Standing desks are a matter of some controversy: are they a Silicon Valley status symbol or an ergonomic and effective way to improve productivity? In some industries, of course, standing desks are nothing new. Architects and designers, for example, have long used drawing boards at work. The wider popularity of standing desks, however, is a more recent development, with big hitters such as Google and Facebook leading the way.

Advocates of standing desks point to a number of benefits, both in terms of health and productivity. In particular, the impetus for this shift came from different medical studies pointing to the correlation between a sedentary lifestyle and a variety of serious health risks. In light of such research, the standing desk is becoming an increasingly popular solution, with many employees claiming they have experienced less musculoskeletal pain and fewer headaches since making the switch.

A standing desk allows an employee to switch between standing and sitting on a high stool throughout the day. The fact that employees are not sat slouched in a chair clearly has additional health benefits. Most obviously, there is strong medical evidence for the link between a sedentary lifestyle and conditions such as obesity. A study by the American College of Cardiology, for instance, found that those who sat for the majority of their working day were more likely to die prematurely than those who didn’t.


Still, if you’re considering making the switch, there are a few ergonomic points to consider when setting up a standing desk. To begin with, it’s important to ensure the desk or keyboard is just below elbow level, enabling you to maintain a relaxed posture throughout the working day. The position and height of the monitor should also be adjusted, so that the screen is at a slight angle and no more than 20-30 inches away. If you’re using a laptop rather than a monitor, you may be able to use an adjustable laptop stand to set the screen at eye level.

As always, these ergonomic advantages and productivity gains are not without caveats. For example, a standing desk may not be best suited to workflows that involve lengthy spells of reading or intensive writing tasks, whether with a keyboard or by hand. Another relatively common problem arises from human nature: employees sometimes say they’re more prone to wander from their workstation when they’re already on their feet. Fatigue is a more straightforward problem. After all, being on one’s feet all day is tiring.

Electric Desk 07-2010

Nevertheless, there are many standing-desk fans here at Kensington. The trick to making it work is finding a balance that suits your workflow. This may mean alternating between standing and sitting throughout the day. To facilitate such, there are even desks with electric telescopic legs that can be raised or lowered accordingly. Alternatively, a simple high stool will provide a useful back-up, just in case.

Are you considering making the switch to standing desks or have you done so already? Let us know by commenting below or via our Facebook page.

Images via Flickr: Henry Hagnäs, ramsey beyer.