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Most Americans are reaching their one year anniversary of working from home due to Covid-19-related lockdowns — and considering certain upgrades to their work spaces like the alluring standing desk, also known as an adjustable desk. If you’re anything like me, you may be hitting an unproductive slump — your current at-home work setup may be to blame, and specifically your desk. The effects of poor ergonomics, from slouching over your desk to prolonged periods of sitting, can lead to chronic pain and even hurt productivity, said Erica Eannucci, PT, who manages the Orthopedic Physical Therapy Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
“Our body conforms to our habits,” explained Eannucci, who’s board certified for ergonomic evaluations, among other specialties. “If you tend to sit at a desk for most of the day, leaning forward to look at your screen, and then sit slouched on your couch with your neck bent down looking at your cell phone, you may find yourself in poor posture in most everything you do.”
If you haven’t upgraded your at-home workspace to be more ergonomic, now might be the time to do so. To that end, we’ve consulted experts on finding the best laptop stands to ergonomic chairs, ergonomic keyboard, ergonomic mice and even noise-cancelling headphones. A good ergonomic desk can work jointly with these other products, encouraging good sitting posture and easy alternating between sitting and standing. Over time, you may even feel more energized and focused throughout the day. Thinking of getting a standing desk? Here’s everything you need to know first, including why standing desks are important to your physical health in the first place and what to consider while shopping for one.
Best standing desks 2021
Best standing desk for corners: Autonomous
The unique feature of this electric desk is its shape — most other adjustable desks are rectangular or square, making this model ideal for corner offices. The SmartDesk has a steel frame and can hold up to 330 pounds — it’s powered by three motors — and can adjust between to 28.5 inches and 47.5 inches tall.
The two desk pieces are interchangeable, which means you can change the layout to accommodate your space. The keypad allows for multiple presets automatically adjusting to different height options — the current height option is displayed on an LED screen.
Best standing desk that’s eco-friendly: Fully
This desk is made of bamboo grown without fertilizers or pesticides that’s coated in a water-based stain that preserves the wood grain. The standing desk, on the more affordable side, can hold up to 350 pounds and comes in eight different sizes and two different frames (wide and narrow). Depending on the frame, desks can adjust anywhere from 21.9 inches to 50 inches tall.
Best standing desk with manual crank: Devaise
This manual adjustable desk can be raised or lowered with a crank on the front. It can adjust from 29.5 inches to 45.5 inches. Users can also adjust the feet of the desk using knobs at the bottom to find stability on uneven floors.
The desk is fairly wide — it can fit a laptop and monitor easily — and can hold up to 100 pounds. It allows for easy assembly and has a wide leg frame to prevent wobbling.
Best standing desk with bells and whistles: Flexispot
This affordable electric standing desk is sleekly designed, made with steel and topped with bamboo wood. Its wide leg frame also prevents wobbling.
Users can customize some features like desk shape (rectangular or curved), frame color (white, gray or black) and size. You can also modify keypad type, ranging from a basic keypad to a memory keypad that saves preset heights. This desk can adjust between 27.9 inches and 47.6 inches tall, and its single motor can support up to 154 pounds. Users can select between a basic and advanced keypad, depending on how many desk presets a user wants to set.
Best standing adjustable desk: Mr. Ironstone
If you’re interested in trying out an adjustable desk without too much commitment, this affordable manually-adjustable desk may be right for you. The desk can be adjusted to anywhere between 27.9 inches and 42.5 inches in height with two knobs on either side.
This makes it less intuitive to use than other models we found but its price reflects that. It also sports other notable features, notably sporting wheels on its feet, making it easy to move around your workspace.
Best tech-heavy standing desk: Seville Classics
This electric adjustable desk model is made of steel and topped with glass. It can hold up to 160 pounds and has a pull-out drawer for storage. A key feature of this desk is the built-in dual USB chargers supplying a total of 4.8 amps, which can support two high-powered devices at the same time. The desk can be adjusted with the click of a button to anywhere between 29 inches and 47 inches, and users can preset three heights.
Best standing desk for large spaces: Teknion
This durable, well-designed adjustable desk is perfect for a larger home office (the smallest model is 46 inches across). The electric model uses two motors to easily change height with a click of a button, and allows for three “memory” settings if you want to save a specific height or adjustment.
This desk has one of the widest height adjustment ranges we’ve seen — 22.6 inches to 48.7 inches — and can hold up to 200 pounds. Users can choose between three base finish options, four surface finish options and two sizes, and Teknion says this desk can be easily assembled in under 30 minutes.
Best standing desk with a customized design: UPLIFT
Shoppers can custom design almost every aspect of the UPLIFT standing desk: You can choose from a dozen different finishes, from wood to laminate and whiteboard, and modify other desk features based on your home office needs, including size, frame and keypad. Keep in mind that different features may increase the price, depending on what you choose. The desk has a height range of 25.5 to 51.1 inches, and can hold up to 335 pounds.
Adjustable desks and ergonomics
Ergonomics is the science of fitting your work space to your body to maximize comfort, health and productivity, said Karen Erickson, a chiropractor in New York. Working (and living) at home all day has turned many people more sedentary and consequently less healthy. Sitting for a couple hours or more in a poor position puts tremendous strain on the shoulders, back and neck and, over time, can lead to carpal tunnel, tendonitis, lower back pain, neck strain and more.
“Our bodies are designed to be kinetic, to move,” said Erickson. “Exercising for one hour a day does not mitigate the bad effects of sitting all day.”
A height-adjustable desk, or an adjustable desk, can help you switch between standing and sitting throughout the day. Standing is a good way to engage your leg and core muscles while you work, said Jonathan Puleio, MS CPE, the managing director of office solutions firm Humanscale. Research by the Mayo Clinic shows standing can burn calories and help prevent long-term diseases like heart disease and blood pressure. Astudy from researchers at Texas A&M University found that using an adjustable desk can actually make you more productive at work.
Keep in mind that just because you have an adjustable desk doesn’t mean you should be standing all day, though. Standing for long periods of time can put pressure on your legs and even cause swelling and varicose veins, Puleio noted. The key is alternating between the two: Puleio recommended switching off standing for 15 minutes and sitting for 45 minutes — here’s how to best use a standing desk, according to experts.
How to shop for a standing desk
Make sure your adjustable desk is just that — adjustable. Some standing desks are one-time adjustable, meaning they’re extremely difficult or impossible to adjust back into a sitting height. In order to get the proper benefits out of your desk, you’ll want your desk to easily move up and down throughout the day. It should also work in conjunction with the rest of your office space, said Lora Cavuoto, associate professor of industrial and systems engineering with an emphasis in ergonomics at the University of Buffalo.
“I think it’s important to think about all of the components as a full system,” she explained. “Even if you have the ‘best chair,’ if it’s paired with a desk that isn’t at the appropriate height, you won’t be able to use it as intended and may still end up with discomfort.”
Adjustable desks can range from $200 to well over $1,000, said Karen Loesing, a physical therapist assistant and owner of The Ergonomic Expert, a consulting company for ergonomic office evaluations. While some adjustable desks can be expensive, there are plenty of affordable options out there. Loesing recommends looking for a desk that has a sufficient range of adjustability to accommodate your body size. When in seated position, the desk should be at or slightly below your standing elbow height. You’ll want to be able to keep your elbows bent to 90 degrees or less with your wrists at a comfortable, neutral position — whether you’re standing or sitting.
There are two common types of adjustable desks:
- Manual desks are typically raised or lowered with a crank. They are often more affordable and don’t need to be plugged into the wall. Manual desks are ideal for shoppers who don’t have a nearby outlet, want to lessen their environmental footprint or plan to remain standing or sitting for much of the day. Some manual desks have a weight limit, too, so keep this in mind when considering how many items you plan to have on your desk.
- Electric desks adjust automatically with a click (or long press) of a button. While they are often more expensive, these desks typically hold more weight and are ideal for users who plan to frequently alternate between sitting and standing. The easier the desk is to move up and down, the more likely you are to actually use it — making it more worth the initial cost, said Puleio.
Lastly, don’t forget to consider adjustable ergonomic desk accessories, like laptop stands and monitor arms, which will make it easier to adjust your entire workspace when you’re transitioning from sitting to standing.