches to make it yours and make you actually want to spend time at your desk.
  • We touch on all of these topics in detail, so keep reading for specifics! 

Invest In Accessories That Elevate Your Programming

If you could set up your desk in a way that meant you got more done and had better problem-solving tools, you probably would right? Well here are some accessories that do exactly that and hugely elevate programmer desk setups. 

Everything on this list has been recommended by experienced programmers themselves. 

Multiple 27″ or 32″ Monitors For Multitasking

Multiple monitors have always been key to productive desk setups. You can reference multiple programs, references, and guides along with your main programming software. 

Multiple monitors allow you to have a “main screen” and a “secondary (or reference) screen”. With this setup, you will no longer have Spotify or Slack take up any of your precious main-screen real estate. Your main screen can now be dedicated to your programming. 

Don’t just limit yourself to two screens either! Some programmers have even six screens! 

Larger monitors that also have higher resolutions will let you clearly see multiple programs on a single monitor. Also, if you like your text really small, definitely opt for a 4K screen. You will be able to zoom out and still have great text clarity. 

In lieu of two monitors, you can also opt for ultrawide monitors as well. Typical monitors have a 16:9 ratio, but ultrawide monitors can have a 21:9 or even 32:9 ratio. That results in a wider screen that can comfortably present multiple windows on a single monitor. 

Another pro tip for programmers – mount one monitor vertically! We have a dedicated article on how to vertically mount your monitors here

One vertical monitor lets you see much more of your code so you don’t have to scroll nearly as much. A vertical monitor can also give you one of the most compact dual monitor arrangements

Premium Wireless Keyboard & Mouse

vacuuming desk mat to remove dirt and make it clean

No programmer deserves to use a cheap and clunky keyboard for translating their creative thoughts into functional code. If you make a living from programming, you deserve to upgrade your very interface with your computer – your keyboard and mouse

A high quality keyboard with well designed keys and integrated shortcuts will be a game changer for folks who type all day long. 

I currently use a cheap keyboard at work, but when I come home, I type on my personal Logitech MX Keys keyboard. There is a night-and-day improvement in typing quality and responsiveness.

Premium Pick
Logitech MX Keys Advanced Backlit Keyboard

This keyboard has perfect stroke keys for satisfying feedback, smart illumination, and hand proximity detection. It's comfortable, stable, and customizable. It stays powered up to 10 days on a full charge, or up to 5 months with backlighting turned off. Flow cross-computer control allows for typing on multiple computers in one workflow.

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The MX Keys is my personal favorite keyboard along with the MX Master 3 mouse. This mouse also has a bunch of keys and a horizontal scroll wheel. All buttons can be fully customized! 

Logitech MX Master 3S – Wireless Performance Mouse
4.7
Pros:
  • Ergonomic shape for all-day comfort
  • High density tracking sensor
  • Quiet clicks (improvement over MX 3)
  • Magspeed scroll wheel
  • High level of customization & shortcuts
  • Three computer memory settings
Cons:
  • Pricey, but you get what you pay for.
Check Price on Amazon

 They also have an ergonomic version of this setup called the Ergo K860 Keyboard and the

Lift Mouse
4.6

Logitech Lift Vertical Ergonomic Mouse is a comfortable cordless mouse for small to medium hands with customizable buttons, quiet clicks, and a SmartWheel for smooth scrolling. Ergo-certified and with up to 2 years battery life, it can connect via Bluetooth or Logi Bolt USB to various operating systems.

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If you like mechanical keyboards, it’s worth checking out quality brands like Keychron. These are praised by most in the mechanical keyboard community, and that includes programmers. 

You can also checkout RTings’ list of best keyboards for programming here. 

Whiteboards For Visual Problem Solving

If you have some wall space, a whiteboard is a fantastic functional addition for any programmer. Solving problems visually by drawing out flow charts or logic maps can really help with mental blocks or laying out complicated systems. 

If you place it higher on a wall, this forces you to get up from the chair and engage yourself a bit more while solving problems. 

You can even invest in a magnetic whiteboard. This allows you to keep notes and papers up on the whiteboard. You can also cover up the entire whiteboard with some magnetic-backed artwork if you want to hide it after hours. 

This is an affordable tool that can help pretty dramatically. 

Good Headphones For Deep Focus

Headphone Stand

There are two reasons programmers should invest in some decent headphones. 

  • Use music to increase focus
  • Isolate your ears from surrounding noise

Increase Your Focus

Not everyone can work with music in the background. Some people need complete silence, others require some music to fill the air. Which type are you?

Personally, I need some instrumental music to effectively get work done. Songs with lyrics distract me too much. 

Decrease The Distractions

Isolating yourself from the noise around you brings us to noise-cancelling headphones. These fancy headphones use the ANC designation which stands for Active Noise Cancelling. These are great for a couple of reasons. 

If you prefer silence and there is a ton of commotion around you, ANC headphones can reduce this noise dramatically! 

Using active noise-cancelling headphones with music on as well makes you not hear anything around you at all! 

This doesn’t apply only to people who work in a busy office setting. There are plenty of times when I am working at home and there is construction nearby or the gardener is using the leaf blower right outside my door. 

In those situations, I simply pop on my Sony WH-1000XM4s and keep working without a problem. 

I was hesitant to pay the price for these headphones, but all the reviews spoke highly of them so I bit the bullet. Now my standards for headphones are ridiculously high. They are super comfortable and have fantastic sound quality. 

Sony WH-1000XM4 Noise Canceling Headphones

These headphones offer industry-leading active noise canceling with up to 30-hour battery life and quick charging (10 minutes for 5 hours of playback), so you can listen all day. The WH1000XM4 side touch sensor controls allow you to manage your music, volume, voice assistant, and phone calls.

Check Price on Amazon

If you want the latest and greatest, the

and Sony further improved the ANC system. 

If you’re an Apple user, the AirPods Max is a great over-the-ear ANC headphone as well. 

A quick note on the types of headphones out there, over-the-ear headphones will give you the best comfort. In-ear headphones will be less comfortable but will have better noise cancellation. 

In-ear headphones literally block up your ear canal which helps with noise cancellation dramatically. If you want to put in long hours, however, comfort trumps all else. Over-the-ear headphones are my go-to every time. 

Learn more about over-the-ear vs in-ear headphones here

Effortless Connectivity with A Decent Docking Station

If you have a main laptop that you primarily take back and forth to the office, a decent Thunderbolt docking station makes setup and breakdown as simple and as fast as possible. 

A single thunderbolt cable with a docking station can connect your laptop to multiple monitors, multiple USB devices, and even change your laptop too. 

docking station on desk

I have an older Dell Thunderbolt 3 docking station for my Dell XPS 15, and this single cable connection does the following:

  • Charges my laptop
  • Extends my display to my 34″ Monitor
  • Connects my speakers (through the monitor)
  • Connects to my Stream Deck
  • Connects to my printer
  • Activates my monitor’s USB ports

That’s a ton of stuff happening with just a single cable connection! Having a Thunderbolt docking station at your office and at your home makes quick work of getting set up. Put down your laptop and plug in the single cable – done. 

Here are some great Thunderbolt docking stations worth looking at. When shopping for a docking station, think about the types of ports and connections you would need. Also, keep in mind the max resolution of all the monitors you want to connect as well. 

Kensington SD2500T Thunderbolt 3 Dock

This Thunderbolt 3 dock is compatible with MacBooks and Windows laptops with Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 4, or USB-C ports. It supports fast transfer speeds and 4K Ultra HD to two monitors or 8k to a single monitor.

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The Rubber Duck, Of Course

Don’t forget one of these bad boys when you want to break down your programming problems. 

Happy Trees Duck Bath Toy Large Bath Duck Squeak Rubber Duck Baby Shower, 7 Inches
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Treat Yourself With Ergonomic Accessories

Ergonomics is everything if you want a desk setup where you can put long hours in. Your body will be thanking you years into the future if you pay attention to dialing in your ergonomics right away. 

Here is a breakdown of what makes a desk setup ergonomic, and what accessories can help you with this goal. 

Height Adjustable Desk To Dial-In Comfort

First things first, your desk. Did you know most desks are too tall for people? We talk about this in-depth in our article on the height of a standard desktop. The TL;DR: most desk heights are around 29 inches, and according to desk height calculators, that is for a relatively tall person. 

Most people think that height-adjustable desks are only good for standing. Well, that’s pretty inaccurate. A huge benefit that folks don’t talk about is that standing desks give you the flexibility to have an even more ergonomic seated height as well. 

FEZIBO Height Adjustable Electric Standing Desk, 40 x 24 Inches Stand up Table, Sit Stand Home Office Desk with Splice Board, Black Frame/Rustic Brown Top
  • Electric Height Adjustable Lifting System: FEZIBO standing desk has reliable motor that could support height adjustment between 27.3''-45.5'' (30.3''-48.5'' with...
  • Stable Construction And Solid Material: Our Home office desk applied an industrial-grade alloy steel frame combined with a solid desktop that allows for a 176 lbs weight...
  • Memory Height & Anti-Collison Technology: Standing desk has 3 programmable memory height buttons. If the adjustable desk encounters obstacles when lifting, it will move...
  • Work From Home: The stand up desk allows independent and remote workers to stay active, healthy, and productive while long-term working from home. Precisely adjust your...
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You can lower your desk to the perfect height to match your exact requirements. Say goodbye to fixed-height desks that just don’t work for you.

So what height should you dial your desk height to? An ideal desk height is one where your arms and elbows are level with the tabletop while your feet are flat on the floor. Like in the image below:

Adjust your chair so your feet are flat on the floor. Then keep lowering the desk until your arms are level with the desk. That’s it!

Working With Fixed Height Desks

If you don’t want to part ways with your desk, or you don’t want to spend on a fancy standing desk just yet, there are ways to make your current desk work. 

Hopefully, you have a height-adjustable office chair. If you don’t check out our article that talks about chairs of all different budgets here

Adjust your chair until your arms are level with the top surface of your desk, just like we did with the standing desks. 

If your desk is too tall, your feet will not be seated flat on the floor. If it’s too short, you will notice that the underside of your knee lifts off your chair. 

There are fixes for both of these. If your desk is too short and your feet are dangling, use a footrest. I use the exact one shown below. 

CushZone Under Desk Foot Rest
4.5

This CushZone footrest provides a comfortable sitting position, it elevates your legs which can improve blood circulation in the legs. It features an adjustable height, high-quality foam, and a non-slip and machine-washable cover.

Check Price on Amazon

We have a dedicated article on how to make your desk taller here. It involves using some furniture risers. Your desk counts as furniture! 

Flechazo Pack of 8 Furniture Bed Risers, 2 or 4 Inch Heavy Duty Adjustable Furniture Risers with Non-Slip Mats for Bed, Desk, Sofa and Table
  • 【DURABLE MATERIA】 The upper layer ofbed risers are made of sturdy PP material, each riser can support heavy duty furniture up to 1103 lbs, Anti-slip design of the top...
  • 【FULL AND HALF SIDES DESIGN】You can use the full side when the size of your furniture foot is small. When the size of your furniture foot is large and does not fit...
  • 【STACKABLE DESIGN】Customize to you own needs can be used either as a single layer or multi-layer and make the position under the furniture larger, better clean the...
  • 【WIDELY APPLICABLE】Full side and half side design is suitable for furniture legs of various widths, like bed , sofa, table, washing machine, fridge.
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An Ergonomically Focused Chair

For the longest time, I used a $20 chair. I guess I never really wondered why I needed to change positions every 20 seconds. 

I currently use a Herman Miller office chair that I found off Facebook Marketplace. The difference in comfort is ridiculous. 

It is very clear when a company makes a chair that just has a base and a back, versus one where there is actual thought put into anatomy and supporting the body adequately. 

Make Your Home Or Work Office Chair More Comfortable

A chair that is ergonomically focused is highly adjustable and is made from high-quality materials that don’t degrade nearly as fast as cheaper chairs. They do come at a high cost. 

But if you are prone to any back pain or posture-related issues, a quality chair is a must. Even for those who don’t have those issues, poor seating solutions could actually lead to those issues in the future. Do yourself a favor and look into some affordable seating. 

High-quality brands that you should look for in the new or used market include Herman Miller and Steelcase. Both of these brands knock ergonomics out of the park with their performance office seating solutions.

If I had to recommend the best all arounder chair, it would be the Steelcase Series 1 or Amia. We have a comparison of the Steelcase Series 1 and Series 2 here.  

Monitor Shelves Or Mounting Arms

Another important ergonomic dimension is your monitor height. We have a dedicated article on how to find your ideal monitor height here. This is critical for programmers to get right because they stare at their screens all day like a hawk. 

Ideally, your eyes should be level with the upper region of your monitor. The problem is, not all monitors have adjustable height stands to get this setup right. If they do, not all of them go high enough. 

To dial in that monitor height, I recommend using a monitor arm or a monitor shelf. 

Monitor Arms

A monitor arm is simply an aftermarket monitor stand that replaces the factory stand. Your monitor needs to have the VESA hole pattern on the back of it to support this ability. Most monitors have this feature. 

Monitor arms can clamp onto your table, attach to grommet holes, and even mount to the wall. 

gas spring monitor arm

They give you a very flexible positioning ability. This means positioning that monitor to the ideal ergonomic height and distance away from you will be a breeze. We have the complete list of monitor mount benefits here. 

North Bayou Monitor Desk Mount

This monitor mount is universal and fits most 17''-30'' monitors. It has a durable gas spring system for easy positioning, supports C-clamp or grommet installation, and improves overall well-being by creating a comfortable viewing angle for work or gaming, reducing strain on the spine, neck, and shoulders.

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Not sure what VESA mounts are? Check out our article on VESA mounting 101. If your monitor doesn’t have VESA holes you can use a VESA adapter that we talk about in this article

Monitor Shelves

Another alternative to monitor mounts is using a monitor shelf or “computer riser”. These are simple shelves that sit on your desk. Your monitor can then sit on top of this shelf to give your monitor that ergonomic height boost. 

Laptop with monitor shelf behind it

We have an article on the benefits of these desk shelves here, as well as how the desk shelves compare to the monitor arms we touched on above. 

Wrist Rests For Your Keyboard & Mouse

When you’re programming all day long, you also want to make sure your wrists are happy. If you have a dialed-in desk height/chair height, as we talked about above, you are already giving your wrists a huge comfort boost.

To give them a further boost, consider adding wrist rests for your mouse and keyboard. This is pretty much a requirement if you don’t have a slim profile keyboard. 

A thick mechanical keyboard will require a wrist rest to elevate your wrists to be in a more natural position with your keyboard. 

The best part, this is a super affordable accessory! 

Gorilla Grip Gel Memory Foam Wrist Rest for Computer Keyboard, Mouse, Ergonomic Design for Typing Pain Relief, Desk Pads Support Hand and Arm, Mousepad Rests, Stain Resistant, 2 Piece Pad, Black
  • ULTRA THICK MEMORY FOAM: experience more comfort while you work; thickest memory foam interior of the wrist rest features an ergonomic, slow rebound for more comfort than...
  • ERGONOMIC DESIGN: forget sore wrists and fingers when typing and using a mouse; these rests are designed to help alleviate sore muscles, stress, and aches and pains by...
  • SLIP-RESISTANT BACKING: the ultra durable bottom layer of the rests are designed to stay in place on most desk surfaces, so you can worry less about adjustments and focus...
  • SUPERIOR CONSTRUCTION: featuring a 3 layer design, the rests are designed for long lasting use; durable rubber bottom stays in place on most surfaces; thick inner memory...
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A Big Old Water Bottle

If you’re in a deep focus mode, you won’t want to leave your desk and break your train of thought while programming. That’s why a big old water bottle is just a good idea. 

Stay hydrated and keep the programming going! Just know you’ll have to take a bathroom break if you stay well-hydrated anyways. 

Also, don’t let a water bottle stop you from taking a break from your work. A small walk away from your desk is healthy too! 

Make Your Desk Setup Inviting

Now that we have an efficient and comfortable place to program, let’s start making it a bit more personalized and inviting. This last step is going to make you actually want to go work at your comfortable and efficient desk setup! 

Give Yourself A Good Fidget Toy

There are plenty of times when you have to just sit and think instead of coding away. If you have a hard time sitting still, it’s probably worth getting a fidget toy or two. 

Here are some popular fidget toys that programmers use.

  • Stress Ball
  • Rubiks Cube
  • Fidget Spinner (remember those?)

These are only for those that find themselves needing to do something with their hands as they think. I personally am fine bouncing my leg, but that can cause a lot of noise for coworkers. 

Add Some Aesthetic Features

Add A Frame Or Two Of Loved Ones

Remembering what’s actually important in life helps. Programming isn’t everything! Having a frame of your friends or family can make your desk a bit more homey and inviting. 

Have a pet? Frame that little guy or girl! Have some epic pictures from a recent vacation? Print those out!

These touches make being at work a bit more bearable on the hard days. 

Green Up Your Workspace With Plants

Plants can add some beautiful colors to your workspace. I always have my trusty snake plant with me. It’s easy enough to take care of! 

Benq e-reading lamp - glare issue

They are a pretty cost-effective decor solution as well. As long as you take care of it, they grow and your workspace slowly morphs as a result. Here’s a list of low-maintenance indoor plants you can add to your workspace. 

Don’t want to maintain plants because you’re busy coding? I understand. Here are some faux plants that can still bring life to your workspace. 

Der Rose 2 Packs Small Fake Plants Mini Artificial Potted Plants for Table Desk Home Bathroom Office Decor
  • 【Product size】 The fake plants with flowers are about 7.48 inches high and 2.56 inches wide, they are very lightweight and easy to be placed, suitable for indoor and...
  • 【Material】 These faux plants are made of high-quality plastic, they can't be broken easily and are very durable.
  • 【Advantages】 Different from other products, our artificial potted plants have uniquely designed flowers, which are more beautiful and have higher applicability. These...
  • 【Multiple scenarios】 These small artificial plants are suitable to be the office plants, or bathroom, living room, office, study, etc. They can also be placed on...
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JC nateva 16" Small Fake Plants Artificial Potted Faux Plants for Office Desk Shelf Bathroom Home Decor
  • 【Package Includes】:You will get 1 pack artificial plant which has 12 beautiful taro Leaves, measures appr. 15"-16 "height in total , 2.42 lb weight
  • 【Realistic and Real Touch】:The small fake plants was made of plastic.The pot was made of good paper pulp. Please keep the pot indoors away from water. The product is...
  • 【Maintenance and Hassle Free】:Our faux plant for living room decor needs no maintenance, neither will die nor wilt. Enjoy the natural beauty of the plants without...
  • 【Delicate Design】:The house plants look as close to reality as possible,allowing you to feel the presence of nature.All seasons are green,bringing a touch of green to...
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Add Some Art or Knick Knacks & More

There are a ton more ways to personalize your workspace to make it more inviting. If you have a favorite place, sport, or show, these can all be displayed at your desk or on your walls in one way or another. 

Your interests and creativity are the limits here! I like to browse the r/workspaces subreddit if I need some inspiration or brainstorm ideas to elevate my workspace.  

Minimize & Organize

minimalistic and spacious desk setup

A cluttered desk can be a pretty uninviting space to be in. Check out our thorough guide on getting a minimal desk setup and all the benefits. 

The benefits I personally experience every day with my desk setup are:

  • Fewer distractions
  • Forces better organization
  • Finding items is quick work
  • Aesthetics are unbeatable

Minimal desk setups involve just leaving out only what you need, and everything else goes in drawers if used frequently. If not used frequently, what is it even doing at your desk?

You will spend less time being distracted, looking for items, etc, and have more time to focus on the coding. 

Keep The Coffee Warm & Flowing

If you are a slow coffee drinker, your first sip is perfect, but your fourth or fifth sip is ice cold. I am excited to tell you that this problem has been solved! 

There are two solutions here, you can get a coffee warmer or a smart mug. 

Coffee warmers are simply hot plates that you place your coffee mugs on. You keep the hot plate on your desk so whenever you reach for the mug, you have a nice warm cup of coffee. This is exactly how coffee makers keep the coffee pot warm. 

You can set the exact temperature you want, and they also come with a programmable auto shutoff timer for safety purposes. 

A smart mug on the other hand is a lot fancier than a simple hot plate. This is a standalone temperature-controlled mug! It has a heating element inside of the mug itself. No need to put a hot plate on your desk.

The mug can be hand washed and has a charging pad that the mug can be stored on when not in use. You can even dial in the mug’s target temperature on your phone. (I guess there is an app for everything these days.)

The popular smart mug that programmers love is the Ember Smart Mug. It’s a very clean and simple designed mug but just be prepared for the price tag. 

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug 2, 10 Oz, App-Controlled Heated Coffee Mug with 80 Min Battery Life and Improved Design, Black
  • Ember Coffee Mug with Longer Lasting Battery: Our updated smart coffee mug's extended battery life keeps your drink at your preferred temperature (between 120°F -...
  • Smart With or Without App: Pair this temperature control mug with the Ember app to set the temperature, customize presets and more; Our self-heating coffee mug is also...
  • Auto Sleep: Our heated coffee mug intelligently senses when to turn on and off; The mug enters sleep mode when empty or after 2 hours of inactivity; Ember wakes up when...
  • Hand Wash Only: An updated scratch-resistant coating is safe to hand wash; Ember Mug 2 is IPX7 rated and fully submersible up to 1 meter deep
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A coffee warmer or smart mug can keep your coffee fresh for much longer so you can just focus on the programming.

Manage Those Cables

hide monitor cables (2)

Last, but certainly not least – manage your cables. We talked about a lot of electronics that elevate your programming and elevated your workspace. 

It’s not going to be a pretty sight if you don’t manage all of those cables. Lucky for you, we have in-depth guides on how to do this effectively. Check out any of the following articles:

Hide Cables On Your Desk

How To Hide Cables Under Your Desk

How To Hide Monitor Cables

Photo of author

Dasun

I'm a big time workspace enthusiast who is constantly experimenting with my setup. Sharing along the way to help people make their own desk setups more functional and inviting, whether it be for productivity or play!

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