Standing Desk Buyers Guide Part 1 - What Type of Desk Do You Need?


woman working at standing desk

The popularity of standing desks has exploded in the last few years but the variety of options makes it hard for buyers to decide which desk is best for them.

This buyers guide examines different types of sit stand desks to help you make an informed decision about which type of standing desk is right for your specific needs.

This is a multi-part buyers guide. Take a look at Part 2: Comparing Electric Sit Stand Desks here and Part 3: Standing Desk Converters here.


What is a Standing Desk?

“Standing desk” is a broad term, and includes any kind of desk that you can stand up at. This could be a simple, fixed-height desk that you can only stand at, but most people prefer a height-adjustable, sit stand desk. Also known as sit to stand and stand up desks, these allow you to comfortably stand while you work and then adjust the height of the desk to sit. Having that flexibility is very important so you can easily alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day.


Why Use a Standing Desk?

Sitting for long periods of time has been dubbed ‘the new smoking’. Research into the health benefits of using a standing desk is ongoing, but more and more people are choosing to stand or alternate between sitting and standing during the day. They do this because standing at your desk can help you move more during the workweek. Research has shown that standing desks help you burn more calories than you would while sitting. Another study found that standing desks significantly increased productivity - workers using sit stand desks were 45% more productive than their seated colleagues.

To read more research about standing desks and ergonomics, visit our research papers page here:


Types of Height Adjustable Desks

There are four main types of sit stand desks – manual sit stand desks, electric sit stand desks, standing desk converters and portable standing desks.

Manually Operated Sit Stand Desks

Although cheap has many limitations.

  • Generally limited range of height and most do not raise high enough.
  • Low weight capacity
  • Limited range of sizes (due to weight and manual operation).
  • Slow to change height
  • Can be difficult to use . People with injury find them too hard or stressful on the body.

In our experience most manual desks are generally too hard to use and in the end do not get used at all.

Sit Stand Desks with Electric Motors

These are complete desks that use electric motors with push-button controls to raise and lower the desktop. One thing to look out for is the quality and noise levels of the motors. Cheaper desks will often have a single electric motor that is quite noisy and will struggle with heavier loads. A higher-quality height-adjustable desk like our Accord range should have one motor in each leg and smooth, quiet operation.

Standing Desk Converters

Designed to modify a standard desk into a sit stand desk, a converter sits on top of your existing desk and is then adjusted up and down to the required height. For most standing desk converters, the user pulls a lever at the side of the unit, and the desk rises using gas or spring assisted struts. High-end converters like the Humanscale Quickstand don’t even need a lever. Instead they use a weighted counterbalance system that makes it smoother and easier to adjust the height.

Converters are ideal for offices that already have built-in desks and limited available space that doesn’t allow for any additional furniture. Desktop converters are also a good choice if you are on a tighter budget and want to keep your existing desk.

Portable Standing Desks and Carts

For workers that need to move around during the day at work, a portable standing desk or cart is ideal. Perfect for medical practices where the worker moves between rooms with their laptop, for teachers moving around the classroom and mechanics moving around their workshop. They are also ideal for the home office worker that wants to work in different rooms of the house. Depending on your requirements, you could get a smaller portable desk that just has enough space for a laptop and a mouse, or a larger unit that also has a monitor arm like the Ergotron Neo-Flex LCD Cart.


Consider your Setup and Type of Work When Choosing a Sit Stand Desk

The sort of work you do and the tools you use to do your job will determine what type of sit stand desk is best for you. Here are several scenarios and our recommendations for the most suitable sit stand desk.

Scenario #1 - Laptop Only

Most standing desk converters are not suitable for using with only a laptop unless you use an external keyboard because they have two separate parts – a keyboard platform and monitor or work surface platform. Your laptop may not safely fit on the keyboard area so you need one flat area to place your laptop on. You have the lightest computer setup, so you don’t need to be concerned about the weight of your equipment.  

Recommend: Any Electric or Portable Standing Desk

Scenario #2 - Keyboard & One Monitor

This equipment configuration gives you the most options in sit stand desks. With only one monitor you don’t need to worry about the weight or space your equipment needs - you can choose almost any type of sit stand desk. Your height and body shape will be the main deciding factor rather than your computer setup.

Recommend: Electric Sit Stand Desk, Converter, larger Portable Standing Desks

Scenario #3 - Keyboard & Two Monitors

The weight and space required for your equipment is your biggest concern with this scenario. You need a sit stand desk that is large, strong and stable enough to hold the monitors. Before purchasing make sure the desk can accommodate the weight of your equipment and you will have enough available space for any paperwork, stationery etc.   

Recommend: Electric Sit Stand Desk, larger Converter Desks

Scenario #4 - Keyboard, Monitor and Document Holder

If you need to type or data enter using papers, your biggest concern is where the document holder will sit. You need a desk large enough that the document holder can sit to the side of your monitor. Some desk converters only have room for the document holder above the keyboard which then obscures the view of the monitor.

Recommend: Electric Sit Stand Desk, select Converter Desks

Scenario #5 - Keyboard, Monitor and Books

Some professions need to refer to heavy books while working. You need a large flat working area that can take the size and weight of an open book.

Recommend: Electric Sit Stand Desk

Scenario #6 - Monitors that Adjust

If you need to move the position of one or more monitors, then you need to consider a monitor arm when choosing your desk. Some desks aren’t as suitable as others for a monitor arm to be attached to the back. Not all office walls can have a monitor arm attached either.

Recommend: Electric Sit Stand Desk with a movable Monitor Arm


Choose a Sit Stand Desk to Suit your Height & Body Shape

Not all sit stand desks are a good fit for every body size and shape. Most products are designed for adults who are average in height and weight. If you are taller, shorter, big or small framed, some desks are better suited to you than others.   

Sit stand desks are designed to be ergonomic to use but also need to be easy to adjust without risking an injury. Consider some of the following points before making your sit stand desk selection.

The Best Height Adjustable Desk for Tall People?

Anyone with a height of around 185 cm or more needs to consider which type of sit stand desk they use. Some standing desk converters don’t rise high enough for their arms to be at the correct angle when using the keyboard. Other converters are not as stable and if a tall or heavy person leans on the desk edge, there is a risk of them toppling over. Tall workers are best suited to an electric desk as they can extend high enough, offer the most stability and weight capacity.  Check the specifications and make sure the desk can be raised high enough for you to work comfortably.

Recommended: Electric Sit Stand Desk

The Best Height Adjustable Desk for Smaller People?

If you are less than 165 cm in height or a small build, you may find it difficult to move some standing desk converters up and down. When a desk is loaded with monitors and a keyboard, it can be difficult to push down if the gas lift system isn’t of good quality.

When a standing desk converter is raised to its full height, it may be higher than some workers’ shoulders, so they don’t have the strength and weight to push the desk back down.

The handle used to move the desk can be located away from the edge, under the desk, making it difficult to use for someone with small hands. These converter desks require reasonably strong, large hands to pull the lever to move the desk with ease.  

Recommended: Electric Sit Stand Desk


Keep Moving & Use an Anti Fatigue Mat

We recommend you keep moving around while standing at your desk to avoid fatigue. A good way to do this is by using a padded anti fatigue mat. A mat like the Topo Anti Fatigue Standing Mat has contours and different shapes that allow you to keep changing your standing position in a natural way. Make sure you get a mat that is lightweight and easy to move out of the way when you want to lower your desk and sit down for a while.


Try Before You Buy

This guide has hopefully given you a much better idea of which standing desk is right for you, but if you’re unsure of the best ergonomic setup for your body shape and type of work, visit our Perth showroom and try our range of height adjustable desks for yourself. If this isn’t an option, give Ergolink a call on (08) 9240 7066 and speak to one of our experienced consultants or contact us online.