This standing desk buying guide aims to streamline your process of choosing and purchasing your stand-up desk.
The Wild, Wild World of Standing Desks
When I first started researching standing desks in 2007, I found a handful of industrial-looking warehouse invoicing stands, a few very nice-looking fixed-height wooden desks with designs that hearkened back to the Colonial era, a handful of home-made models, and a few makeshift, do-it-yourself solutions. There were just a few manufacturers making the electrically height adjustable desks that are so common today, and they typically cost well over $1,000.
How times have changed.
Now you can’t glance at your daily news feed without seeing a new standing-desk announcement. In just the past few years, every category of standing desk has grown dramatically in breadth and depth. Whether you’re looking for a free-standing electrically height-adjustable model or a simple cardboard riser, for a “smart desk” that will remind you when to stand or an elaborate sit-stand-recline model that can position you like an astronaut, your choices can seem infinite.
It’s still easy to find budget-busting, multi-thousand-dollar standing desks, but now there are also several contemporary, attractive, free-standing, electrically height-adjustable models that will cost you less than $600.
Help Is Here
With the explosive growth in the standing-desk industry, it can be a daunting task out to figure out which kind of standing desk is right for you. That’s what this guide is for – to help you choose which kind of standing desk will work best for you and to then help you sort through the available options in the category your choose.
Your Standing-Desk Options
You have several options for standing at work. I’ll be adding detailed lists of what to look for in each of these types of desks in the coming weeks.
- Adjustable-Height Free-Standing Desks are arguably the best solution. Functionally, they are really hard to beat. They quickly and easily change the height of your work surface, keeping all of your gear – keyboard, monitor, reference materials, and knick-knacks – in the same place. These desks are available in a variety of styles, colors, and desktop configurations (rectangular, curved, L-shaped, etc.) and are available from a wide variety of vendors and manufacturers. Most of them height-adjust with electric motors, but a few models use gas lifts or counterbalance mechanisms. For a few examples of this type of desk, see 4 Electrically Height-Adjustable Sit-Stand Desks Under $600, and return to this page in coming weeks for many more examples.
- Adjustable-Height Desktop Add-ons are a good solution if you’re on a budget or are for any reason stuck with your conventional sit-down desk. These models either rest directly on your existing desktop or hover above it on a swing-arm or similar mechanism. Some of these desktop standing extensions are quite stylish, but even the good-looking ones can take over your desktop. Some models in this category compromise on ergonomics, failing to permit optimizing both keyboard and monitor placement, for example. Still, a good height-adjustable desktop workstation can get you standing comfortably at work without denting your budget too badly. Two of the best-known lines in this category are the Varidesk and the Kangaroo.
- Fixed-Height Desktop Risers are basically elevated platforms that you set down on your existing desk to elevate your monitor, laptop and/or keyboard. This can be a super-affordable option to get you standing right away. Several of these fixed-height add-ons fold up for portability, so they can work well if you have a mobile workstyle. Some of these risers are labeled “height adjustable,” but they require you to remove everything from your desktop to adjust their leg locks or wingnuts or to slide surfaces into different mounting slots, so they function as essentially fixed-height desks.
- Fixed-Height Standing Desks, even though they are sometimes derided as ergonomically “incorrect,” have a place in the stand-up desk world. They can be more affordable than an electrically height-adjustable desk. Paired with a conventional sit-down desk, they can offer a low-tech sit-stand solution. Many fixed-height desks are custom-made by high-end woodworking shops, so they can be among the most attractive standing office options. On the other end of the aesthetic spectrum are a number of models designed for warehouses and other non-office settings. Many of the desks I’ll list in this category are labeled as “height adjustable.” But they require tightening and loosening wing nuts, sliding slats into grooves, or otherwise making you clear your desktop to adjust the desk’s height. So while they are technically height-adjustable, in practice they function more like a fixed-height desk.
- Sit-Stand-Recline Desks like the Zero Gravity Workstation or the Altwork let you not only sit and stand but also recline like an astronaut. Their price tag and footprint make them a bit of a niche product. But if you have an orthopedic condition like severe back pain or chronic neck pain, they could be a good solution to keep you working as you recover. I would have gladly paid the $5,000 for one of these reclining workstations back when my low back was acting up.
The links above, at the start of each bullet point, will take you to a page for each standing-desk option with detailed information on what you should look for.
Who This Guide Is For
This standing-desk guide focuses on desks available for sale through retail channels, mostly online (though I will cover brick-and-mortar standing-desk outlets later in this guide). So I’m assuming that the primary audience will likely be individual consumers, people with home offices, and managers in small businesses.
Architects, interior designers, and facilities managers typically rely on contract furniture firms and consultants for information about standing desks, but I’m hoping they may find this guide useful, too.
What You’ll Find in This Standing Desk Buying Guide
There are two main parts to this guide, both of them objective, unbiased, just-the-facts publications:
- The guidebook that you’re reading now sets out buying criteria, advises you on which features to look for, shows you which accessories and options are worth getting, and otherwise informs you on how to choose a standing desk. It’s a work in progress and will be fleshed out a lot in the coming months.
- The accompanying showcase lists standing desks of all types, searchable by price, key features, and other criteria. I first launched the showcase with several sit-stand desks under $600 and recently added a number of others and will add similar batches of desks in the coming months. If there is a category of standing desks that you’d like to see in the showcase, please let me know.
What You Won’t Find in This Guide
You won’t find many opinions here, at least not about any one standing desk. I genuinely don’t care which particular stand-up desk you buy. I just want you to be as knowledgeable and as informed as possible as you make your buying decision. When I lived in New York City years ago, my favorite clothing store was Sym’s, which used the tag line: “An educated consumer is our best customer.” That’s the spirit here, too.
I am an ardent proponent of standing and other non-sedentary behaviors in the office. So I enthusiastically recommend any category of products that help you in that regard, especially standing desks. So I’ll list the factors that you’ll want to consider as you make your buying decision. I’ll put together lists of standing desks that meet objective criteria like price, height range, style, etc. And I’ll tell you why I think one type of standing desk will work better than another in a particular situation.
But you won’t find recommendations for specific desks here. I would love at some point to do proper Consumer Reports-style reviews of office-wellness products like standing desks, but that’s not currently feasible. Only one organization, The Wirecutter, is even attempting to do that now, but even they have only looked at about a dozen of the hundred-plus of the standing desks that are currently available.
Obviously, the quality of the individual products and the reliability of the companies making them will be all over the map, especially in an arena as new and as rapidly evolving as the standing-desk market. So I’ll link out to as many consumer review pages as possible. Right now, the main sources for these kinds of reviews are Amazon, YouTube, and standing-desk manufacturer websites. You’ll find these links on pages in the standing-desk showcase.
Standing Desk Benefits
If you have found your way to this page, you probably already have in mind several good reasons for standing at your desk. But even if you’re 100% clear on why you want to stand at your desk, it can be helpful to quickly review the benefits of standing more at work.
Try the Workstyle Before You Buy a Standing Desk
You’ll want to make sure that standing at work is right for you before you shell out the money for a new desk. Check out this page that sets out several ways to prototype the standing-desk work style.
Who Is This Guy, and What Does He Know about Standing Desks?
In many circles, I’m known as “The Standing Desk Guy.”
Obviously, if you look at the scope of this site, my interests and expertise are much broader than that, but I’m OK with being pigeonholed that way.
My main intention here at Well9to5 is to help you get moving at work. There are many ways to do that – and I truly don’t care which way you choose to undo your sedentary ways – but a standing desk is arguably the best way.
I hope this guide helps you find the standing desk that’s right for you.