The Lab Desktop: Looking Busy at Work (When You’re Not)

A lab desktop is probably the last thing most of us want to stare at during a long day at the bench.  It’s also far nerdier than the gorgeous beachscape of picture from your last vacation that is currently filling the role.  But if we told you that a lab desktop can make you look like you’re working hard, when the truth might suggest otherwise, it might not sound like such a bad idea afterall…


We don’t always work at work

A 2005 survey by revealed that the average worker admits to wasting over two hours a day not including lunch.  So what are people doing with that time? Yep, the internet – 45% of the time.  And that was five years ago- did they even have the internet back then?!  They might have, but social networking sites like Facebook certainly weren’t as big of a distraction to most of us as they are today.  In fact, a June 2010 Nielsen study indicated that 22% of all time online is spent on social networks.

The point is, these days when we’re not working we’re probably on the computer – checking email, surfing the web, listening to music, whatever.  It’s just a part of life today.   However, PIs and bosses generally don’t have such a laissez-faire attitude about our work habits.  Even if we were so productive that we published a paper a month, our bosses look at time wasted on the computer as time that could have been spent setting up another reaction.  Just because we get one paper a month, doesn’t mean we can’t get two…

And so we all sit at our desks, hunched over our computers, constantly monitoring the lab door to see if someone is about to come in and bust us.  Despite our best efforts, we’ve all felt that moment of panic when, like a ninja, the boss has suddenly popped up next to us while we’re clearly not doing work.
Which brings us to our first step…


The OH S–T!?! button

Luckily, the good people- er, the people- at Apple and Microsoft know those moments are inevitable and they’ve developed keystrokes to help us hide the evidence.  When these buttons are pressed, all open windows will immediately minimize, hiding whatever you were doing.

Mac OH S–T!?! Button: Function+F11

(On some keyboards pressing the function button is not required)

PC OH S–T!?! Button: Windows logo+D

(If that doesn’t work on your system, try Windows logo+M) Thanks to @lucasbrouwers, @TravisSaunders, @americanbiotech, @kristy3m and @Mister_Brown on Twitter for confirming the function.

But the genius of the OH S–T button is only half-realized.  After hitting it, the desktop is clear – but whoever walked up has seen you sitting there, engaged with something on the screen.  So either you’ve quite obviously just hidden all of your windows, which makes it seem even more suspicious –OR- you’re a complete psycho who sits and stares at a blank computer screen.  Take your pick.


Enter the Lab Desktop

Wouldn’t it be nice if when the open windows disappeared, a “working desktop” was revealed that, instead of making us look suspicious or crazy, actually made us look…productive?

We agree.  So we’ve created a series of desktops that should fit the bill.  The important part of the lab desktop is not that it’s perfect, but rather that it’s good enough.  Remember, whoever came over to your desk had a reason, and most likely it wasn’t to discuss what’s on your desktop.  So as long as the image can fend off that first inquisitive glance they will shoot over to your screen, the conversation will move forward and you’re in the clear.

Trust us, we’ve done this experiment before…

We also realize that the content looked at by a chemist or biologist may be different, so we’ve created one for each – in either a Mac or PC (Windows 7) format.  Based this week’s Mac vs. PC poll, we probably could have just made the Mac…


Download your Lab Desktop

Click the appropriate image to open the full-sized image.  Drag it to your desktop to download, then set it as your desktop to get started!

The images will fit screens 1680×1050 and smaller.


Biologists’ Lab Desktop – Mac


Biologists’ Lab Desktop – PC


Chemists’ Lab Desktop – Mac


Chemists’ Lab Desktop – PC



Have any other ideas for a lab desktop?  Let us know!




2 comments so far. Join The Discussion

  1. Amy

    wrote on June 25, 2010 at 11:21 am

    i have one for you! great idea ;D

  2. Maintain Your Sanity With a Smile | BenchFly Blog

    wrote on November 30, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    […] The Lab Desktops – never be caught surfing the web by the boss again with these chemistry and biology specific computer desktops […]

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