Increased awareness of health issues from sitting too much has led to much debate and interest in the benefits of using a sit and stand desk in the office. When reading about this subject you often come across eye-catching statements such as:
- “Sitting is the new cancer”
- “Increased risk of Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, early death etc.”
Obviously statements of that nature will attract the attention of many office workers in companies and home offices, who spend much of their life at a workstation.
Even before researching this article I was aware of health issues from sitting too much. However, I also knew about the health issues from standing too much. As such I ended up choosing a height adjustable desk for my home office in order to have both options at the same workstation.
In this article I will share my experiences with my new height adjustable desk as well as my thoughts and research on which solution to choose.
Your options to get on your feet at your desk
Your options will surely vary depending on your work scenario. If you work in your home office you have as many options as you can think off, whereas in a smartly designed corporate environment your options are probably somewhat limited and dependent on company policy.
In a home office scenario you are free to experiment and you have several options depending on available space, personal taste and budget. You can buy new specialized furniture or use available parts to construct some kind of fixed standing solution as an addition to your fixed sitting desk.
In a corporate environment your options will depend on where you live as well as company attitude towards office ergonomics. Ergonomic furniture is expensive and whether your company will agree to provide you with a standing desk solution depends.
I mention “where you live” because in some countries office ergonomics is regarded more important than others. In Denmark, where I live, a company with office employees is required by law to offer an opportunity to choose whether you want to sit or stand. While the exact solution is not specified, the most obvious and common result of this is that electrical height adjustable desks are more or less a given when you work in a Danish company.
Another factor is surely what line of work you are in. When I have worked in the animation and visual effects industry in Germany and England, office ergonomics was not a high priority to say the least. But looking through the windows at banks and insurance agencies I noticed a whole other level of attention to office furniture.
Inspirational list of sit and stand desk solutions
1: Fixed standing desk as sole solution
A fixed standing desk can be anything from a specialized solution to your own DIY standing desk creation from available or cheap parts.
Naturally, this arrangement would demand that you work on a laptop or that you have two computers on a network. With a two computer scenario you could avoid a complex network setup by doing certain tasks on either computer.
To those of you who prefer to only stand, I suggest implementing a good and comfortable gel standing desk mat and work without shoes if possible. A proper standing desk mat will distribute your weight on the full sole of your feet and minimize blood flow limitation.
With this setup you can have a standing desk mat in place all the time and leave your chair at your sitting workstation.
2: Fixed standing desk in addition to a sitting desk
This solution will obviously take up more space than a single workstation option and will probably be restricted to a home office scenario to some extent.
A combination of two fixed height workstations could be an option if you have room to spare. It may also very well be the cheapest way to get your feet wet with standing office work.
Unless you have customers visit your office you can turn your creativity loose and use whatever means you have available to build two workstations.
3: Electrical height adjustable desk
These wonders come in many shapes, sizes and prices. If you can fit a height adjustable desk into your home office budget or get your boss to get you one, this is arguably the best and most flexible solution for an ergonomic workstation.
Not only will a height adjustable standing desk enable you to sit and stand at the same workstation, it will also enable you to fine tune the desk height to your chair and not the other way around.
If your chair is your only way to adjust how you sit in relation to the desk, chances are that you are unable to sit correctly.
If both desk and chair are fixed it is pure luck if you are able to sit right. This could be meeting rooms, designed office environments etc.
The sit and stand desk below is from IKEA and is the exact sit and stand desk type and color combination that I purchased recently.
Even though I got the largest desktop available this is not exactly a huge desk. However, it fits my two monitor setup with room to spare.
It even goes to a height that would bring you into the higher price tier with other manufacturers and it does so at a relatively modest price.
When raised to standing height it is a tiny bit wobbly but you quickly get used to that. At sitting height it is firm and wobble-free.
The desk is easy to assemble and you can handle and carry everything on your own without straining your back. This was indeed an important aspect to me because my line of work forces me to move frequently.
63 x 31 1/2 ” or 160 x 80 cm
Range of movement:
22″ to 48″ or 65 to 125 cm
Price at the time of writing:
4: Treadmill desks and other “exercise at your desk” options
I am not sure what to think of this kind of solution since I have never tried one or even seen one in real life. You will surely not want to walk all day and since the addition of a chair seems impossible it appears that you would need a second workstation if you want to sit down once in a while as well.
But I have heard of people who use and love this kind of workstation.
Visit Amazon to see this treadmill desk and other “exercise at your desk” solutions.
5: Adjustable desktop
This and other adjustable desktop solutions can be used on a fixed table or other firm surface. They come in different sizes and configurations and could be a solution if you have limited space or if you want a portable standing desk to move around the house or into the garden on a nice day.
To call this a portable standing desk may be stretching the concept since some models are quite heavy. But they are certainly more compact and movable than an electrical height adjustable desk. Sit and stand desks are typically quite complex to assemble and are anything but portable.
Actually I am quite curious to see this range of products in real life. The Varidesk height adjustable standing desk series is quite extensive.
My experiences with my new height adjustable desk
In the beginning it feels somewhat odd to be standing while working on a computer because office work has meant sitting down for decades.
I have quickly gotten used to it though and I really enjoy getting on my feet now and then during work hours. I love the way that I am able to move around in front of the monitor and take step back when considering something.
I have noticed this to be unexpectedly beneficial to my work as a computer graphics artist. When you move away from the monitor you create a kind of distance to the work which enables you to quickly get a birds-eye view of your progress. I do this almost automatically when I am standing, but for some reason I hardly do this when I am in my chair.
On a typical day I get on my feet 4-5 times a day for periods of 20-30 minutes. If I stand for longer than that I get tired in my legs and my back. I then begin to assume a sloughing posture and at that point it feels great to slip back into my comfortable chair.
The option to get on my feet also helps me overcome attacks of drowsiness. When working from home a nap can be tempting at times. If I feel the temptation creep up on me I can now get up shake off the need for sleep. When I get up I feel more energized almost immediately.
Stand, but stand correctly
I have picked up a small collection of tips along the way that makes sense to me without being a doctor or any kind of physician.
- You should avoid overstretching your legs where your knees lock in the max position. Try to maintain a small angle so that you support some of your weight with your muscles instead of relying on bone against bone (figuratively speaking).
- Assume and maintain a shoulder wide and equally balanced stance. Avoid leaning sideways on the hip or stand with the majority of your weight on one leg.
- If you work in a company with a relaxed dress code you can try using a gel standing desk mat preferably without shoes. The ones that I have tried are extremely comfortable and it increases the amount of time that you can stay on your feet.
- Don´t overdo the standing. Standing too much has its own set of health issues. Listen to your body and respect it´s signals about when to sit and when to stand.
Other ways to get on your feet during office hours
Variation is extremely beneficial when it comes to ergonomics. Our bodies were built to move and we should use every trick and opportunity to incorporate more movement and different postures in the corporate and home office. Being creative and proactive about office ergonomics in your workplace whether you work from home or in a corporate environment will undoubtedly benefit your health in the long run.
Here is a small list of simple ways to shake things up:
- If you do not have a sit and stand desk, you might be able to find a location where you can use your laptop standing up without interrupting your work too much. Perhaps your company has a common area, meeting facilities or reception area where it is ok for you to work at intervals.
- If you are self-employed you also have the option to seek out opportunities and variation in the public space such as libraries, museums, cafés etc.
- If you have to read longer text, then print it out or use a mobile device to read it away from your desk.
- The good old “take the stairs” advice is almost cliché but nevertheless good advice.
- Try little things like moving the trash bin away from your desk, or avoid stocking up on office supplies at your workstation so that you have frequent errands. If you are an employee you may need to find a good balance about this so that you are not moving around the office all the time.
- Deliver messages in person instead of by mail.
- Walk or use your bike to work or get off the public transportation earlier than the convenient stop close to the office.
In my earlier article on how to prevent carpal tunnel by improving work habits you can find more ideas on how you can create variation in the office by incorporating new tools and work methods.
Considerations when buying an electrical height adjustable desk
I ended up buying my sit and stand desk at IKEA for a number of reasons that I will get back to in a moment. But mainly I was influenced by a bad purchase experience where things went wrong to the point of being funny.
After careful considerations I had chosen a rather large “left wing” desk (Desktop shape. See below) and I was really looking forward to beef up my home office with this great new ergonomically terrific desk.
However, as it arrived the desktop was damaged and I had to wait an extra couple of days for a new one. When that one arrived undamaged, I emptied my office and spend a couple of hours on a very complex assembly only to conclude that it was not working and that the power supply let off an unbearable stench of burned fire prevention chemicals.
So, I took it apart, rebuild my office, returned the desk and got the one from IKEA instead.
I now had some experience and ended up with the following list of criteria:
- No more mail order desk purchases. I wanted to experience the desk first hand
- I wanted a desk that I can assemble, disassemble and carry on my own
- Since this was my first sit and stand desk I wanted an entry level price tag
- No smelly power supply
- No “wings”. It turned out to feel wrong since I was not going to use the sit and stand desk in a corner
Other things to be aware of before settling on a desk model:
- Operation spectrum (How low and high you need it to go)
- Do you want a desk with “one click” memory function
- Safety features (If you have small children)
- Desktop size
- Desktop material
- Desktop shape
For me there is no going back from being able to get on my feet during the day. I wholeheartedly recommend incorporating some kind of sit and stand desk solution if you spend a lot of time at a workstation at work or in your home office.
My next step will be trying out a gel standing desk mat to see if I can extend the length of my standing sessions.