Standing desks, otherwise known as height-adjustable or sit-stand desks, are ergonomic alternatives to traditional desks in which the user stands up to use them. The health benefits of standing desks have been well documented in recent years, with users reporting better posture, less back pain and increased mood and productivity levels. In addition to this, sitting down for prolonged periods of time has been linked to several health problems, including type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and early death. By encouraging you to stand up more, a standing desk can be a preventative measure for these conditions.
In the broadest sense of the word, a standing desk is a desk designed to be used by a person standing upright, but not all standing desks are the same. In fact, there are five main different types of standing desks: fixed, electric, manual, converter, and Bluetooth® desks.
In this article, we break down these different types of standing desks to help you better understand the difference, and make an informed decision on what type is right for you.
A fixed standing desk, also known as a non-adjustable standing desk, is set at a fixed height and cannot be adjusted to different heights. While these are convenient in an office or coworking space as a short-term option for standing up, these aren’t convenient for long-term use as there is no option for sitting down. This can lead to discomfort or strain over time, whereas adjustable desks allow users to switch between sitting and standing positions with ease.
One benefit of a fixed desk is that, due to having no moving parts and being fixed in once place, they tend to last longer than the other standing desk types.
Adjustable electric desks have an electric motor which allows you to raise or lower the desk at the touch of a button.
There are two versions of an electric desk: single motor and dual motor. Single motor means there is one motor that controls the telescopic legs, whereas a dual motor desk uses two motors. A dual motor tends to be able to hold much more weight than a single motor, which is ideal if you have more than one monitor or lots of desk accessories.
On a similar note, a single motor desk tends to be noisier than a dual motor desk. However, it is the cheaper option out of the two (and still gets the job done).
Manual standing desks, otherwise referred to as mechanical or “crank” desks, use a hand-operated crank to manually adjust the height of the desk. You turn the crank in one direction to raise the desk, and in the other direction to lower it.
Although manual desks are much slower and less convenient to adjust than electric desks, these tend to be a much cheaper option, which is suitable for those with a smaller budget.
Keep in mind that, due to the absence of a motor, manual standing desks tend to be able to hold less weight than an electric desk. If you have specific ergonomic requirements or medical considerations, such as a stiff or weak wrist (from an RSI, for example), an electric desk might be better suited for your needs.
Standing desk converters turn a standard desk into a sit-stand desk. A converter sits on top of your existing desk, and is adjusted up and down to the required height using a lever or clamp — similar to a laptop stand, but on a bigger scale. These are often considered to be the "portable standing desk" option.
Converters are best for those that have built-in desks or limited space, but want to experience the benefits of standing up at work. These are also the cheapest type of standing desk, for those on a tighter budget.
Similar to a manual desk, desktop risers will have a weight limit that's much less than the other standing desk options — but some models can still manage a laptop, external keyboard and additional monitor.
The latest advances in standing desk tech include the introduction of Bluetooth. As the name suggests, Bluetooth standing desks are electric desks that are operated through an app or controller that uses Bluetooth to work.
As well as being able to adjust your desk with ease, these desks also allow you to set schedules and reminders to move, and enable you to save preferred heights for multiple users so you’re always at optimal height. You can also record your activity history via daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly reports.
In terms of the desk that has it all, this is it. However, it does tend to be a more expensive initial investment and, due to the tech, may require more maintenance over time.
Other Considerations When Choosing a Standing Desk
Once you have chosen what type of standing desk is right for you, there are some other factors you should keep in mind:
- Size & Shape: Do you need to fit your desk in a small space or on a corner? Make sure the shape, width and depth of the desk accommodates to your space and specific requirements.
- Weight: Find out how much weight your desk can hold. Can your chosen standing desk safely hold all of your equipment?
- Height Range: Consider the height range of the desk to ensure it can be adjusted to your specific needs.
- Accessories: Choose a desk that can accommodate your laptop, additional monitors, keyboards and other accessories, such as monitor arms or a desk mat.
- Cable Management: Is there a built-in cable management system, or will you ned to find our own solution? Can you fit a cable spine or tray? Are there port holes to organise your wires?
- Wheels: Will your standing desk be in one place, or do you need one that you can move around an office, for example?
- Aesthetics: Does the desk materials and design match your desired aesthetic? Are you able to customise the colour or desk top? Learn more about how to make your desk look better with our guide.
- Users: Will it be just you using the desk, or will other people benefit, such as your colleagues, partner or children?