In a post-pandemic world, 58% of U.S. job holders say they can work remotely at least part of the time, according to a McKinsey and Company study from last year. Because of this, many temporary home offices are now permanent setups, meaning that the last-minute budget desk you originally purchased during the height of Covid-19 is probably not cutting it for you anymore — especially if you have back pain or discomfort.
That’s where ergonomics — the science of fitting your workspace to your body to maximize comfort, health and productivity — comes in, says Karen Erickson, a chiropractor in New York. Poor ergonomics can lead to chronic pain and even hurt productivity, according to our experts.
Standing desks, also called manual desks, are a way to counteract the effects of poor ergonomics. They encourage good posture and let you stand while working throughout the day, minimizing the amount of time you’re sitting or slouching over your desk. To make your setup more comfortable, you can also add accessories like laptop stands, ergonomic office chairs, keyboards and mice, as well as under-desk treadmills, say our experts.
If you’re interested in adding a standing desk to your workstation, we talked to experts about their benefits for your physical health and productivity. We also asked them about key factors to pay attention to when shopping.
Our top picks
- Best overall pick: Autonomous SmartDesk Corner
- Best budget pick: Flexispot Comhar All-in-One Standing Desk
- Best splurge: Teknion hiSpace Quick Connect Electric Height-Adjustable Table
How to pick a standing desk
When shopping for a standing desk, our experts recommend keeping the following in mind:
- Type of desk: With manual desks, you’ll typically need to adjust the height with a crank, while electric desks raise or lower automatically when you click or press a button. For this article, we only recommend electric desks.
- Height range: Every desk on our list has an adjustable height — our choices start at 22 inches and go up to 51 inches when extended.
- Weight capacity: This refers to how much weight each desk can support. Our list includes options with various capacities; the lowest starts at 110 pounds with highest supporting up to 400 pounds.
The best adjustable standing desks
Below are the best standing desks, including recommendations from our experts and top-rated options with more than a 4.5-star average rating from over 200 reviews.
This L-shaped desk, which has a 4.6-star rating from more than 200 reviewers at Autonomous, is ideal for corner offices since it’s not a standard rectangular or square-shaped desk. It’s made up of two pieces that are interchangeable so you can adjust the layout from an L-shape to accommodate other configurations for your space, according to the brand. It’s designed with a steel frame that can support up to 400 pounds and uses three motors that raise or lower the desk. There’s also a built-in keypad, which lets you program up to four preset height options. The desktop comes in white, black and walnut, and the desk frame comes in white and black.
Type: Electric | Height adjustability range: 29.4 - 48 in. | Weight capacity: 400 pounds | Shape: L-shape
Set up your dual monitor, laptop, keyboard and any other tech on this desk, which can hold up to 350 pounds. It has a 4.8-star rating from more than 2,800 shoppers at Herman Miller and four height presets to adjust the desk to your liking. The standing desk is also extremely customizable, you can select your finish, shape, leg color, height range, size and whether you want a slot for cord cables to sit.
Type: Electric | Height adjustability range: Varies by frame type; 30 - 49.3 in., 25.5 - 51 in. or 22.9 - 43.2 in. | Weight capacity: 350 pounds | Shape: Rectangle
In addition to two built-in USB ports and a child lock, this standing desk — which has a 4.9-star rating from more than 700 reviewers at Flexispot — has a drawer for extra storage to help with cable management. It can hold up to 110 pounds and has four height presets. At 48 inches wide, there’s enough room for two monitors, plus any additional accessories you need, according to the brand. The desktop is available in three options — bamboo, chipboard or glass — and depending on which top you select, you can choose other various features like size and desktop color. You can also add casters (wheels), for an additional fee.
Type: Electric | Height adjustability range: 28.3 - 47.6 in. | Weight capacity: 110 pounds | Shape: Rectangle
With this option, you can change the height of your desk with the click of a button. Similar to other models on our list, you can store up to three programmed heights. You can choose from two surface widths — 46 or 58 inches — and five surface colors, as well as three frame colors. The desk, which can hold up to 200 pounds, also has a cable organizer with a felt cover, and two horizontal wire tray managers.
Type: Electric | Height adjustability range: 22.6 - 48.7 in. | Weight capacity: 200 pounds | Shape: Rectangle
This desk is a favorite of Karen Loesing, a physical therapist assistant and owner of The Ergonomic Expert, a consulting company for ergonomic office evaluations. The commercial desk lowers down to 22.6 inches for seated work, which is helpful if you’re petite, says Loesing. You can custom design almost every aspect of the Uplift standing desk, including the desktop style and size, grommet type and color, frame color, and keypad type and color. A wire management tray and cable mounts are included with the standing desk, which can hold up to 335 pounds.
Type: Electric | Height adjustability range: Varies by chosen frame | Weight capacity: 335 pounds | Shape: Rectangle
This Herman Miller option is another favorite of Loesing’s for its generous 12-year warranty, which covers electrical components, casters, pneumatic cylinders, tilts and all moving mechanisms, in case of any damage, according to the brand. You can customize the table finish, size and desktop, plus its one-touch switch can help you adjust its height with ease. It also has nonslip rubber feet to prevent it from moving with vigorous typing or activity.
Type: Electric | Adjustability: 27 - 46 in. | Weight capacity: N/A | Shape: Rectangle
How to shop for a standing desk
Below, experts share what to consider while shopping for a standing desk:
Type of standing desk
There are two common types of adjustable desks: Manual and electric. Learning about their differences can help you weigh the pros and cons of each.
- Manual desks are typically raised or lowered with a crank. They are usually more affordable and you typically don’t need to plug them into an outlet (because they don’t need motors for height adjustment). Manual desks are ideal for shoppers who don’t have nearby outlets or plan to remain standing or sitting for much of the day. Some manual desks have a weight limit, too, so be sure to consider how many items you plan to have on your desk while shopping.
- Electric desks adjust automatically with a click (or long press) of a button. While they are often more expensive, they typically hold more weight and are ideal for users who plan to frequently alternate between sitting and standing.
Adjustability and fit
Choosing an adjustable standing desk is important because it lets you choose positions that are right for your body type. When in a seated position, your desk should be at or slightly below your standing elbow height, says Loesing. And whether you’re sitting or standing, you’ll want to be able to keep your elbows bent to 90 degrees or less with your wrists in a comfortable, neutral position, according to experts we interviewed. In order to get the proper benefits out of your desk, you’ll want it to easily move up and down throughout the day, so prioritize this while shopping.
Some standing desks are one-time adjustable, meaning they’re extremely difficult or impossible to adjust back to a sitting height — they can only be used as standing desks.
How it fits in your workspace
Before buying a standing desk, make sure it works in conjunction with the rest of your office space, says 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 says. “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.”
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.
What’s the difference between a standing desk and a standing desk convertor?
The main difference between the two is their design and functionality. A standing desk converter sits on top of your traditional desk, while a standing desk is a complete desk in itself. You can continue sitting and working as you normally would by lowering a standing desk, or you can work while standing by raising it. While a desk converter may be a more cost-efficient way of making your desk more ergonomic, it won’t have as many height adjustment options as a standing desk. Desk converters sit atop your home desk, so it will also limit the amount of space for your monitor and other devices.
What are the benefits of standing desks?
Sitting for more than a couple of hours with poor posture, slouching and a forward head position puts tremendous strain on the neck, shoulders and low back. Over time, it can lead to lower back pain, neck strain, headache, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and more, says Erickson. Practicing good posture with the right ergonomic work station will keep you healthy and productive.
“Our bodies are designed to be kinetic, to move,” she says. “Exercising for one hour a day does not mitigate the bad effects of sitting all day.”
A height-adjustable desk lets you alternate between standing and sitting throughout the day and has been linked to a variety of health benefits like better posture, says Jonathan Puleio, global vice president and board-certified ergonomist for Humanscale, an ergonomics furniture company. For example, research from the Mayo Clinic in 2018 shows that standing can burn calories, and may help protect against heart disease.
Because your standing desk can make your workspace more ergonomic, you may find that you’re also more productive, say our experts. That’s because our bodies conform to our habits, says Eannucci. “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.” Having a standing desk may remind you to stand periodically and helps properly align your shoulders, neck and back when sitting, making you feel more energized overall.
Just because you can stand, however, doesn’t mean you should be standing all day, says Puleio. Prolonged standing has been linked to leg swelling, foot pain and the development of circulatory disorders such as varicose veins. The key is alternating between the two: Puleio recommends standing for 15 minutes and sitting for 45 minutes.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Karen Erickson is a chiropractor in New York City at her practice Erickson Healing Arts.
- Karen Loesing is a physical therapist assistant and the owner of The Ergonomic Expert, a consulting company for ergonomic office evaluations.
- Lora Cavuoto is an associate professor of industrial and systems engineering with an emphasis in ergonomics at the University of Buffalo.
- Jonathan Puleio is the global vice president and board-certified ergonomist for Humanscale, a manufacturer of ergonomic office tools like desk chairs. We only asked Puleio for technical shopping guidance, not product recommendations.
Why trust Select?
Hanna Horvath is a former contributor at NBC Select.
Nishka Dhawan is an associate commerce editor at NBC Select. For this article Hannah and Nishka interviewed ergonomic experts and chiropractors on the importance of using a standing desk for your home office.