Is a Sit-Stand Desk Right for Me? 7 Things to Consider

Written by Stewart G. Eidelson, MD

Sitting has developed a bad name. Its negative impact on health has been compared to smoking, and sitting in front of a computer for nine-plus hours a day has led to a whopping 85% of workers reporting discomfort at work. But, there is hope for the modern-day office employee: the sit-stand desk or simply, standing office desk. People are quickly catching on to the benefits of this ergonomically sound tool that goes far beyond a simple piece of office equipment.
Sit-stand desks encourage workers to occasionally get out of the sitting position, which boasts a spectrum of spine-specific health benefits—from reducing pressure on your back to burning a few extra calories. Are you thinking of investing in an adjustable desk that allows you to sit or stand at your desk? Below are some key considerations to keep in mind.

Should I get a new sit-stand desk or a unit that sits on top of the desk I already own?
This largely depends on the amount of space you have available. If you have more space at your disposal—or if you like to spread things out over a larger desk area—it may make more sense to invest in a stand-alone sit-stand desk. If your current desk footprint is perfect for you, then a sit-stand unit placed over your current desk may be the better option.

Should the sit-stand desk be height adjustable?
It’s important that the height of your sit-stand desk be adjustable, because you may want different heights for different work tasks. For example, you may prefer one height for writing and another height when working on your computer. Plus, if your desk will be used by more than one person, it’s essential that the desk height be adjustable to meet the needs of people with different heights and work preferences. The Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) recommends that the height range be 22.6″ to 48.7″, but ultimately the range should depend on those who are using the desk.  

How deep of a sit-stand desk should I get?
Depth in relation to a desk is the front-to-back tabletop distance when you face the desk, and you should opt for a desk that is minimum 30″ deep. This depth will allow those who like more desk space the ability to spread out their work. Of course, if you don’t want or need that much area, smaller depths are available.

How important is weight capacity?
Most sit-stand desks can handle the weight of typical desktop items, such as a computer, phone, etc. However, if you have some especially heavy items that your desk needs to hold, make sure to review the weight restrictions of the sit-stand desk models of interest to you. The weight restrictions of each desk vary, so you should be able to find an adjustable desk model that meets your needs.

How much should I spend on a sit-stand desk?
That, of course, depends on your budget and the quality you expect. Like most things, sit-stand desks can be found in a wide range of price points. Before opting for the cheapest option simply based on cost, remember that sit-stand desks are an investment in long-term health. Before you purchase, consider the quality of the desk and how long you want it to last. Also, consider a lifetime warranty to protect you financially if a desk malfunctions.

What bells and whistles should I keep in mind as I consider my purchase?
Sit-stand desks run the gamut in terms of quality and convenience. Some amenities to consider are:

Should I keep my desk in the standing position all day?
With all the negative attention sitting has received, your instinct may be to head toward the opposite extreme—standing all day. But, standing for long periods can do as much damage to your back as sitting all day. The best approach is to vary your postures over the course of a work day. If you’ve been sitting for an hour, it’s best to get up and move around. If you’ve stood for a while, take a break and sit down. The beauty of a sit-stand desk is it promotes changing positions throughout the day—and that’s the best thing for your spine

Once you’re ready to take the sit-stand adjustable desk plunge, be prepared for a transition period. It may seem strange, but standing at work can bring some unexpected fatigue if you’ve been accustomed to sitting all day. Slowly building up the amount of time standing, wearing supportive shoes, and using a gel mat will make the transition more comfortable. While there may be a short-term adjustment period, the long-term benefits of a sit-stand desk are well worth it. Your employees—and their spines—will thank you.

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