Sit-stand equipment – which is best?

August 29, 2018
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We are often asked to advise on the best way to assist someone to sit less, stand and move more. There is so much equipment on the market now that making a good choice can be tricky.

If you would like assistance in choosing the right standing equipment for an employee or for an office fit out, please contact us!

Electric sit-stand desk 

  • Most people would agree that these are the very best way to be able to sit and stand.  The only down side is the cost.  Bear in mind however that if the desk costs $1000, over 10 years (and it will most likely last much longer than this) the cost is $2 per week. 
  • These desks go up and down to the height you need by a quick press of buttons.  Changing height and working posture is therefore quick. 
  • As it is the whole desk which raises it means that you can do computer work, writing, reading, from sitting or standing without any changes to the desk layout and with minimal interruptions to your work. 
  • ‘Perching’ working heights are also possible which is something some people with back pain can find a helpful working posture option. 
  • Disadvantages:  They are difficult to move so not a good option for someone who may move office location or job.  In some workplaces where desks are fixed to cubicle dividers it may not be possible to remove the desk.  This would need to be determined by an office furniture supplier.

Things to consider before buying

  • Check the weight rating for the motor.  Light duty motors are the lowest cost but may not support all you need on your desk.  Check also the speed of the desk movement (some cheaper desks are annoyingly slow) and the noise the motor makes; some can be loud and this may distract/disturb employees nearby.
  • As with all workstation choices, check the dimensions to be sure you can place your computer items where you want them and that it raises and lowers to the height you need.   

‘Communal’ electric sit/stand desk

  • One electric desk be installed and a number of employees use it when they need. (A booking system probably works best).  The cost of the desk is then shared between many employees and benefits many. 

Standing desk and drafting chair   

Bank tellers have been doing this for years! 

  • Many normal, sitting height desks can be raised to standing height.  Standing height desks are available.   To raise a normal desk to standing height will require the legs or desk sides to be extended by around 20-50cm.  There are no commercially available desk raising options which do this.   Desks with melamine panel sides can have extra panels screwed on.    
  • If you want this desk for computer work, ensure the desk is set to a height level with the underside of your elbows.  If you want it for reading/writing it can be at about 100mm higher than this. 

Things to consider

  • When you want to sit a drafting type chair or a stool will be needed.  Many office chairs can be converted to drafting height by changing the gas strut (this costs approx $40).  It is preferable to use a drafting height footstool rather than just using the kick ring for knee comfort and leg circulation.
  • Climbing up to and down from a drafting chair is not easy.  If you have knee, hip, back or arm or shoulder problems it may not be suitable for you.  To assess this visit an office chair showroom. 
  • Be aware that if you want to stand on a comfort mat (anti-fatigue mat) it will be very difficult to roll the chair over this as the castors sink into the mat. 

Two level sit-stand workstation    

A sit-stand workstation does not need to be one which goes up and down.  Having two desk heights – one for sitting and one for standing – works very well.

  • One advantage of two desk heights is that as there is no equipment with working parts, so nothing can wear out, break or malfunction.  It also give a good amount of space to spread work out.
  • Another advantage of this set up is that you can put a comfort mat where you stand and leave your chair tucked under the desk where you sit.  This way the chair won’t have to roll across the comfort mat. 
  • Available from Back Centre is ‘TopDesk’ adjustable standing desk or you can DIY and make a ‘desk top desk’ (e.g. cut down legs on a coffee table). Cost approximately $300, less for DIY.
  • One desk can be used for computer work and the other for reading, phone calls etc. or vice versa. 
  • If a computer is used constantly, a computer workstation on each height desk will be needed.  This will require a monitor or laptop to be placed on the standing desk.  Move the keyboard and mouse between the sitting and standing computer workstations. 
  • Additional storage space is created under the standing desk.

Things to consider

  • Check the dimensions to ensure the desk surface hold all you need and positions monitor a comfortable distance away. 
  • If you use a ‘desk top desk’ you will not be able to sit at this with a drafting chair as your knees will hit the sitting height desk.

Desk mounts and desk risers     

  • These offer an alternative to an electric sit-stand desk.  They are either clamped onto the existing desk or sit on the desk.  There is a tray for keyboard and either a ledge for the monitor/s or monitor arm.   Brands include Ergotron, Kangaroo, Varidesk, Quickshift and Maxishift.
  • The keyboard/mouse and monitor/s raise to standing height and lower to sitting height.   It allows the user to use their computer sitting or standing.  Some of the more expensive brands offer accessories which support papers between the keyboard and monitor.  The 3M Inline document holder usually fits on this equipment if document support is needed. 
  • Disadvantages include; Unable to change the monitor distance.  Many people find this equipment puts the monitor a little too close.  Check this prior to purchase.  Some brands (e.g. Ergotron) are unable to be leant on. All these products have a keyboard tray without very much extra space so do not suit people who like more desk space in front of the keyboard (to rest wrists and forearms).  Depending on the model there may not be much extra space (for files, drink, phone etc). 
  • Cost; approx $475 for a single platform up to $580 for dual screen.

Things to consider

  • If you have an injury the pushing and pulling required to change the height of the workstation may aggravate your condition.  Styles with a single lever (Quickshift, Maxishift) allow the body to stay in a better position during raising/lowering.  There are also some brands with electric motors to raise and lower the equipment. 
  • If you want to stand on a comfort mat (anti-fatigue mat) it will be more difficult to roll the chair over this as the castors sink into the mat.