Bottom line: Learn why I've been using a standing desk for over 10 years, what to look for when buying one, accessories, and tips for transitioning to standing.
Why use a Standing Desk?
There is probably a new article published every day on either the health benefits or drawbacks of using a standing desk. It seems to be a controversial topic, and understandably so.
Most of us got comfortable with sitting at a desk for 8 to 10 hours a day, myself included, and it's a hard habit to break. So I totally see the resistance against this idea.
When you start to research and read articles about standing versus sitting, most of the conclusions say that both are bad for our health for long periods of time. We shouldn't sit all day and we shouldn't stand all day.
Instead, we need BOTH. We need to sit AND stand throughout the day.
I started using a standing desk about 10 years ago and have come to the same conclusion. When I was in my 20's and early 30's I was able to stand all day, and enjoyed it. Now I do a combination of both sitting and standing, and find this works best.
Yes, I still consider myself as one of those weirdos that uses a standing desk. I think it is getting more popular, but can be a tough transition if you are working in an office versus working from home.
I give some tips on that transition at the end of this article, but let's first take a look at the benefits of standup desks.
Benefits of Standing at Work
Before I get into what to look for in a desk, I do want to share some of the health & productivity benefits I've experienced from standing.
- Relieved my back pain – I originally started standing because I had lower back pain from a snowboarding injury. Sitting at a desk for 8+ hours a day didn't help. Our bodies are not made to sit for that long. Plus, I was awful at taking breaks. What can I say, I love Excel and can't get away from it. 🙂 I found that my back pain was relieved when I stood up, and it eventually went away completely.
- Increase in productivity – I am much more productive and focused when I'm standing at the computer. This is because your body has better blood flow and gets more oxygen when you're standing.
- Breaks from the screen – When standing, I take A LOT more breaks from the screen. It is easier to move around and I frequently step away from the computer when I'm doing critical thinking. There is a lot of critical thinking to do when you are creating solutions with a tool that has infinite possibilities, Excel. 😉
- Move my body more – Our bodies were designed to stand and move, and sitting all day doesn't serve that design well. I have a floor mat that has features to help move your feet around and stretch. I also like to listen to some tunes and rock out. All of this keeps me energized throughout the day.
- Less guilt about eating snacks – If you're moving more, then your body is going to need more fuel. So I eat more snacks throughout the day. I try to keep these healthy, but if a sweet treat sneaks in, I don't feel as bad. 🍩😊
- Keep your stuff safe – One side benefit I've found is that a standing desk can keep your toddler from reaching all the stuff on your desk.
- Better sleep – Since my back pain has been relieved, this is now the most important benefit for me. Standing while working will make your body physically tired by the end of the day, and that is a good thing. The more I stand during the day, the better I sleep.
Types of Standing Desks
Over the last 10 years I have tried A LOT of different standing desks, and even built my own. I believe this is a very personal thing that requires some experimentation.
Overall you'll want a solution that allows you to easily transition from sitting to standing. This is especially true if you are trying standing for the first time. You'll want to make the transition by standing for short periods of time throughout the day, then gradually increase those times so you stand more than you sit.
Here are a few solutions that accommodate both sitting and standing.
I currently use an Uplift Standing Desk. This desk has motorized legs that allow you to move it up and down for both standing and sitting heights.
I have the memory pad which allows you to program your heights for each position. This makes the transition very easy. It takes about 12 seconds to switch between sitting and standing.
There are a ton of options on the market that range in price. The Uplift is on the high end, but it's a quality product. I recommend doing some research and finding the option that fits you best.
Another popular option is to use a desk riser. This is essentially a mini desk that you put on top of your existing desk. It has scissor arms to raise up the platform to a standing position.
I have used the FlexiSpot M3B Standing Desk and it worked really well. I would say this is a great option if you are starting out and don't want to commit or invest in a full sit-stand desk yet.
Vari is another popular option that makes many different types of standing desks and desk risers. Here's a direct link to the Vari website.
DIY Standing Desks
I've also built a few of my own solutions to feed my need to stand.
When I first started working from home full time, my wife and I lived in a small one-bedroom apartment. I didn't have space for a permanent desk anywhere. So I built a standing desk on a furniture dolly that could be rolled into our closet when I wasn't working.
This was a very inexpensive solution and worked really well. Many Excel Campus YouTube and course videos were recorded from this mobile desk.
I also made a standing desk from a bookshelf in one of my offices.
I essentially attached a keyboard tray to the top shelf and sat a monitor on top. The bookshelf just happened to be the perfect height for me. I set up an additional docking station so the transition from my regular desk was easy.
These are initially more work, but my point is that you can get creative if you have limited space.
What to Look For in a Standing Desk
I have three main requirements when it comes to a standing desk.
#1 – It Must Be Sturdy
The most important thing for me is sturdiness. If your desk is not sturdy, your monitor will tend to shake or wobble a lot when you are typing. This drives me nuts!
I'm just over 6 feet tall, and the desks will shake more the higher they are.
One thing I like about the Uplift Desk is how sturdy it is. I'm pretty aggressive at typing, and the wobble is not too noticeable. This is also something you get used to after a few days. A sturdy monitor arm can really help with shaking.
#2 – Easy Height Adjustment
As I mentioned above, the transition from sitting to standing must be fast and easy. The Uplift Desk just takes a push of a button and you can transition in a few seconds. It's definitely a luxury, but a very important one.
If your solution takes a long time or a lot of effort to transition from sitting to standing, then there is a good chance you are not going to do it.
I know this from experience. I once used a desk raiser that was essentially a small table. It took a few minutes and some heavy lifting to get set up in a standing position. I ended up not standing very often.
#3 – The Right Heights for Proper Ergonomics
You'll want to make sure the desk can accommodate both of your proper sitting and standing heights. UpliftDesk has a great article and height calculator that will help with this.
Standing Desk Accessories
I have also used a ton of different accessories for my desks. All-in-all I try to be a bit of a minimalist when it comes to accessories, but here is a list of some of the essentials.
When going from sitting to standing, you might need to raise or lower your monitor. You want the top of the monitor at eye level for the best ergonomic position, and this can change a bit between sitting and standing.
Therefore, a monitor arm is an easily solution. I currently use one from Uplift, but have also used the Amazon Basics Monitor Arms. These are sturdy and come in a variety of options for single monitor, dual monitor, and laptop stand attachment.
It's important to have a supportive surface to stand on, especially if you have hard floors.
I currently use the CUBEFIT Terramat and like it because of the raised features that help you move your feet and stretch your legs. I've used this mat on both hardwood floors and carpet, and it is very comfortable.
Your still going to need a chair, and I recommend getting a good ergonomic chair that YOU find comfortable. Chairs are very personal and everyone is different.
I use the You Chair by Allseating, but it took some trial and error to settle on that one.
These are not needed for a standing desk, but I always get questions about the gear I use.
- The best keyboards and the best mouse for Excel.
- Bose QuietComfort Noise Cancelling Headphones are great if you have kids/pets and are working from home.
- I use this headphone hanger to keep them tucked nicely under my desk.
- Balance boards are popular and a fun way to keep your legs moving. I use the Motion-X Board from Uplift.
- The Logitech C920 webcam is my choice for all video calls and even some of my YouTube videos.
- The AudioTechnica ATR Microphone is the mic I use for all of my video recordings.
- I use Camtasia by Techsmith to record my screen and edit the videos.
Here is a Kit I put together with all the gear listed above. It contains Amazon links and will base those on the country you're in.
Tips for Transitioning to a Standing Desk
The transition to using a standing desk can be tough, especially if you work in an office where it's not widely accepted yet. So here are some tips to get you started.
One of the best things you can do to succeed at this transition is to start small. Set a goal to start standing for 15 minutes every hour, or every other hour. Then gradually increase this every week.
You can set reminders on your phone or calendar. There are even apps that can help remind you to stand. I just downloaded the Stand Up app for iOS and I think it's great for this. Very simple and easy to set up.
Eventually, you want to be standing more than you're sitting. Standing will become your default position and you will sit to take breaks. But work up to this gradually.
Don't Worry, You Are Weird
Honestly, one of the toughest parts of the transition for me was worrying about what others thought of my standing desk. Not everyone wants to stand, and some will even feel threatened by this.
However, standing desks are becoming much more popular than they were 10 years ago. Large organizations like Microsoft and Google have fully embraced and supported this transition. Nowadays I don't think you're allowed to call yourself a “tech company” unless you have standing desks in your offices. 😃
And with most people working from home right now, the transition is even easier!
Stay Hydrated and Stretch Often
Your legs might get sore and tired when you start the transition. I view this as a good thing, but also don't want it to discourage you. It does go away as your body gets used to its default position again.
Either way, it's important to stay hydrated, stretch often, and take breaks. Before you know it, standing will become just as comfortable as sitting.
Standing while working has become a big part of my life. It's made me more productive, creative, a better sleeper, and happier.
If you've considered trying a stand-up desk for any reason, I highly encourage you to do it. Give it at least a month or two before you decide if it's right for you. The transition can take time, but it's worth it.
I hope these tips help you in your journey. Please leave a comment below with any questions, suggestions, or tips from your experience with standing desks. We'd love to hear from you! 🙂
Don’t but a stand-up desk – yet.
Start with something simple and make sure it works for you before investing in furniture. A good starting height: hold you forearm parallel to the floor and measure from the floor to your elbow. For me, that’s 42 inches, and my first stand-up desk was a 12-inch box resting on my 30-inch-high desk. I put my laptop on the box and got to work.
Twenty years later, I’m using a rolling kitchen cart with a butcher-block top that’s 27 inches wide and 21 inches deep. On the two shelves below are a wireless printer and various supplies. I roll the cart into a closet when guests come over, and I use it in various rooms for variety.
While I don’t use a second monitor now, when I did, it was positioned above my laptop screen, with the top at eye-level. I would run Excel on the big screen and everything else on the laptop screen.
Jon, this is an epic post! I was not interested in standing desks. At. All. Now, I want to. My favorite parts were your creative solutions in the early days. Did the dolly ever get away from you, or did the wheels lock?
Thanks for providing this wealth of information!
I’m happy to hear the post inspired you to try standing. It’s been a game-changer for me.
The dolly stays in place when it’s on carpet. Our carpet was normal thickness and I never had an issue with it moving. As you might be able to see in the pic, I have a set of weights on it which also helps with stability. If you have hard floors then you might need a lock. Although you could get creative with a wedge on a few wheels. Mabye a rubber doorstop or even a piece of folded cardboard could do the trick.
We are now using the dolly in the garage for exercise. I took off the shelves and mounted a small TV at the top. It still has the weights at the bottom. It’s now on concrete and rolls much more easily. I wedged a small piece of rubber under one of the wheels to stop it from moving. Here is a pic of its new home.
I hope that helps. Let me know if you have any questions. And I wish you all the best with creating your solution. I had a lot of fun with this.
Thanks for sharing. Apropros of nothing, when I read that dolly was in the garage for exercise, I had a vision of you doing Ab Sliders. LOL
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Oh hi there! Since my husband is going to be working from home on a full-time basis starting next year, he’s been thinking of establishing a mini office in our house. Upon hearing that, I instantly remember this article where you clearly explained that a standing desk with adjustable height features is a great choice as it would offer more comfort and convenience. I’ll advise him to look further into this matter when searching for the right furniture to buy. https://standupdesks.com