The ABCs of Choosing a Sit-Stand Desk

Sit-stand desk

When you make the decision to prioritize your health at work, giving your body (and your productivity) the respect it deserves, you will decide to invest in a sit-stand desk. Making that decision is a wonderful first step, but it must be followed by a thorough and informed second step, which is…

…Selecting the sit-stand desk that is right for you.

Just like there is no ideal car that is right for every person, every body type, and every role, the same holds true for sit-stand desks. The one that is right for your body and your job may be different from the one that is right for your colleagues.

Below, are 5 things to consider when selecting the workstation that will serve you best:

1.      Height requirement

The most important factor of selecting a sit-stand desk is that it can be adjusted to the proper height for sitting and standing for your body. The correct size will support your best posture and help to alleviate many physical aches and pains. Ergonomists calls this the “neutral posture”, meaning that you are not straining or holding any fatiguing static muscle positions.

For example, if you are 5’5” and wearing 1″ shoes, an ideal seated desk height is 25″, and your ideal standing desk height is 40.5″. If you are 6’1” and wearing 1″ shoes, an ideal seated desk height is 28″, and your ideal standing desk height is 45.5″. A 24”-51” height range will fit most bodies, and isn’t that the whole point when you’re making this investment- to get the right fit?

Sit-stand Desk Proper Height

An easy way to measure the ideal height for you is to stand and have a colleague measure you from the floor to your elbow. When you put your arms on the desktop they should be at a 90-degree angle. When seated, knees and hips should be at 90 degrees, and your elbows should be level with your wrists when your hands are on the keyboard (don’t set your chair too high – it can create lower back issues).

2.      Wanna get physical

People often inquire about sit-stand desks as a solution to a physical issue. Indeed, people who are suffering with discomfort or pain benefit from a sit-stand desk, because transitioning between sitting at your proper height and standing at your proper height will result in a variety of movements and increased circulation.

When you use a sit-stand desk, you feel better at the end of the day, because it provides options based on your body’s needs. Here are some signs your body needs this:

  • Shoulders are raised up and scrunched
  • Tense shoulder blades and upper back
  • Achy neck
  • Tight low back
  • Head too far forward
  • Elbows winged out and tingling
  • Lower back aches and sore hips
  • Feet dangle while seated
  • Tingling and burning
  • Fidgety or can’t settle down to concentrate
  • Working long hours
  • Restricted desk space or no leg room
  • You crave movement during long work days

3.      Space Invaders

Consider how much space you have, and what needs to be accomplished in that area. Do you need to accommodate a single desk or a double desk? Will the desk be only for one person, or will it serve as a shared workspace for different body types? There is a sit-stand solution for every space configuration – from a large desk to an adjustable desktop unit, or even a modified countertop. But always make sure that your solution provides the correct typing height and leg room for you, so you are not restricting your body’s natural movement.

Sit stand space

4.      Room to Move

When you choose a sit-stand unit, consider how much room you need for your tasks. If yours is a data-entry type job, you could be served well by a sit-stand desk unit up to a rectangular desk, preferably with adjustable height. The key is to make sure the solution you select allows you to sit with your feet flat on the floor, shoulders relaxed, and your elbows level with your wrists. If you often work with documents, or otherwise spread out your projects, consider the desktop space you will need for that. Select the sit-stand desk that accommodates your style, your needs, your piles, and your organization techniques.

Sit-Stand Room to Move

Based on the size of the room, your tasks, and work habits, there are a variety of sizes and shapes for you to consider. The more popular desk shapes include a variety of desk depths and lengths:

  • Rectangular desks come in 36″, 42″, 48″, 60″, and 72″ models. The largest two are the most popular sizes. The 24″ and 30″ sizes are popular for those who require less desk space
  • Corner desks provides a deeper center apex and space to the right or left for working or staging paperwork and project piles
  • L-shaped desks also offer more space for paperwork and project piles. They come in variety of sizes, but 72″ x 72″ is the most popular
  • Angled desks and curved desks are not ideal because they force the body into awkward postures
  • An existing desk can also be modified to accommodate a sit-stand desktop unit. It simply sits or attaches to the top of the desk. If you plan on this option, ensure the desk unit can adjust with keyboard below. If the desk unit does not adjust below the standard desk, you will be forced into awkward postures when sitting. This is not ideal because it is too high, restricts your movement, and forces poor posture and posture habits

Sit-Stand Unit

5.      She works hard for the money

While a customized sit-stand desk is an ergonomic furniture piece that will serve everybody and every body, budgets should be considered. There are sit-stand units in the $400-$650 range, and rectangular desks from $300-$1500 and corner desks in the $2,000 range. There really is a desk for every budget. The goal is to actively use both the sit and the stand options and transition between the two (every 30-60 minutes in the beginning). Always make sure that whichever desk you choose is the right height for you when sitting and when standing.

Once you find your match, be religious about taking breaks, moving and stretching your body, and listening to how your muscles and posture are adjusting. When you account for these five considerations in selecting your sit-stand solution, your body, mind, and spirit will thank you in every working hour.


About Karen Burke

Karen is the founder and president of Kare Products, specializing in active ergonomic solutions. She has 30 years experience in ergonomic product design and consulting.