When I started working from home last March (exactly one month after selling my hacked-together IKEA desk on Craigslist!), the only workspace available to me was my kitchen table. Stuff started piling up quick. First, a laptop stand and keyboard. Next, a monitor and a desk lamp. Then: notebooks, pens, hand sanitizer, USB hubs, headphone charging cables, a candle, face masks, used mugs, a box of tissues, mail, half completed puzzles, hand cream, a bunch of bananas. My desk was everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Leisure was work, day was night, up was down, and I had a recurring standing meeting with my not-yet-ripe bananas. The solution to this mess turned out to be…a massive sheet of wool.
Grovemade wool felt desk pad
When you hear the words “desk pad” you probably think of a some mahogany and leather monstrosity with tiny angled pen holders you might find at a bank teller window. But the latest laptop-friendly versions are a whole lot sleeker and less stuffy (they don’t look at all like they were stolen from a white-shoe law firm in the ‘80s). They can be made of slick neoprene, like a mousepad, sturdy wool, or, yes, in some cases, buttery leather. Throw one on top of your ramshackle workstation and you’ll notice immediate benefits. Namely: a defined desk area. Just like a rug can delineate space in a large open-plan, a desk pad creates a clear physical boundary around a work space. There’s also the large coaster effect: It protects your table or desk from stains, scratches, or dripping candle wax.
After installing my desk mat I felt a good deal of my general work-from-home funk disappear. This marled grey wool mat was certainly no substitute for a commute, co-workers, and an actual office, but it helped a little bit—I had a real desk, even amidst the chaos of my kitchen.
Some recent co-worker Slack chatter revealed that I’m not alone in my devotion to my desk mat. Below, a short compilation of the other desk mats GQ staffers have embraced in the WFH era.
Grovemade leather desk pad
The platonic ideal of a desk mat.
Steelseries QCK cloth gaming mousepad
A massive mat specifically designed for gamers, and plenty good enough for you.
Alvin large cutting mat
Big “budding-architect” vibes.
Orbitkey desk mat
This desk mat has a hidden storage area, for keeping loose paper and notes nearby, but out of sight. It also has a cable holder, if you need some help corralling your cords.