Like cleaning the oven or finally getting round to cleaning out that one over-filled junk draw, taking care of basic desk cable management is one of those important tasks that very few people truly enjoy doing yet which can make a tremendous difference.
Sure, it might not be all that necessary if the only cable in your workspace is the power supply for your laptop, but once you start adding external monitors, mice, speakers, and other peripherals, all of the cables can quickly add up.
The results can be a cluttered workspace which, at best, distracts you from having a productive session at your desk and, at worst, poses a not-insubstantial health risk.
That’s before we even mention the fact that the massive knot of cables currently wreaking small havoc around your otherwise perfectly-setup workstation can actually damage the cables themselves and stop your vital office equipment from working.
Take this from someone speaking from first-hand experience; there’s not much more frustrating or stress-inducing than needing to get some work done to meet a deadline only to find that your laptop’s out of commission because a poorly-cared-for power cable no longer works.
So yes, taking care of those cables is important, but, unlike cleaning the oven, this is one task that doesn’t have to be a laborious chore.
Here are 8 desk cable management tips to help keep your workspace clean and clutter-free and ensure those all-important cables continue to work perfectly for a long time to come.
8 Desk Cable Management Tips
1. Go Wireless
What’s the easiest way to get rid of cable clutter around your workspace? Get rid of the cables altogether, of course.
These days, it’s possible to buy everything from wireless keyboards and mice to cable-free headsets and more. There are even portable monitors with in-built speakers that can run off a fully-charged battery pack for several hours at a time, eliminating the need for even more cables.
OK, so it’s an option, but let’s be honest, it’s probably not the kind of desk cable management tip you were really looking for, is it?
Going wireless means replacing all of your existing tech with new cable-free office equipment and that’s not something everyone has the budget for, especially if you’ve just spent your office budget for the year on that brand new executive chair you’ve had your eye on.
Besides, the jury is still out on exactly how safe radiation from Bluetooth and WiFi really is.
So, yes, if you’re setting up a brand new office, then going wireless from the beginning might be a good way to proceed.
Otherwise, here’s a few more practical and affordable cable management ideas that will work with your existing kit.
2. Start from Scratch and Label Everything
There’s much more to cable management than simply clearing away the clutter from your desk.
One of the more overlooked aspects is ensuring that you can quickly identify which cable belongs to which device. That way, if you do decide to upgrade your technology, you don’t have to waste time tracing the cable to the power source just so you can work out which one you have to remove.
Unplug everything, one at a time, and make sure that each cable is clearly identifiable. Maybe you put one label on the plug head and another wrapped around the cable itself like a tag.
That way, if you do need to make some changes, you’ll save a lot of time.
3. Use a Hole in the Desk to Run Cables Through
OK, so you’ve got your cables neatly labeled and could easily tell your monitor lead from your speaker’s power supply in a moment’s glance. Yet if you simply started plugging everything in again exactly as it was before then you’re not going to make much progress.
Where possible then, it might make sense to make a small hole in the surface of your computer desk and route your cables through it.
If you only have one or two cables to worry about, you could simply drill holes just big enough for each individual cable, but if you have a fair few, then that’s going to get very messy very quickly and could easily end up ruining the look of your expensive desk.
As such, you might find it a better idea to create one larger hole out of view (such as behind your double-monitor set-up, for example) and route all of your cables through it so that they’re all neatly positioned together at the back of your desk rather than sprawled out in a jumbled clutter, taking up valuable real estate on your desk.
OK, so even one larger hole can be a bit unsightly, but that’s why you invest just a few dollars on some cheap desk grommets which not only hold all those cables in place but also help keep the desktop nice, neat, and tidy.
4. Use an Under-Desk Cable Rack
You may have solved the problem of cables cluttering up your desk space, but that still leaves the small matter of what you’re going to do about all of those loose cables dangling under your desk and getting all twisted and tangled.
The easiest way to solve this problem is with an under-desk cable management rack or tray.
Relatively inexpensive (especially in the context of what a game-changer they can be to your workspace, these handy racks simply screw into the underside of your wooden work desk and hold both your power surge protector and multiple cables all in a neat and tidy fashion.
While there are numerous such racks out there, we’re fans of the Under Desk Cable Management Tray from Scandanavian Hub because of the breathable design which means plenty of airflow gets to your plugs to stop them from overheating and because they’re one of the easiest cable management trays to install.
5. Use Shorter Cables
Even if you’ve created a whole new infrastructure to keep your desk cables in check, you may still find that something just doesn’t look quite right.
This could be because the leads and cables that came with your devices are just a little bit too long to be easily manageable, and no matter how hard you try to keep them in order, they still end up looking like a complete mess.
Here’s where we may need to let you in on a little secret:
There’s no obligation to use the original cables if you can get them shorter.
There are companies out there that will provide just about any cable you can think of at a size that’s made to measure, but if that’s not an option, you can always just shop around to find cables that are an appropriate length without being so long that they create all kinds of clutter.
On the one hand, this is an ideal solution.
Simply set-up that under-desk cable management tray we looked at a few moments ago, measure the length between your device and the surge protector you put in that tray, and order a new cable of that length. It’s a great way to minimize the amount of cable you need, and thus the amount of mess you’re likely to create around your work area.
On the other hand, however, this does leave you with very little room to maneuver, so if you decide to change things around on your desk you may find that you need to order a brand new cable just because you chose to move your monitor a few inches to the left.
6. Grab some Cable Ties and Bind Everything Together
OK, so you’ve got shorter cables and you’ve set up a cable management tray, but you’re still faced with the problem of individual wires drooping down into that tray.
Or maybe you found that a desk cable management rack simply wasn’t an option because you have a glass desk or other unsuitable worktop surface.
Either way, you’re going to need something to keep those cables in order.
One simple and affordable solution is to grab a cheap bag of zip ties and bind them together.
Start by ensuring that all your cables are tangle-free, then group them together and strap them into place using three zip ties; one near the top where the cables meet near your devices, one at the bottom as they go towards your socket, and one in the middle to keep them securely in place.
When you’re done, be sure to take a pair of scissors and neatly nip off the loose end of the tie to keep things looking tidy.
7. Group Your Cables Together in a Cable Sleeve
If you have a whole bunch of cables then you may find that simply tying them up with zip ties doesn’t quite work and still leaves things looking untidy.
This is where a good quality cable management sleeve can come into its own.
In much the same way that you do with zip ties, you can simply gather all (or at least a bunch) of your cables together in one neat, untangled group and then wrap a thick, durable cable sleeve around them.
That way, you only have one longer cord hanging from the back of your desk rather than many.
Of course, we say ‘hanging,’ but here’s a bonus desk cable management tip for you:
Once you’ve grouped all of your cords together in that cable sleeve, you can simply tape it to the underside of your desk or against a wall (if your desk is facing one) to keep it out of the way.
8. Use Removable Cable Clips for Portable Devices
Last but by no means least, never underestimate what a big difference removable adhesive cable clips can make to your workspace.
So far, we’ve focused almost exclusively on decluttering those cables that are a permanent part of your workspace, but what about those that are essential for your portable device such as the charger for your smartphone or tablet or the cable for those headphones you take everywhere with you?
Just because you’ll eventually need to pick them up and carry them away doesn’t mean that they have to make your workspace look untidy.
Adhesive cable clips can attach to the side or front-face of your desk to hold your chargers, USB cables, and other small wires out of the way but can easily be taken up and moved around so you’re never tied to having them in the same place day in, day out.
The Final Word on Desk Cable Management
On their own, any one of these desk cable management tips will help you to regain control of your workspace, avoid a potential trip hazard and yes, even keep your cables in optimum condition for a long time to come.
That said, if there’s one more tip worth keeping in mind, it’s this:
Use multiple methods together to create the ultimate desk cable management solution for your space.
A combination of shorter cables, zip ties, and a well-placed cable tie can have a much bigger impact on your workspace than any one of those things on their own and, of course, don’t forget about the importance of properly labeling each cable so that you can quickly and easily identify the one you need when it comes to time to upgrade your computer with that shiny, brand new model you’ve been looking forward to buying.