Getting Started with a Standing Desk

try out standing before you buy a standing desk - Bankers Box exampleGetting started with a standing desk can be a major change in your workstyle. After all, the whole office environment has been set up for decades to favor sitting and sedentary behavior.

Trying Out Standing at Work

Depending on your budget, you may need to start with a pretty rudimentary workstation.

Depending on your office culture, you may have to deal with curious or disdainful co-workers.

Depending on your level of fitness, you may have to re-awaken under-used muscles by easing into standing at your desk.

Ignore these possible distractions and focus instead on the vitality, productivity, and comfort that your new, more active workstyle will bring.

Here are a few ideas for getting started with the sit-stand workstyle.

Try a Friend’s Desk

If you have a colleague who uses a standing desk and attends a lot of meetings or takes long lunches, ask if you can use their desk while they’re away.

Improvise a Standing Workstation

Ernest Hemingway working at an improvised standing deskFind a counter, bookcase, file cabinet, or other piece of furniture with a top surface that is as high, or a little lower, than the height of your elbows. If the height isn’t exactly right, you can use a box or similar to elevate your laptop to an ergonomically comfortable level.

The photo above shows a set-up I used a few years ago – three Bankers Boxes set on top of a conventional sitting desk.

The photo at right shows how Ernest Hemingway would put his typewriter on a bookshelf to work standing up.


There are gazillions of do-it-yourself standing-desk ideas on the internet. From placing a small coffee table on your existing desk to the famous $22 Ikea hack, clever and committed standers have conjured up an infinite number of ways of making their own standing desk.

Scan this Google image search page and see if any of the DIY designs grab you. You might also want to watch my 5-minute Ignite Seattle talk on DIY Standing Desk Designs.

Visit a Standing-Desk Showroom

They can be hard to find, but it’s worth seeking out a store where you can actually try out a standing desk before you buy.

Some locations will let you plop down your laptop for an hour or so to try out their desks. I’ll create a page listing physical showrooms that carry standing desks soon. In the meantime, do a web search for local standing desk stores.

Chain stores like Relax the Back, Staples, Office Depot, Costco, IKEA, and others are starting to carry standing desks, but their selection is often quite limited.

Specialty retailers like Ergo Depot (San Francisco and Portland), WorkWhileWalking (Seattle), and The Human Solution (Austin) may carry more models, but it will be the luck of the draw whether they have a location near you.

Start Small and Build Up

If you experience any discomfort or fatigue as you begin standing, just go back to sitting until you are ready for another bout of standing. Even if it’s not uncomfortable, I recommend regular sitting and movement breaks, if only for the variety.

If you’re looking for guidance on how much to stand, the ergonomist Alan Hedge recommends “20 minutes sitting (in a good posture), 8 minutes standing (for sit-stand workstations), and 2 minutes of standing and moving (gentle stretching, walking etc.) as a ball park goal for organizing work.”

You can start standing at work even before you mock up a standing desk or borrow one. Just stand up to take phone calls or to talk with your colleagues. Walk down the hall instead of calling your co-workers. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. There are many other ways besides a standing desk to get movement back into your work day.

Have you tested standing at your desk? Did you try one of these ideas? or another?