“Electric Height Adjustable Desks” or “Sit to Stand Desks” are acclaimed for their ability to alleviate the negative effects of our sedentary lifestyle. They enable us to change our posture without the need to interrupt what we are working on. Multiple studies point to the long term adverse result of our sedentary habits and support sit to stand solutions.1
However, there is still much confusion over what is the best solution among so many options. The following list is my attempt to help bring clarity to what to look for when contemplating a sit-stand solution.
- WILL MY DESK FIT ME WHEN I SIT AT IT?
- WILL MY DESK STAND WELL?
- HOW MANY PEOPLE USE MY DESK?
- WHAT’S ON MY DESK?
- IS MY DESK RIGID OR WOBBLY?
- WHAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE?
1. Will my desk fit me when I sit at it?
We sit at our desk more than 60% of our working day - even when maximizing the benefits of a sit-stand desk. Because of this, it is critical that our desks fit us properly while we’re sitting at it. Remember, a standard 29” high desk or work surface is just about right if you’re sitting correctly in your chair with both feet flat on the floor and you’re about 6’-0” tall. (You can verify your recommended desk height by clicking here and entering your personal height.) Example: if you are 5’-9” your desk surface should not be higher than 27” off the floor.
So, if you are less than 6’-0” and you’re sitting at a regular desk, I can just about guarantee that you’re scrunching up your shoulders, maybe even without realizing it. After keying for a while, you are most likely feeling discomfort in your neck, shoulders and/or back. There is also a good chance you struggle with tightness in your shoulder muscles, causing continuing discomfort and headaches.
A few words of caution:
a) If you are contemplating a “Sit-Stand Riser” to place on top of your existing desk, consider this. Your keyboard and mouse sit on the Riser platform that, in turn, sits on the desk that is most likely already too high for you. You’ll be adding to an already bad situation that will impact you for the majority of your desk time. Remember you’ll still be sitting for more than 60% of the time.
b) If you are contemplating a “Pull-out Keyboard Tray” to attach to the underside of your desk, consider this. Although the Keyboard Tray will enable you to get the keyboard down to a comfortable keying height, by pulling the tray out from under the work surface you are, in essence, pushing the desk away from you. This makes it necessary to bend, twist to reach articles on the desk.
2. Will my desk Stand Well?
Experts recommend splitting our time evenly between sitting and standing, accumulating at least two-hours per day of standing and light activity, eventually progressing to a total accumulation of four hours. Can your desk do that easily and smoothly?
You may quickly lose your enthusiasm for maintaining comfort and well-being while at your desk:
- if you need to adjust the counter-balance to match what’s on the work surface;
- if the surface stops with a jolt and spills your coffee;
- if you need to crank and crank to change the height.
3. How many people use my desk?
Many sit to stand desks offer programmable sit and stand positioning. This great feature ensures that the desk stops exactly where you have set it so you don’t have to guess and fine tune the positioning every time you change from sitting to standing. Some sit-stand desks are offered with a “four position programmable” feature. This is great if you share your desk with multiple users.
But if you are the only one using the desk, why would this be beneficial? Also, a digital readout may seem like a nice feature. But, once you’ve established the height positions that are best suited for you there is no need to look at a readout. Just press the button up or down until it stops where you set it.
- A “four position programmable handset” does not make a better-quality desk.
- A “four position programmable handset with digital readout” does not make a better-quality desk.
When contemplating a sit-stand solution that best suits our personal needs, it’s easy to get sidetracked by “features” that may slant or restrict you research yet are of little or no benefit.
4. What’s on my desk?
Ever notice in the ads for “Desk Risers” or “Sit-Stand Risers” that there is very little else on the desk? Is it to keep the image “uncluttered” – or is this reality? If there were items on the desk, imagine how difficult they would be to reach from a standing posture. And when you lower the “Riser” for sitting, think about how much extra room it takes.
No sit to stand solution will change who you are. If you have a cluttered desk now, your desk will eventually become cluttered. Allow for that. If you are neat and organized, allow for those items that you will want to organize on your desk and make sure they are within easy reach.
- Standard “Reach Zones” are restricted when using Pullout Keyboard Trays and almost non-existent with Sit-Stand Risers.
5. Is my desk Rigid or Wobbly?
Ever notice in some Sit-Stand Desk images there is (what I call) an “ankle cracker” crossbar? Can you imagine what would happen if it weren’t there? When raised to a standing position, some desks are so wobbly that the monitor even shakes when you are keying. To compensate, some have incorporated the crossbar which gets in the way of pedestal drawers and ankles. Commercial grade Sit to Stand desks that have been tested to meet Ansi*/BIFMA** standards ensure a rigid, enduring quality performance.
*Ansi – American National Standards Institute
**BIFMA – Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association
6. What’s the bottom line?
- Look for a Sit-Stand solution that has the range to properly fit you when you are sitting as well as when you are standing.
- Make sure that the sit-stand transition is effortless
- Don’t become overly impressed or sidetracked by “features” that don’t add benefit
- Allow for the way you normally work
- Look for solutions that meet North American quality standards, click here