Stand Up Computer Desk – Ultimate Buyers Guide

Stand Up Computer Desk – Ultimate Buyers Guide

So, I’m guessing you’re here because you’ve started looking into a stand-up computer desk for your home office, but you’ve seen a ton of pushback. Different scientific studies are saying they’re “worse than sitting” or that it’s all “smoke and mirrors” and don’t waste your money. There’s one massive misunderstanding though that people make when they’re looking at buying a stand-up computer desk. I’m going to run you guys through the negative feedback and the misconception that people have when they think about a stand-up computer desk and exactly what you should look for when you’re shopping for a height-adjustable computer desk.

Stand Up Computer Desk

Standing for 8 hours

This guy will tell you, standing 8 hours is zero fun

Do people actually think that being on your feet in one place for 8 hours is good for you? Just ask any security guard, grocery store checker, nurse, or hairdresser, standing for that long is awful.

There are a ton of negative side effects such as sore feet, swollen legs, varicose (spider) veins, muscle fatigue, low back pain, etc. I didn’t think we needed scientific studies to find that out.

What does the Science Say?

A report published in Human Factors, the journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society spoke about these side effects. Its author, María Gabriela García says:

“The work-related musculoskeletal implications that can be caused by prolonged standing are a burden not only for workers but also for companies and society.”

As freelancers, we don’t have the luxury of being out of work because we messed up our back. Missing one deadline will lose your clients. Not to mention the stress it’ll cause and that you have to foot the bill for physical therapy and massages.

There’s too much competition out there for a company to wait around for a freelancer to heal because they bought a stand up computer desk and didn’t how to use it.

Look familiar?

The Big Misunderstanding in the Stand Up Computer Desk World

I think where people get lead astray is by the name. These types of desks have a ton of different names:

  • Standing desk/computer stand desk/table
  • Stand up desk/computer stand desk/table
  • Adjustable standing desk/computer stand desk/table
  • Height-adjustable stand up desk/ computer stand desk/ table

However, not all of those names above mean the same thing. Those two little words ‘adjustable’ and ‘height-adjustable’ make all the difference in the world.

*Stand up computer desks and height-adjustable stand-up computer desks are not the same*

Stand up computer desks can only be used while standing. Height-adjustable stand-up computer desks, on the other hand, can change positions so they can be used either standing or sitting.

It’s the “only” stand-up computer desks that are getting blowback and all the negative press right now. As I mentioned above, standing and working for 8 hours causes a handful of nasty things that nobody wants.

stand up computer desk article
This is what you’ll need after 8 hours on your feet

Height-adjustable stand-up computer desks, however, have gotten ZERO negative feedback because no one will ever say that sitting or standing for 30 minutes at a time will cause health problems, because it won’t.

Why’s ‘height-adjustable’ so important?

I’ve covered the benefits of these desks in my article: How to Use a Standing Desk – Reap the Maximum Benefits, but I’ll quickly go over them here.

Let’s start at the beginning. When you move, your muscles contract so they become shorter and more like a ball shape (think about Schwarzenegger’s bicep). When your muscles contract it squeezes your blood vessels applying pressure to them. That pressure helps your body circulate blood.

stand up computer desk
It’s all in the transitions

 

If you sit or stand in the same position for hours on end the only thing pushing the blood around your body is your heart, and it’s just not strong enough to do it all on its own. In fact is wasn’t actually designed to work by itself, since our ancestors moved around much more than we do nowadays.

So, moving contracts your muscles, which improves circulation, supplying your body with the oxygen and nutrients it needs to work correctly. Therefore, preventing all of the nasty side effects mentioned above.

Switching from Sitting to Standing

stand up computer desk graph
For the visual readers..

I also wrote about this in the How to Use a Standing Desk article, but height-adjustable standing desks are meant to be changed about every 30 minutes. Each hour should look something like this:

  • The first 25-30 minute, standing
  • The last 30-35 minutes, sitting
  • *optional: the last 3-5 minutes stretching or going for a short walk
  • Repeat

The benefits lie in that switch from sitting to standing or vice-versa. That is when muscles contract and push old blood out to make room for new, oxygenated blood carrying all that good stuff your body needs.

How to Avoid the Problem

The critics are jumping on the “not moving” aspect of traditional stand-up computer desks that go up or down. And they’re right. However, you can’t bundle a height-adjustable stand-up computer desk into that group because they’re made for you to move and to move often.

stand up computer desk
Any movement is better than nothing

Buyers Guide to Stand-up Computer Desks

Types of Height-adjustable Computer Desk

Crank LiftHeight Adjustable Standing Desk

A crank lift is the most basic and most physically taxing of the three different types of sit-stand computer desks. The name and photo explain it pretty well but it’s basically a handle that you have to crank to the right for the desk to go up, and to the left, for it to go down. Depending on how tall you are you could be looking at around 50 -75 full turns of the crank to get the desk to standing height and then again when you want to sit back down.

Manual Lift

The manual lift-type desks are very similar to Desktop workstations where you push a lever and have to apply force for the table to go up and down. They’re all supported by some type of spring-loaded or gas strut system which helps you lift the desk, so you’re not actually doing the brunt of the force. This same system will make sure that your computer desk lowers in a smooth and controlled manner as well.

photo cred: Ergotron.com

Most usually have predetermined height holes in the legs so that when you release the lever, it pops into one of the holes and won’t go back down. (See photo)

Electric Lift

This is the most user-friendly height adjustable computer desk, where absolutely no physical effort is needed. Your desk has a remote control where you push the up arrow for it to raise automatically and the down arrow to go down.

More advanced options have a display that shows the current height of your desk and a memory pad. Instead of having to hold the up and down arrows, this pad will remember different height settings. For me, my sitting height is #1  at 29.5″, and my standing is #2  at 44.5″.

Height Adjustable Standing Desk

Changing from one height to the other takes around 12 seconds. I don’t have to remember anything or check the height each time. This convenience makes it much more likely for you to actually use your computer desk as was intended.

 

 

Which Model Would I Go With?

As I outlined in my article, How to Use a Standing Desk, Properly, every hour, you should stand about as much as you sit, maybe a little less. That means every hour you should be standing for 25-30 minutes and sitting for 30-35 minutes. Throughout one 8 hour day you will raise and lower your desk 16 times.

If you have to crank your desk 50 full turns, 16 times per day for a total of 800 cranks to get the full benefit out of your desk, do you think you’ll do it? Ya, me neither. It’s obviously a more budget-friendly computer than the other options but if you don’t use it properly, what’s the point?

You, after 800 turns on your crank desk

 

The manual lift is a better option, but it still requires some physical effort. It also doesn’t remember the exact position you should be in when you’re standing and sitting. You’ll have to raise it up, check the height and adjust it every time you go from sitting to standing and vice-versa. It’s not a bad option, but there’s no way you can compare it to an electric height adjustable computer desk.

It’s a bit sad, but if something’s not easy to do, even though we know it’s good for us, we won’t do it. Plain and simple.

For example:

Eating salads, saving for retirement, going for walks, eating less chocolate, exercising, I think you get it.

As delicious as this looks, I bet very few of you had it this morning.

This computer desk is no exception. If you have to physically work to get the desk to raise and lower, you just won’t do it.

Electric desks may be more expensive but what’s the point of spending $300 on something you won’t use if you can spend $600 on something that you will use 16 times a day. I rest my case.

What to look for in a stand-up computer desk

This video by UCI Australia covers 5 standard tips you should look for when buying a height-adjustable computer desk. It’s pretty short but does a nice job breaking down the key features you should look for.

Stability

The #1 complaint that all standing computer desks receive (I actually have it with mine) is stability when it’s raised all the way up. Unfortunately for me, I’m 6’3″, so that means that I need to put my computer desk almost at full-height to be in a good ergonomic position when I work.

However, that means it’s at its most unstable position and when I type the whole desk moves. Not a lot, but just enough to move the screen and bother me while I’m working. I’ve found a way around it by typing while I’m sitting and searching for images and editing while standing. It’s not that big of a deal, but it’s still something else I have to think about.

Height Adjustable Standing Desk
I can see myself with bruised knees

The solution to the stability issue is either a crossbar or a three-tiered leg. Many of the desks don’t come with a crossbar as it takes away a lot of leg room so what you’ll want to look for is a leg that has three tiers or sections. The lowest section of the leg should be the biggest and the other two raise out of it. This gives you a sturdier base than having the lowest tier smaller.

Cheaper options usually only have two sections to the leg, and so when it’s extended to full-height, there is quite a bit of wobble (as is the case with my desk).

       Height Adjustable Standing Desk

In the photos above you can see the three tiers in the left picture and only two on the right.

Height

If you’re shorter than 5’2″ and taller than 6’3″ you might have a few issues finding a standing computer desk that fits you. These desks are obviously made for the ‘majority‘ of people, and if that doesn’t describe you, then you’ll have to figure something else out.

Most have a height range anywhere from 23″ at it’s lowest to 48″ at its highest. As I said, for anyone between 5’2″ and 6’3″ this should be fine. If you really want to make sure, here’s how you check.

Place your seat at the height you want (knees 90° and feet flat on the ground). Your elbows, like in the photo, should also be 90° and the bottom of your elbow to the ground is the proper height the computer desk should be at. It might be an inch or so lower depending on your keyboard.

That goes the same for your standing height. The height of your elbows (or an inch lower) is the height you want the desk to be at. Every standing computer desk will give you the height range on their website so make sure those heights work for you and you’re good to go.

Accessories: Height adjustable computer desk

Keyboard tray

This is just an extra shelf where you put your keyboard and mouse to make your set up is more ergonomically friendly

Height Adjustable Standing Desk

Monitor stands

These monitor stands could really come in handy if you don’t already have a stand. The top of your monitor should be at eye level. That way you’re not looking either up or down.

Desk Grommets

These are the holes which help you to organize your cables. If you buy a desktop with your base, they usually come with it. They’re not a necessity, but it really helps to clean up and organize your workspace.

My favorite Stand-up Computer Desk Option

varidesk computer desk

VARIDESK- PRODESK 60

  • Steel crossbar for maximum strength
  • 5-minute assembly
  • Height from 25.5″ to 50.5″
  • Heavy-duty material
  • 3-tiered leg
  •  3 memory height settings

Buy Now: Amazon

varidesk computer desk memory

Close runner-up:

Height Adjustable Standing Desk

FlexiSpot Height-Adjustable Standing Desk E5 (frame only)

  • Frame width expands from 43.3″ to 70.9″, accommodating multiple desktop sizes
  • Fit top size from 47 1/4″ inches to 78.7″ inches in width and 23.6″ to 31.5″ in depth
  • Weight limit: up to 220 lbs
  • 7-button digital display handset with 3 memory preset options and 1 sit/stand reminder button
  • 3-tiered leg for greater stability
  • All necessary hardware included
  • Great Price point – 500 US

Buy Now: Flexispot.com

 

Nothing is holding you back now

I know that buying something like this can be a bit stressful. It’s new, it’s different, you don’t know if you’ll actually use it, but there’s a quote that I love from the great Wayne Gretzky which reins as true in the Freelancing world as it does in hockey “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. If you don’t go for it, you’ll never know.

Height Adjustable Standing Desk
You could be this awesome one day!

Buying a height-adjustable standing desk was one of the best things I’ve done for my freelance career. It has given me more energy, made me feel better physically which in turn gives me professional confidence. I’m not stiff at the end of the day and moving around every 20 minutes has helped me to organize my day better.

Hopefully, the critics didn’t scare you aware from these desks because I’ve had one for about a few years now and love the ability to stand up and stretch out while working. I’d never go back to a normal desk!

Lastly, If you’re just getting into the freelancer game, check out How to Organize a Home Office. Some things might surprise you. Good luck!

What do you think about the negative push back on the stand-up computer desks? Have you considered getting one?

13 Replies to “Stand Up Computer Desk – Ultimate Buyers Guide”

  1. You make some great points. Personally, I love having the chance to stand up once in a while during the day and often switch between standing and setting. I feel this is better for my back.

    When I once in a while have to stand or have to sit all day I can definitely feel the impact – balance is the key:-)

    Thanks for some great perspective.

    Mike

    1. Hey!

      You bet it is but there a lot of people out there who still believe in the ‘more is better’ approach to everything. It sound like you bought yourself a sit stand computer desk? Which one did you end up getting?

  2. Stand up computer desks are a hot topic today. This is a very good article about understanding the negative feedback. I am recently retired and prior to retirement worked a desk job (sitting behind one) for 10 years. Prior to that I was an auto mechanic. I found sitting at a desk all day after working on vehicles very confining. As a full time RVer I was looking to set up a desk in my rig. I did some research on both stand up computer desks and height-adjustable stand up computer desks. My preference would have been a height-adjustable stand up computer desk. Unfortunately, with the limited space in my rig, my budget and the desks I found, I decided on a desk with a chair. I am my own boss now so I do have the ability to take breaks when I want and take several daily walks around the campgrounds I stay at. Glad to hear you are enjoying yours…Dennis

  3. Thanks for the great article!

    I’ve been a programmer for 20+ years, and believe it or not, I have never worked at a stand up or adjustable desk.

    I’ve always wanted to, and probably should have done it sooner. My lower back kills after a few hours at the desk.

    Later is better then never, so I’ve started my research. I really like the adjustable desks, and based on your article, that sounds like the right way to go!

    A buddy of mine took a standing desk and added a tread mill. He claims he can code, and be just as effective with the treadmill running at a slow walk.

    Any thoughts on this? It seems like standing or sitting, you don’t want to be walking all day either. But could the combination of walking and standing be as good (or better) than sitting and standing?

    Thanks again!

    1. Hey!

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. As you said, later is better than never and you’ll definitely feel an improvement in your back if you get an adjustable desk. Make sure to read How to use a Standing Desk – Reap the Maximum Health Benefits it will run you through exactly how to use your adjustable desk (hint: more standing is not always better).

      Next, I’ve compiled a list of a few good adjustable desk ideas and what you should look for, Height Adjustable Standing Desk – What to look for when you buy . It will point you in the right direction.

      As for coding/working while walking there’s a new study out: Treadmill Desks that was reported on by Forbes that says treadmill desks can improve your productivity and energy, but it takes anywhere from 4-6 months to get used to walking and working at the same time.

      I hope that helps and if you ever have any more questions, please don’t hesitate to ask! Have a good one!

  4. It’s amazing what you can learn by reading. I didn’t even know there were desks like this. But the sense behind it has logic. Sitting so many hours can give me a bad back pain. I would definitely like to switch a bit between sitting and standing as it is something I already do when working. Changing positions a few times to relax my muscles. Great article and so much info I learned here. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Hey! Thank you for stopping by. Stand up computer desks really do wonders for back, neck and even leg pain as you can get up and move around. Let me know if you have any questions, I’d be happy to help! Take care

  5. it is incredible how things are getting more advanced and complex, even our deks! At long last someone thinks about it and creates a solution for two problems, sitting for hours and standing up for hours is bad for our muscles. The idea of sitting for 30 minutes, and standing for 30 minutes and repeat is awesome, it creates a balance between the two activities, why didn’t anyone think about it befote?

    However I have some doubts, stading up for a long period of time is bad but…

    Can someone get used to stand up all day long without any negatives effects? 

    1. Times are definitely changing quickly. As for your question, I do believe you can get used to standing up all day but I don’t think it’s good for you. It’s the changing between sitting and standing that moves your blood around and allows your body to work the way it’s supposed to. Staying in one position, whether that’s standing or sitting, for too long can cause problems. Thank you for stopping by!

  6. Thanks for great post about stand up computer desk. You explain some key points which is vital and I personally like standing for some time while working on my desk and switch between standing and sitting. I feel this is good for my backbone and give me relaxation.So I do believe flexible computer desk which is possible to move up or down by remote control or pressing any switch is one of the best computer desk and I will personally choose one of this.

    1. Hey!

      You’re exactly right. Moving up and down and changing positions is the key to staying healthy. It’s also great for productivity. I don’t know about you but I get very tired sitting down all day. Getting a stand-up Computer desk has  done wonders for my job.

      Thank you for stopping by!

  7. This Height udjustable computer desk is awesome, this is the real desktop I was looking for. I spend hours with my laptop and the table I am using right now always leave my backing aching with pain. Buying an udjustable computer desk is the smart way to go because you can choose what you want between standing and seating positions. Seating or standing for 8 hours is unbearable, so switching between the two will make my day more enjoyable and funny.

    1. Hey!

      You’re exactly right! a compute desk like this really does make life much easier. Working with a back and neck ache is torture. Let me know if you have any questions! Take care!

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