Here’s How Much Space You Need Between Your Desk and a Wall

Having the right amount of space behind your desk is one of those details you don’t think about before it becomes a problem. If this isn’t a problem for you yet, great job on being proactive! 

If this is a problem for you, don’t worry, we’re going to cover ways to get more space between your desk and your wall as well. 

Whether the challenge is fitting your desk well in the middle of the room, or seeing if a small space can accommodate a desk setup in the first place – knowing the minimum amount of space between the desk and your wall is pretty important. 

This can make a huge difference when it comes to being comfortable and actually enjoying being at your desk. If you can’t be comfortable, is it work setting up a desk in that type of location anyways? 

We’re going to touch on all these topics here so you can make the most of your desk setup, no matter where the walls are! 

Key Takeaways

  • 36 inches is the common answer to the question of how much space do you need between your desk and a wall. 
  • This is just a starting point and your optimal space requirements can increase or decrease based on other factors. 

Why This Minimum Space Is Important

Let’s talk about the main reasons this distance to the wall is an important consideration. 

Freedom of Movement

The biggest advantage of them all is having freedom of movement. Imagine trying to stretch and just crashing into the walls around you instead. That’s how the claustrophobia kicks in.

When you have freedom of movement, you do not limit important factors of your desk setup such as ergonomics and general comfort. 

Enough room behind your desk means you can move your chair back and stretch your legs. It means you can fit a larger ergonomic chair. This means you are able to swivel your chair from side to side. You can recline more. The list goes on forever. 

When you have a cramped space, you can’t move freely, and that just makes for an unusable workspace in my opinion. You will quickly feel claustrophobic, and uncomfortable when you physically feel limited with space. 

Better Access

General comfort is not the only reason to give yourself room. You know how much room you need to set up a fresh desk? You need to get under the desk and plug things in, manage cables, and more. 

When you have more room between your desk and the wall, you give yourself more room for anything else that requires some wiggle room. 

Better access to the technology on the backside of your desk means you won’t dread going back there to troubleshoot or perform any normal maintenance. 

You can actually have space to move your desk forward and work from the backside if necessary. All this is possible by first having enough room in front of your desk.


Not many people think about safety related spacing when it comes to household furniture. Afterall, there are no OSHA standards for your own home. 

But trust me, if there was, having enough space between your desk and your wall would be a solid requirement. And for good reason. 

If there is an emergency and you have to bolt out of your house, or help someone nearby, you don’t want anything to get in your way. Being panicked without much freedom of movement can have big consequences. 

Do not obstruct your own mobility with your desk setup! 

Finding the Minimum Space Available To You

Now that we know the space between your desk and wall is important, let’s calculate how much space you have available. Once we get this number, we can compare it to the optimal space in the next section. 

Desk Depth

We recently published an article on how deep a desk should be. In another article we talk about how monitor size can drive you desk depth too. Check these out if you are still in the market for a desk. These articles have helpful insights that will help you get the best desk functionality for your money. 

If you do already have the desk in question, measure its depth. Keep this number in mind. 

Desk Depth Measurements (1)

Room Size

Now measure the remaining space for the room in question. 

If you are trying to place a desk in the middle of the room, you will have more flexibility. You can skip to the optimal distance section. 

However, if you are tight on space and want to know if your desk will give you enough space between the walls, measure your room’s width. This should be along the same dimension as the desk’s depth we measured.

Calculate The Minimum Space Available

Now simply subtract your room width by your desk’s depth. This gives you the remainder of space between your desk and your wall. 

Keep in mind you might want to keep an extra inch or so behind the desk free so you have room to route cables and such. 

With just these two variables, it’s simple to know what you have to do to get more space between you and your desk. You probably have to reorient your desk so you are not trapped between a wall, or you have to grab a desk with a slimmer desk depth. 

Now comes the question – is this space enough? 

The Optimal Space Between Your Desk And A Wall

A common answer that is floating around the internet is that 36 inches should be the minimum amount of space between your desk and a wall. But where does this number come from? And why? 

The articles I found that claim these numbers do not cite any scientific sources or standards. So we’re going to use some logic and think about this number from scratch. 

Minimal vs Optimal

What is the actual minimum amount of space between a desk and a wall, and what is optimal? 

When I think of a comfortable desk setup, at a minimum you should have the ability to roll your chair out from your desk, swivel 90 degrees, and exit without any collisions. 

Optimally, you should have the ability to recline in your chair while you are at your desk without your head hitting the wall behind you. 

As you can tell, the type of chair you have can influence this minimum distance significantly. In our article on the average chair dimensions, we found that popular chairs had a depth that ranged anywhere from 22 inches up to 26 inches.

You can imagine we need more space than our chair depth if we need to rotate our legs in and out of our desk. 

Here comes the other variable! If you are a smaller person, you may not need as much room as a larger person for this extra leg clearance. 

The 36″ desk space value is starting to make more sense. With a 26 inch deep chair, you have an extra 10 inches for your legs and reclining abilities. That’s somewhat roomy. Your chair is not cramped in that space. 

While 36 inches might be a good place to start for the minimum distance between your desk and a wall, keep in mind that your chair and your own size can influence this! 

The best way to find out the optimal distance for you is to use your own chair and leg measurements to ensure you have a comfortable and ergonomic desk setup. 36 inches will be a good place to start, but it won’t work for everyone. 

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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!