Wait! Before you Buy a Sit Stand Desk You Need to Read This

Why you need a sit stand desk 

Nowadays, more and more offices are including sit stand desks as part of their office set-up.

It is common knowledge that prolonged sitting can be harmful to your health. I have previously discussed some of the associated factors or a poor workstation and prolonged sitting.

These include general discomfort, reduced productivity, interrupted sleep, reduced quality of working life and reduced quality of work (Griffiths et al. 2012).

Furthermore, I have previously discussed the ideal length of standing time to sitting time which is approximately 25 to 33% of your desk bound time (Husemann et al. 2009).

You should try to spread this over an hour.

Therefore, you would stand for approximately 15-20 minutes and then sit for 40-45 minutes. However, I have not previously discussed the specific things to consider when choosing a sit to stand desk.

In this article I will discuss the 4 most important factors to consider when purchasing a sit to stand desk:

  • Whole Desk vs Attachment Raised
  • Automatic Vs Manual
  • Size and Shape
  • Cost of Sit-Stand Desk

1. Whole desk raised vs attachment raised on top of desk

Standing Desk

A big factor to consider is whether the whole desk can be raised in one function or just a part of the desk surface can be raised as an attachment to your pre-existing desk.

The attachment is normally for the monitor, keyboard and mouse.

A sit to stand desk that raises the whole surface is the most ergonomic.  It allows for all workstation items to be placed at an appropriate height for standing. It also allows for adequate support of the forearms on the work surface. The whole forearm should be supported evenly on the work surface.

This support allows you to relax your shoulders and neck, reducing discomfort and preventing injuries to these areas. When only part of the desk is raised as an attachment there are important workstation items that remain at a lower level requiring bending to reach them.

Furthermore, the forearm is generally not provided enough space to be supported.  This can load up the certain muscles with prolonged use if used for long periods of time.

2. Automatic vs manual sit stand desks

Automatic sit to stand desks are desks that can transition between standing or sitting positions using a motor so it is completed automatically. Manual sit to stand desks are desks that use a handle to wind a desk up to shift from a sitting height to a standing height.

Whether or not a desk is motorised is an important consideration as constantly shifting between heights, as recommended, can involve a lot of winding. This can be difficult for people with or without upper body/back injuries or discomfort.

With the recommended sitting to standing ratio being 40-45 minutes of sitting to 15-20 minutes of standing it quickly becomes a lot of winding throughout a day.

However, if the desk was only being used for short periods of time it may be a much more inexpensive option to receive the benefits associated with a sit to stand desk.

3. Size of surface/shape of the sit stand desks

Another significant factor to consider when purchasing any desk, not just a sit stand desk, is the size of the surface/shape of the desk. The size of the surface needs to be large enough to accommodate all of the items required for the workstation.

This can be evidenced when trying to accommodate a monitor, document holder and keyboard.

Furthermore, a desk has to provide enough depth to provide forearm support. The whole forearm should be supported evenly on the arm rest/work surface to prevent injuries as outlined above.

The shape of the desk is another factor that needs to be considered. L-shaped desks are considered optimal as they allow a neutral posture and forearm support.

They also provide a large surface for all the required workstation equipment. A straight desk is appropriate as long as all workstation items fit on the desk as outlined above.

4. Cost of a sit-stand desk

The cost of a sit to stand desk can be what deters people from purchasing one despite the known benefits. Sit to stand desks can range quite significantly with a large proportion sitting between $2,000 to $300.

The differences in prices are due to the differences in each desk. These include whether the whole desk raises in comparison to just an attachment to desk, whether it raises automatically or needs to be raised manually as well as the size of the surface/shape of the desk.

The cost is obviously a large factor and you need to consider how often you use your desk when purchasing a sit to stand desk.

If you are working from home and spend a large proportion of your day at your desk a whole desk raising, automatic, large surface desk is most likely to be required to see a large benefit.

However, if you only use your desk for a short duration then a separate attachment to your desk to allow postural modification with standing may be more than adequate to receive benefits.


  1. Griffiths, K. L., Mackey, M. G., Adamson, B. J., & Pepper, K. L. (2012). Prevalence and risk factors for musculoskeletal symptoms with computer based work across occupations. Work42(4), 533-541.
  2. Husemann, B., Von Mach, C. Y., Borsotto, D., Zepf, K. I., & Scharnbacher, J. (2009). Comparisons of musculoskeletal complaints and data entry between a sitting and a sit-stand workstation paradigm. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society51(3), 310-320.


About Michael Reeve

Michael graduated from the University of Canberra with a Masters of Physiotherapy after completing his Bachelors in Applied Science in Human Biology and honours in Sports Studies. Michael’s interests include workplace rehabilitation, and lower limb sporting injuries. Michael enjoys playing football and futsal in his spare time and using his experience of recovering from injury to help his clients.