The first thing people typically ask me about any standing desk is its price.
They've all heard about the fancy $3,000 "smart" standing desk and the $22 IKEA hack, but good information about the vast majority of standing desks that fall between those extremes can be hard to come by.
Most folks seem interested in standing desks at the lower end of that price range. Which is why I'm launching my standing-desk review series with this round-up of affordable standing desks.
You can have any of the desks in this review delivered to your office or home for less than $400, several of them for much less.
This approach makes for a bit of a hodgepodge of a comparison review, with super-basic cardboard models compared alongside nicely manufactured pieces of furniture. But I hope this page will help you quickly get a feel for what's available at the low end of the standing-desk price range.
Affordable Standing Desk Ratings
Desk names link to their individual reviews.
Our favorite in this group is the StandUp Desk. We like this desk a lot. It’s sturdy, stable, attractive, and ergonomically sound. For less money than a good desktop add-on like the Varidesk, you can get a “real” (free-standing, height-adjustable) standing desk.
We like any piece of office furniture that gets you up and moving in the office. Any of these low-cost standing desks can help you do that, so we appreciate them all, but the StandUp Desk stood out for us as a particularly good value in this category.
We prefer a desk that you are actually likely to use on a regular basis, that is easy to height adjust (so that you can routinely change positions throughout your work day), and that keeps you productive and comfortable as you use it.
We also evaluated the experience we had as a customer buying, receiving, assembling, and setting up these desks. Most standing desks are purchased online and delivered via UPS or FedEx or other carriers. And most of them require some amount of assembly. We think that getting your standing experience off to a good start is an important part of the process, so these factors make up 25% of each desk's score. Most of these affordable desks scored well here, with the notable exception of IKEA's hands-off approach to customer service.
Engineering and ergonomics are, of course, the most important factors when it comes to your day-to-day standing experience, so those elements make up the bulk of each desk's score. These factors account for most of the wide spread between desk scores.
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The Desks We Evaluated
I've been following the standing-desk world for many years, so I have a good feel for which low-price desks are most popular and which offer the most promise. The desks in this review have each garnered good media coverage (the Oristand and the Skarsta, for example) and/or good reputations at Amazon (the StandUp Desk) and other shopping sites. Others have come to my attention via Kickstarter (ReadyDesk and The UpStanding Desk) and other crowd-funding campaigns or via endorsements from multiple friends and colleagues (the Varidesk). We had also hoped to evaluate the new Ergodriven Spark cardboard desk, which looks like it might be a good alternative to the Oristand, but it hadn't yet shipped as this review went into production.
The Affordable Standing Desks We Evaluated
How We Evaluated These Standing Desks
I was the lead evaluator for this review. Over the past two months, I've spent a total of about 240 hours evaluating these desks, working at one or more of them every day. All of the basic factual reporting and most of the opinions expressed here are mine.
These reviews are also informed by input from six volunteer evaluators at the Impact Hub Seattle co-working space where Well9to5 is based. Each of them spent several hours (typically a half-day at a time but often one or more full days) working at one or more of these desks. These volunteer reviewers provided another 100 hours or so of evaluation time. In addition to these evaluators' formal feedback, I also had many informal conversations with them about their experiences with these desks. Their opinions and reports - for which I am extremely grateful - are interspersed throughout this overview review and the individual desk reviews.
The Benefits of Using a Standing Desk
If you're shopping for a standing desk, you have very likely seen many articles on the hazards of sitting and the benefits of standing. I won't review all of the good reasons you should be standing more at work, but here are a few:
- Fight sitting disease - reawaken the physiological processes that are shut down when you sit too much.
- Reduce pain - folks who stand and move regularly are much less prone to low-back pain and other body aches and pains.
- Lose weight - it's not the best way to lose weight, but you burn more calories standing than sitting.
- Improve muscle and bone health - standing periodically throughout your work day keeps your muscles and bones from atrophying and adapting to the shape of your chair.
- Work smarter - standing improves engagement, concentration, and alertness, resulting in better productivity.
What We Look for in a Standing Desk
The main thing we looked for in this batch of desks was affordability. That criterion is reflected solely in the price of each desk.
We, of course, look at much more than price when we evaluate a standing desk, and we apply those same review criteria to any desk that we look at. This means that a lot of these desks earn pretty low scores. That's only because they're being compared with desks that have many more features.
The truism "you get what you pay for" definitely applies here. For the most part, the lower the price, the lower the desk rating. With each additional dollar that you spend you generally get a better desk that you are more likely to actually use.
And that's all that I care about: getting you up off your butt and moving a bit more at work. If you can do that by setting your laptop on top of an old cardboard box, that's great. But the scientific research shows that you're more likely to actually use a standing desk on a regular and ongoing basis if it has features like easy height adjustability, good-sized work surfaces, and sturdy construction.
Each of these affordable desks falls short in one or more of these regards, so if you're not in a rush to buy your standing desk, and if you have a budget to work with, you might want to wait until I publish my review of electrically height adjustable desks next month. That batch of reviews will include eight of the best-known standing desks on the market, all of them well under $1,000, some of the best ones costing less than $700.
But like I said, I genuinely don't care how you get moving at work. I and my Hub colleagues got plenty of work done on these cheap desks over the past couple of months. If you want to get started standing right away, don't let my bias toward fancy electric standing desks dissuade you from buying one of these affordable models.
Here are the criteria we evaluate for every standing desk we test:
Shopping & Buying Experience (5% of total score)
As quickly as the standing-desk industry has grown, we are still many years away from having an active-office furniture showroom next to every Office Depot or Walmart. Right now there are just a few showrooms scattered around the country, mostly in hip tech havens like the Bay Area, Austin, Portland, and Seattle. So for the foreseeable future, most standing desks will be purchased online.
This is why we included in our evaluations a report on our shopping and buying experience. We looked at the usability and thoroughness of the desk's website, ensuring that they comply with ecommerce best practices.
All of these desks are backed by informative, trustworthy, secure websites.
Shipping & Delivery Experience (10% of total score)
Like any consumer, we waited anxiously for our new desks to arrive. Most of the points we awarded here are for our specific shipping and delivery experience, but we also consider the scope of the manufacturer's delivery area and whether they offer extras like inside delivery or an assembly service.
Ease & Elegance of Assembly (10% of total score)
Most standing desks require you to do some amount of assembly. For the cardboard and plywood desks we looked at in this round, that rarely took more than a minute or two. For the free-standing, height-adjustable desks like the Skarsta and the StandUp Desk, we spent as much as an hour putting the desk together.
We rated our assembly experience with each desk based on the clarity of its assembly instructions, whether all parts were included, how smoothly the parts fit together, and in general how elegantly the assembly experience unfolded.
Engineering (30% of total score)
The most important criteria in the engineering of a standing desk are its sturdiness and stability, so those factors carry the most weight when we evaluate any desk. We also account for other engineering factors like design, materials and surfaces, construction quality, and details like cable and power management. But the bulk of the score here is based on the solidness of the desk.
Our judgment of the importance of each of these factors is reflected as a percentage assigned to each of these engineering factors.
- Style and Design (5% of Engineering score) - Well9to5 isn't a style publication, so we don't account for esthetic design in our evaluations. Desks earn points here for the range of style and design choices they give you.
- Stability (40% of Engineering score) - nothing can ruin your standing experience faster than a wobbly desk, so we assign a lot of importance to how stable a desk is throughout its height adjustability range.
- Sturdiness (40% of Engineering score) - a desk's robustness is also important. We look here mostly for static and dynamic (lifting) weight capacity.
- Details (5% of Engineering score) like cable management features, power management consoles, power outlet mounts, USB chargers, and “smart” controls can earn a desk extra points here.
- Materials & Surfaces (5% of Engineering score) - we look at the quality and durability of the materials used to make the frame, top, and other components of each desk.
- Construction (5% of Engineering score) - we look at how pre-assembled components are constructed.
- Maintenance (0% of Engineering score) - we don't account for ease of maintenance in our scoring, but many manufacturers provide cleaning and other desk-care advice, which we report when it's available.
Ergonomics (35% of total score)
Even more important than how a desk is engineered is its ergonomic profile. Ergonomics is the science of balancing comfort and productivity so that you can put in a good day's work without hurting yourself. A properly designed and configured standing desk can mean the difference between a squirmy, uncomfortable workday and a productive one that contributes to your job satisfaction.
- Comfort (40% of Ergonomics score) - in addition to conventional ergonomic comfort considerations like the promotion of neutral posture and the elimination of pressure points, a standing desk should be able to easily height adjust and otherwise support routine movement throughout your workday.
- Productivity (45% of Ergonomics score) - your standing desk should provide enough space for all of your work materials, and you should be able to lay them out so that they are within easy reach.
- Portability (5% of Ergonomics score) - modern offices can be flexible and dynamic environments, so we give bonus points to desks that are easy to move
- Noise (5% of Ergonomics score) - noisy motors and other height-adjustment mechanisms can be a distraction, so we favor desks that keep such distractions to a minimum.
- Safety (5% of Ergonomics score) - this criterion applies mostly to electrically height adjustable desks which can bump into shelves as they adjust upward or file cabinets and trash cans as they go down - some desks have mechanisms that automatically prevent these kinds of mishaps.
Warranty (5% of total score)
A good way to gauge a manufacturer’s confidence in the durability of their products is by the length of the warranty they offer. We awarded warranty points for each desk based on this scale:
- 0-1 yr = 1 point
- 1-2 yrs = 2 points
- 3-5 yrs = 3 points
- 5-7 yrs = 4 points
- 8+ yrs = 4.5-5 points
Most of these low-priced desks come with very limited warranties - or no warranty at all - so the scores here are generally quite low.
Customer Service (5% of total score)
We assign each desk a middle score and add or deduct points based on based on their response if we have to reach out.
The table below summarizes our scoring for each desk. To simplify comparison across the site, we round up the raw score to the nearest whole number and express the result as a percentage.
Click on a desk name to read its detailed individual review.
|Shopping & Buying||5||5||5||3||5||5||5|
|Shipping & Delivery||9||9||9||1||9||7||8|
I have consulted a number of scholarly research studies and other resources on the benefits of standing and the use of standing desks over the years, among them:
- Alkhajah, Taleb A., Marina M. Reeves, Elizabeth G. Eakin, Elisabeth A. H. Winkler, Neville Owen, and Genevieve N. Healy. “Sit–Stand Workstations: A Pilot Intervention to Reduce Office Sitting Time.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 43, no. 3 (September 2012): 298–303.
- Buckley, John P, Alan Hedge, Thomas Yates, Robert J Copeland, Michael Loosemore, Mark Hamer, Gavin Bradley, and David W Dunstan. “The Sedentary Office: An Expert Statement on the Growing Case for Change towards Better Health and Productivity.” British Journal of Sports Medicine 49, no. 21 (November 2015): 1357–62.
- Buckley, John P., Duane D. Mellor, Michael Morris, and Franklin Joseph. “Standing-Based Office Work Shows Encouraging Signs of Attenuating Post-Prandial Glycaemic Excursion.” Occupational and Environmental Medicine, December 2, 2013, oemed-2013-101823.
- Chau, Josephine Y., William Sukala, Karla Fedel, Anna Do, Lina Engelen, Megan Kingham, Amanda Sainsbury, and Adrian E. Bauman. “More Standing and Just as Productive: Effects of a Sit-Stand Desk Intervention on Call Center Workers’ Sitting, Standing, and Productivity at Work in the Opt to Stand Pilot Study.” Preventive Medicine Reports 3 (June 2016): 68–74.
- Cox, Ronald Howard, Jared Guth, Leah Siekemeyer, Brianna Kellems, Susan Baker Brehm, and Christina M Ohlinger. “Metabolic Cost and Speech Quality While Using an Active Workstation.” Journal of Physical Activity & Health 8, no. 3 (March 2011): 332–39.
- Dutta, Nirjhar, Thomas Walton, and Mark A. Pereira. “Experience of Switching from a Traditional Sitting Workstation to a Sit-Stand Workstation in Sedentary Office Workers.” Work 52, no. 1 (August 19, 2015): 83–89.
- Fountaine, Charles J., Josh Johann, Craig Skalko, and Gary A. Liguori. “Metabolic and Energy Cost of Sitting, Standing, and a Novel Sitting/Stepping Protocol in Recreationally Active College Students.” International Journal of Exercise Science 9, no. 2 (2016): 11.
- Gallagher, Kaitlin M., Troy Campbell, and Jack P. Callaghan. “The Influence of a Seated Break on Prolonged Standing Induced Low Back Pain Development.” Ergonomics 57, no. 4 (2014): 555–62.
- Garrett, Gregory, Mark Benden, Ranjana Mehta, Adam Pickens, Camille Peres, and Hongwei Zhao. “Call Center Productivity Over 6 Months Following a Standing Desk Intervention.” IIE Transactions on Occupational Ergonomics and Human Factors 0, no. ja (May 24, 2016): 00–00.
- Gilson, Nicholas D., Alessandro Suppini, Gemma C. Ryde, Helen E. Brown, and Wendy J. Brown. “Does the Use of Standing ‘hot’ Desks Change Sedentary Work Time in an Open Plan Office?” Preventive Medicine, Special Section: Complementary and Alternative Medicine II, 54, no. 1 (January 1, 2012): 65–67.
- Grunseit, Anne Carolyn, Josephine Yuk-Yin Chau, Hidde Pieter van der Ploeg, and Adrian Bauman. “‘Thinking on Your Feet’: A Qualitative Evaluation of Sit-Stand Desks in an Australian Workplace.” BMC Public Health 13, no. 1 (2013): 365.
- Husemann, Britta, Carolin Yvonne Von Mach, Daniel Borsotto, Kirsten Isabel Zepf, and Jutta Scharnbacher. “Comparisons of Musculoskeletal Complaints and Data Entry between a Sitting and a Sit-Stand Workstation Paradigm.” Human Factors 51, no. 3 (June 2009): 310–20.
- Júdice, Pedro B., Marc T. Hamilton, Luís B. Sardinha, Theodore W. Zderic, and Analiza M. Silva. “What Is the Metabolic and Energy Cost of Sitting, Standing and Sit/stand Transitions?” European Journal of Applied Physiology 116, no. 2 (October 14, 2015): 263–73.
- Katzmarzyk, Peter T. “Standing and Mortality in a Prospective Cohort of Canadian Adults.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 46, no. 5 (May 2014): 940–46.
- Kerr, Jacqueline, Michelle Takemoto, Khalisa Bolling, Andrew Atkin, Jordan Carlson, Dori Rosenberg, Katie Crist, et al. “Two-Arm Randomized Pilot Intervention Trial to Decrease Sitting Time and Increase Sit-To-Stand Transitions in Working and Non-Working Older Adults: e0145427.” PLoS One 11, no. 1 (January 2016).
- Lin, Yen-Hui, Chih-Yong Chen, and Min-Hsien Cho. “Influence of Shoe/floor Conditions on Lower Leg Circumference and Subjective Discomfort during Prolonged Standing.” Applied Ergonomics 43, no. 5 (September 2012): 965–70.
- MacEwen, Brittany T., Dany J. MacDonald, and Jamie F. Burr. “A Systematic Review of Standing and Treadmill Desks in the Workplace.” Preventive Medicine 70 (January 2015): 50–58.
- Mansoubi, Maedeh, Natalie Pearson, Stuart J. H. Biddle, and Stacy A. Clemes. “Using Sit-to-Stand Workstations in Offices: Is There a Compensation Effect?” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 48, no. 4 (April 2016): 720–25.
- Marshall, Paul W. M., Haylesh Patel, and Jack P. Callaghan. “Gluteus Medius Strength, Endurance, and Co-Activation in the Development of Low Back Pain during Prolonged Standing.” Human Movement Science 30, no. 1 (February 2011): 63–73.
- Mehta, Ranjana K., Ashley E. Shortz, and Mark E. Benden. “Standing Up for Learning: A Pilot Investigation on the Neurocognitive Benefits of Stand-Biased School Desks.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 13, no. 1 (December 22, 2015): 59.
- Ognibene, Grant T., Wilson Torres, Rie von Eyben, and Kathleen C. Horst. “Impact of a Sit-Stand Workstation on Chronic Low Back Pain: Results of a Randomized Trial.” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, December 2015, 1.
- Ohlinger, Christina M, Thelma S Horn, William P Berg, and Ronald Howard Cox. “The Effect of Active Workstation Use on Measures of Cognition, Attention, and Motor Skill.” Journal of Physical Activity & Health 8, no. 1 (January 2011): 119–25.
- Reiff, Christopher, Kara Marlatt, and Donald R Dengel. “Difference in Caloric Expenditure in Sitting versus Standing Desks.” Journal of Physical Activity & Health 9, no. 7 (September 2012): 1009–11.
- Robertson, Lindsay, Su Ern Yeoh, and Dinanda N. Kolbach. “Non-Pharmacological Interventions for Preventing Venous Insufficiency in a Standing Worker Population.” The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 10 (2013): CD006345.
- Sancini, A, G Tomei, M P Schifano, N Nardone, G Andreozzi, L Scimitto, M Fiaschetti, et al. “[Phlebopathies and occupation].” Annali di igiene: medicina preventiva e di comunità 24, no. 2 (April 2012): 131–44.
- Schraefel, M.C., and Kenneth Jay Andersen. “Are You Sitting Down? Towards Cognitive Performance Informed Design.” Accessed April 30, 2013.
- Shrestha, Nipun, Katriina T Kukkonen-Harjula, Jos H Verbeek, Sharea Ijaz, Veerle Hermans, and Soumyadeep Bhaumik. “Workplace Interventions for Reducing Sitting at Work.” In Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2016.
- Sjögren, Per, Rachel Fisher, Lena Kallings, Ulrika Svenson, Göran Roos, and Mai-Lis Hellénius. “Stand up for Health—avoiding Sedentary Behaviour Might Lengthen Your Telomeres: Secondary Outcomes from a Physical Activity RCT in Older People.” British Journal of Sports Medicine, September 3, 2014, bjsports-2013-093342.
- Straker, Leon, Rebecca A. Abbott, Marina Heiden, Svend Erik Mathiassen, and Allan Toomingas. “Sit–stand Desks in Call Centres: Associations of Use and Ergonomics Awareness with Sedentary Behavior.” Applied Ergonomics 44, no. 4 (July 2013): 517–22.
- Sudol-Szopińska, Iwona, Anna Bogdan, Tomasz Szopiński, Anna K. Panorska, and Malgorzata Kolodziejczak. “Prevalence of Chronic Venous Disorders among Employees Working in Prolonged Sitting and Standing Postures.” Int J Occup Saf Ergon 17, no. 2 (2011): 165–73.
- Tew, G. A., M. C. Posso, C. E. Arundel, and C. M. McDaid. “Systematic Review: Height-Adjustable Workstations to Reduce Sedentary Behaviour in Office-Based Workers.” Occupational Medicine, May 1, 2015, kqv044.
- Thorp, Alicia A., Bronwyn A. Kingwell, Parneet Sethi, Louise Hammond, Neville Owen, and David W. Dunstan. “Alternating Bouts of Sitting and Standing Attenuates Postprandial Glucose Responses.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, March 14, 2014.
- Toomingas, Allan, Mikael Forsman, Svend Mathiassen, Marina Heiden, and Tohr Nilsson. “Variation between Seated and Standing/walking Postures among Male and Female Call Centre Operators.” BMC Public Health 12, no. 1 (2012): 154.
- Tudor-Locke, C., J. M. Schuna, L. J. Frensham, and M. Proenca. “Changing the Way We Work: Elevating Energy Expenditure with Workstation Alternatives.” International Journal of Obesity 38, no. 6 (June 2014): 755–65.