Advice

Standing desks and their benefits in the workplace

22 min read

04 March 2019

Real Business provides a full overview of the benefits of standing desks in the workplace, with expert advice on choosing the right desks for your company.

It’s official – a standing desk will make your workers more productive, more engaged and more healthy, according to a study of NHS staff.

Read on to find out the numerous health and productivity benefits of investing in standing desks, as our experts help you choose the right solutions for your SME.

What is a standing desk?

A standing desk is a desk designed for use while standing upright, rather than a traditional desk that is used when sitting.

Traditional seated desks are often made to a standardised fixed height, but standing desks can be made in a number of different heights to suit individual users. Standing desks are also built in many styles and can be specialised to suit particular tasks such as computer use, telephoning and architectural drawing.

It may seem as though the standing desk is a relatively new invention, but they have been used for over 150 years. Historical figures including Charles Dickens and Winston Churchill are reported to have used specially made desks for writing while standing upright.

What are the benefits of a standing desk?

Many of those that have an office-based job spend the majority of their working day sitting down. Most working adults are more sedentary on weekdays than the average 75-year-old, and two-thirds of office workers sit at their desks for more than 6 hours each day.

This is a major problem because a sedentary lifestyle has been shown to contribute to a multitude of health issues including increasing the risk of diabetes and heart disease, the latter being one of the biggest causes of death in the world.

Thankfully, standing desks offer a low-risk and cost-effective way of reducing the amount of time a typical office worker is sedentary during the work day and thus helping to reduce the probability of encountering any of the serious health consequences of a sedentary lifestyle.

Below, we have more explicitly outlined the potential health and productivity benefits of investing in and regularly using a standing desk.

5 potential benefits of using a standing desk:

1. Improve your mood and energy levels

One study found that participants who used a standing desk reported feeling less stress and fatigue than those who sat down for the day.

Moreover, 87% of participants reported increased energy levels when using a standing desk.

Being inactive can increase the risk of depression and anxiety, but standing desks may reduce feelings of stress and fatigue, while boosting mood and energy levels.

2. Reduce back pain

Office workers who spend most of their day sitting often complain of back pain, but several studies have shown that using standing desks can dramatically decrease back pain associated with sitting down for a prolonged time.

3. Lower your risk of heart disease

Sitting down for long periods of time is thought to increase the risk of heart disease by up to 147%.

Even doing an hour of intense exercise may not combat the negative health impact of sitting down all day. By using a standing desk, you can spend more time on your feet and cut your risk of developing heart disease.

4. Lower your blood sugar levels

One study found that compared to workers who sat down after lunch, those who stood up for 180 minutes reduced the spike in their blood sugar by 43%.

Excessive time spent being inactive increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by a huge 112%, so using a standing desk is a great way to reduce this risk and keep your blood sugar under control.

5. Boost your productivity

A study found that using a standing desk had no negative impacts on productivity. Considering using a standing desk can improve mood and energy levels, it may also help to boost your productivity too.

How standing desks are positively impacting well-being in UK workplaces

Jack Bird, content specialist – Add People

“After suffering a herniated L5 S1 while training for strongman competitions, I researched what could help my rehabilitation. My body takes a beating on a daily basis thanks to my sport and the intense weightlifting it involves, so I always hurt one way or another; anything that can help relieve that, on top of the pain associated with blowing you back out, while still ‘doing life’ was a must.

“I eventually found that standing desks would help with my pain, so decided to take the plunge. As a web designer, I tend to spend 8 hours a day sitting at my desk, so originally it was weird to adapt to, buy my spine felt the benefits soon enough. It also never impacted my productivity which is important to me.

“I don’t use a standing desk any more but I’d say it was an essential tool, and now I choose reclined seating looking up at my workstation.”

Chieu Cao, co-founder – Perkbox

“With employees often spending up to a third of their day sitting at their desk at work it’s no surprise that standing desks are becoming more popular. It’s since our office move earlier this year that we have seen a huge amount of requests come through for standing desks here at Perkbox, in fact, we now even have a waiting list for them!

“Many employees favour using them over seated desks because they’re helping them improve their posture and increasing their energy. We’re happy to support our employees in this way – it if helps them, it helps us. Soon we think it will become a company-wide practice.”

Tony Smith, managing director – Companydebt.com

“We implanted standing desks in the last few years, in an effort to promote better employee wellness, and of course productivity. It’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience with our team members reporting better posture, fewer body aches, as well as a real appreciation for having their needs taken care of.

“In general, I feel productivity has increased as a result, because team members have felt empowered to take control of their own workflow.”

What are the different types of standing desks?

There are many different types of standing desks available with a variety of different features and functions. Below are the most common types of standing desks.

• Fixed standing desks

Fixed standing desks are standing desks that have a fixed height and cannot be adjusted. Since there are no complex moving parts, designers are able to incorporate useful features like drawers or bookshelves. The main feature of fixed standing desks is the design, so they can often look more ‘stylish’ than standing desks that can be adjusted.

• Sit/stand desks

Sit/stand desks come in a range of styles and offers the best of both worlds: you can use it while sitting down or standing up, giving complete flexibility. Sit/stand desks can be freestanding, or you can convert your current desktop to a sit/stand desk. Sit/stand desks that convert your current desktop often integrate a computer monitor stand and a keyboard tray to make an ergonomic workstation when you are sitting down or standing up.

• Electronic standing desks

Electronic standing desks have all the benefits of sit/stand desks, but you don’t have to adjust the height manually – you can adjust the height of your standing desk electronically at the touch of a button. Sit/stand desks that convert your current desktop can look bulky, but electronic standing desks can look very sleek and professional, which fits well in a modern office.

How to use and properly stand at a standing desk

 

We have explored how sitting down all day can impact your health negatively, but this doesn’t mean you should stand up all day either. The ideal approach is to alternate between sitting and standing.

Early research shows that a ratio of 1:1 or 2:1 for time spent sitting to standing is optimal for comfort and energy levels without affecting productivity at work. So for every 1 to 2 hours you sit down, you should spend 1 hour standing up.

Making sure your desk is adjusted to the right height and position is essential for improving comfort and minimising the risk of injury. The top of your screen should be at eye level and your desk should be aligned with your elbows. When you have correctly adjusted your desk and screen, you should not need to tilt your neck or strain your arms to type.

Working with computers can cause wrist strain, so it is also important to make sure your keyboard and mouse are in the correct position. Your keyboard and mouse should always be level and your wrists should be straight. When standing, your keyboard and mouse be tilted slightly upward compared to when sitting.

Lastly, remember to take regular breaks. If you work at a computer, whether standing up or sitting down, it is important to take breaks to stretch and rest your eyes.

What is the best height for a standing desk?

Positioning the height your standing desk correctly is extremely important to maximise comfort and reduce any risk of injury.

To get the best height for a standing desk, start by setting the desk at elbow height so your elbows are positioned 90 degrees from the floor. Your screen should be positioned 20 to 28 inches (51 to 71cm) from your face and the top of the screen should sit at eye level, with a small upward tilt of 10 to 20 degrees.

If you do not have a measuring tape to hand, the rule of thumb for your screen position is no less than the distance from your elbow to the tip of your middle finger.

Since people are a range of different heights and there are so many different types of desk available, you can use this handy calculator to work out the optimum height for your standing desk.

Best standing desks available in the UK

We have discussed the benefits of standing desks and how to set up your standing desk, but which standing desks are best?

Let’s look at the best standing desks that are currently available in the UK.

Standing desks product comparison table

Below is a neat table that summarises the adjustable height, width and maximum load of the standing desks we have reviewed below.

1) SitStand Pro Electric Standing Desk

  • Adjustable height: 65cm to 125cm
  • Adjustable width: 116cm to 176cm
  • Maximum load: 100kg

Available in silver, black or white with a chrome finish.

The SitStand Pro is an electric height-adjustable desk. As there is no crossbeam between the columns, there is ample room underneath for leg rests or under-desk storage and it is suitable for wheelchair users. The metal parts in the desk are powder lacquered instead of spray painted, giving an even and hardwearing finish.

Key features of the SitStand Pro:

  • Fully motorised with push control buttons.
  • Wipe-clean surface.
  • Desktops are resistant to chipping, scratches and dents.
  • UV-resistant lacquer means the colour won’t fade, even in the sun.

2) DeskPro 1

  • Adjustable height: 70cm to 117cm
  • Adjustable width: 120cm to 180cm
  • Maximum load: 66kg

Available in 9 different colours: White, maple, beech, stone oak, bureau oak, cherry, walnut, light grey and dark grey.

The DeskPro 1 is an electric height-adjustable desk with a powder-coated aluminium frame. You can re-use your current desktop when purchasing the frame only, or you can purchase the complete desk with a choice of 4 different desktop sizes and portholes provided as standard.

Key features of the DeskPro 1:

  • Single electric motor allows you to adjust the height at the touch of a button.
  • Adjustable central beam allows the frame to be extended.
  • Low energy consumption.
  • Cable tray available as an optional extra.

3) Yo-Yo Desk Pro 2+

  • Adjustable height: 61cm to 126cm
  • Adjustable width: 5cm to 150cm
  • Maximum load: 100kg

Available in 9 different colours: White, maple, beech, stone oak, bureau oak, cherry, walnut, light grey and dark grey

The Yo-Yo Desk Pro 2+ is an electric height-adjustable desk with a powder-coated steel frame. You can re-use your current desktop when purchasing the frame only, or you can purchase the complete desk with a choice of 2 different desktop sizes and portholes provided as standard.

Key features of the Yo-Yo Desk Pro 2+:

  • Free digital display with 3 memory settings.
  • Adjust the height at the touch of a button.
  • Dual motors with Silent Motion technology – smooth and silent adjustment.
  • Low energy consumption.
  • Excellent stability: reinforced steel feet & adjustable foot pads.
  • Anti-collision technology protection system.
  • Cable tray included as standard.

4) DeskRise SPS3

  • Adjustable height: 65cm to 130cm
  • Adjustable width: 110cm to 180cm
  • Maximum load: 120kg

Available in beech (custom colours are also available).

The DeskRise SPS3 is an electric height-adjustable desk with an aluminium frame. There are no crossbars, so this desk is suitable for double-sided conference use. The motorised height adjustment and easy access also make this an ideal desk for wheelchair users.

Key features of the DeskRise SPS3:

  • Memory function with digital display stores and retains height settings for four positions.
  • Adjust the height at the touch of a button.
  • Anti-collision technology protection system.
  • Dual motors.

5) Conset 501-25 Electric Frame

  • Adjustable height: 66cm to 116cm
  • Suitable for desks 160cm wide
  • Maximum load: 80kg

Available in silver.

The Conset 501-25 Electric Frame is an electric height-adjustable, powder-coated steel desk frame that you can use with your existing 160cm wide desk. There is also the option to add a 160x80cm Beech melamine desktop to the electric frame.

Key features of the Conset 501-25 Electric Frame:

  • Smooth electric height adjustment.
  • Standard desk shapes and sizes available to choose from.
  • Custom made desks are also available.

6) Bekant Sit/Stand Desk

  • Adjustable height: 65cm to 125cm
  • Width: 120cm
  • Maximum load: 70kg

Available in 8 colour combinations: oak top and black frame, oak top and white frame, white top and frame, white top and black frame, white stained oak and black frame, white stained oak and white frame, black stained ash and black frame, black stained ash and white frame

The Bekant Sit/Stand Desk is an electric height-adjustable desk with a durable, stain-resistant veneer surface.

Key features of the Bekant Sit/Stand Desk:

  • Electronically controlled height adjustment.
  • Built-in cable management.
  • Wipe-clean surface.

7) Skarsta Sit/Stand Desk

  • Adjustable height: 70cm to 120cm
  • Width: 120cm
  • Maximum load: 50kg

Available in white.

The Skarsta Sit/Stand Desk is a manual height-adjustable desk operated by a crank handle that can be mounted on either the right or left-hand side. The crank handle also slides under the table top when not in use for a clean and uncluttered look.

Key features of the Skarsta Sit/Stand Desk:

  • Adjustable feet
  • Wipe-clean surface

Best standing desk mats

Desk mats, or anti-fatigue mats, are often used in jobs that require long periods of standing. You may want to consider purchasing a standing desk mat with your standing desk, as they may help to reduce discomfort associated with standing for longer periods of time by encouraging subtle movements of your leg muscles and improving blood flow.

But which are the best standing desk mats you can buy in the UK?

Below we summarise some of the key specs of the best standing desk mats into a neat, easy to read table, before we provide a more in-depth review of all desk mats.

1) Topo by Ergodriven

  • Product dimensions: 26.2 x 2.7 x 29 inches
  • Available in: Obsidian Black, Altostratus Grey, Denim Blue and Mulberry Purple

Topo is an ergonomic anti-fatigue mat designed for standing desk users. The raised features on the mat cause your brain to subconsciously engage, and move your feet to explore and stretch.

Main product features:

  • Cushioned terrain drives subconscious movement
  • Easily positioned with just one foot

2) Sky Mat

  • Available in 3 sizes: 20 x 32 x ¾ inches, 20 x 39 x ¾ inches, 24 x 70 x ¾ inches
  • Available in 10 colours: brick red, burgundy, dark blue, grey, green ombre, light brown, midnight black, milk chocolate, brown, indigo blue

Main product features:

  • A blend of support and softness for standing all day in the kitchen or office
  • Advanced beveled edge and super non-slip bottom to prevent tripping
  • Lifetime replacement promise
  • Modern look that easily wipes clean

3) TerraMat Standing Desk Mat

  • Product dimensions: 29.8 x 27.5 x 2.5 inches
  • Available in: Black 

TerraMat is an anti-fatigue standing desk mat offering over 11 different possible stances. The foam-like 3D features of this standing desk mat encourage subconscious movement and stretching.

Main product features:

  • Featured on Forbes and The Huffington Post
  • Thicker than most standing desk mats
  • Slides easily under a desk
  • Can be positioned with just one foot