How to Decide If a Standing Desk Is Right for You
Here's what you need to know about the new-age office staple, according to ergonomic experts.
The benefits of standing desks are likely already on your radar—and if they aren't, they should be. Designed so that you can work, read, and write while standing up, ergonomic experts and doctors alike say that standing desks can help protect your spine, back, neck, shoulders, and wrists from unnecessary strain—and, as a result, increase work productivity. The connection between working upright and increased productivity was supported in a study from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health; the research team analyzed the mental health benefits levels of 96 university students alternating between sitting and standing desks throughout the day. Their findings? Standing desks "enhance interest, enthusiasm, and alertness during task completion."
It should comes as no surprise, then, that the standing desk craze has been sweeping progressive workspaces across the globe. For instance, in Sweden, standing desks are as common in offices as sit-down ones; in 2014, Denmark made it mandatory for employers to offer their staff sit-stand desks. Still not sure if a standing desk is right for you? We asked Jon Paulsen, a certified professional ergonomist and the CEO of UPLIFT Desk and certified ergonomics assessment expert (CEAS) Karen E. Loesing to help us break down the pros and cons of using standing desks, so you can decide whether or not they're worth the investment.
The Many Pros
In addition to all of the productivity and mental health benefits standing desks offer, Paulsen says the biggest perk of using one is the added exercise you'll get during your workday. "Moving between seated and standing throughout the day makes you more active," he says, "which in turn creates all the benefits associated with being less sedentary, such as improved memory, increased concentration, and lower stress levels."
A Few Cons
Unfortunately, standing for too long can have some drawbacks, too. "Standing too long can cause swelling in the lower extremities," Loesing explains. "It can also cause fatigue. Can you imagine holding a weight all day long? If your back is not supported properly, your muscles are literally holding you up all day."
Who Should Buy One?
If you work at a desk the majority of the time or consider yourself at least somewhat athletic (or both!), then Loesing says standing desks are the ideal work station setup for you. "Standing desks are best suited for anybody who works at least four hours a day on their computer," she says. "Standing desks are also beneficial to active persons that find they actually feel worse when being stuck in a chair all day." The opposite is true as well, she adds: "Sedentary workers benefit from moving more throughout the day when they have a standing option. They've also been known to be beneficial to people with diabetes and heart-related issues."
Who Should Avoid Them?
While the health and productivity benefits of standing desks are many, Loesing says there are some individuals who should avoid them—particularly those dealing with lower body-related medical issues. "People with back and leg injuries and recovering from any type of surgery should be weary of standing desks," she says. "Always consult with your doctor before investing in one."
If you find yourself in this camp, there are still ways to experience many of the boosts a standing desk has to offer while sitting—it all comes down to creating an ergonomically sound desk, notes Paulsen: "Whether you are standing or sitting, a desk that is at the perfect height enables you to be more comfortable throughout the day, more efficient, and do higher quality work for a longer duration."