Standing desk tips


Benjamin Palmer says:

I saw your post about a standing desk, I've got a custom made standing conference table as a desk (i'm the one behind the large monitor, the guy to my right is CJ Chivers the NY Times war writer). Notice I have a foot rest rail going around the bottom -- this is pretty critical for long term comfort. I also have a stool I sit on for maybe 1/4 of the day, but the rail is really the key thing. Also I run a company that has a lot of meetings, and having a standing meeting desk means meetings in my office last from 3-20 minutes instead of 15-60 minutes.

I have a tip for you and your readers! A very cheap way to get started with a standing desk is to buy a cheap coffee table and just put it on top of your desk, similar to what you've made and posted on Boing Boing. It's usually just the right height, and you can get them in a wide variety of sizes and finishes to fit your gear and match your existing desk, and its usually pretty cheap.

This one for instance is the right height for an average person and matches a basic light wood ikea type desk and is $57! A lot of people in my office have tried this out before they commit to a full size desk, to experiment with size and placement.

I've been standing for a couple years now and I feel really amazing, and I've not experienced any of the tiredness or back pain I would in the past from a day walking around a new city, or museums, or ten days at sxsw ;)

See also: Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?


  1. With a little custom pilot hole making, Ikea has some fine ‘bar’ table bases that you can bolt onto regular desk tops from their collection. The bar tables are high enough that they pair them with stools and if you find the right one it comes with a bar close to your feet. The Utby underframe is $89 and fits nicely with a number of Vika tabletops.

  2. Is standing that much better than sitting? If you really want to improve your health while at your desk, make a standing desk that fits over the front of a treadmill.

  3. For those of you (like me) who have the delight of working in cube land: The desk surface is often set by brackets hooked into the cube walls. A screwdriver is all you need to convert to a standing position.

    Here’s mine:

  4. I’m really happy about all these standing desk ideas and tips. I have been looking for one and it seemed like most standing desks I could find for sale were over-designed and ridiculously overpriced. Couldn’t figure out what was so freaking fancy and expensive about what’s essentially a higher-than-average table!

    I’ve worked retail for 8 years which involved standing for 7, 9, sometimes 10 hours a day. However I’ve only suffered back, neck and leg pain once I switched to jobs that required me to sit for long periods. I’ve bought a ‘kneeling chair’ a year ago (on which I alternate between kneeling and crouching) and it helped a LOT. Nonetheless, I still want to try a standing work station.

    1. At work I’m switching between sitting on a high stool and standing. Not a big fan. Sitting on the floor would be great. A Japanese style desk made for floor sitting would be my ideal workplace. Can we have a series on those as well?

  5. It is really interesting to see not just a functional standing desk, but a group standing desk! However, the 2 laptop users in the photo are hunched forward with neck flexion and sloped shoulders due to the low height of their computer monitors. They are likely to exchange one set of physical ills (from sitting) with another new and diabolic sort (from standing hunched over). If you use a standing desk for any extended period of time (the whole point of this thread), you really need to think about a solution for raising the monitor height well above keyboard and mouse height. This almost always involves separate keyboard and mouse plug-ins for laptops. Awkward, but with big ergonomic payoff over time.

  6. So, your posture looks great, but the other two guys (the ones with the laptops) are probably going to have back problems if they keep that up. I think it’s worth noting that it’s probably not okay to simply ignore traditional ergonomics simply because you’re standing instead of sitting.

    ill lich, standing *is* better than sitting. You’re using your leg muscles and foot muscles continuously to make little microadjustments to your balance. It’s probably good for a couple hundred calories an hour. I’m sorely tempted to set one of these up.

  7. I did a standing desk for many months and had problems with pain in my legs, hips and shins even with good shoes and padding.

    I’ve been using a treadmill desk for almost two years now and have no problems at all. I get in 8 to 10 miles a day at 1 to 1.5 miles per hour depending on meetings. I wouldn’t go back to a sitting desk at all given the choice.

    Some caveats, you do need really good walking shoes. They make a huge difference and you may find that typing or keyboard type activities work much better than mouse or drawing activities. I use a touchpad mouse with an M4 keyboard with no problems. My typing speed only took about a week of adjustment to get back up to normal. I doubt I could do detailed drawings or mouse work for very long though. YMMV

    For my setup. I’m using an Anthro ( cart and a TreadDesk ( treadmill.

  8. Anybody ever work for the US Postal Service?

    Well nobody is allowed to sit down at the manual sorting cases, but they do provide these specialty stools that were called ‘rest bars’ when I worked there.

    They were a sort of adjustable stool with a top that could be adjusted to various angles, and raised up and down, and a foot rest at the bottom that could be adjusted in or out.

    It was really pretty clever and flexible, and allowed clerks to spend long hours leaning upright while they shoved letters into pigeonholes.

    Can’t find a picture anywhere though…

  9. Get thee away from laptops if you are going to do a standing desk- look at everyone’s necks and rounded shoulders in that image.

    Monitors being much higher than the keyboards (near eye level) are the next missing part of your health equation.

  10. i’ve been using a 20 inch ivar shelf (fresh out of the sweatshop, obviously) with one of the boards slanted. but just a little bit so that a pen won’t roll off.

    i use it often, but seldom longer than two hours.

    i will definately check out the foot rest, thanks for sharing the information.


  11. I agree the railing is very important, and switching legs every once in a while will likely lead to more comfort. “The most comfortable position is the next position”. You could also just have a stable block there, but it’s a slight tripping hazard. Stool is good too. I do agree with having a mouse plug in vs. the touch pad mouse for laptops, but laptops can be lower than most people think. 15-50 degrees down from horizontal is where your eyes should be usually looking down. Your neck has a hinge in it, and some flexion in it will not cause spontaneous combustion. If the keyboard is tiny, or just not comfortable, a separate keyboard plug in is fine, but often is not needed.

  12. I stand at work quite often as well. But rather than build or buy a different desk I place a cardboard box on my desk, on which I set my keyboard and Wacom tablet. My computer is an iMac and the screen tilts so I just tilt it upward when I am standing. When I want to sit down for a while, I just take everything off the box and tilt the screen back down. Takes all of 5 seconds. I also find I’m more apt to walk around if I am already standing and I have another flat FedEx box I can use as a foot rest. Not the most stylish setup but its cheap.

    I initially had to switch to standing because sitting too much hurts my back. The more I stand, the better endurance I seem to have for standing but its nice for me to be able to sit on days I’m just not up to it. And by sit I mean really slouch out, not perch on a stool. That’s just me though. :)

  13. I used to work a job that involved standing all the time. The charley horses that caused me to wake up screaming in pain were great!

  14. when i was sewing custom dresses for a living my side by side sewing machine and ironing board were at stand up height / it was the most efficient way to Sew ! due to the need to iron seams, etc, as you work your way through the dress / with the ironing pad next to the sewing machine (indeed on the same table as the Singer) there were no additional steps between the two activities / rather than a rail for my foot on the floor there was the sewing machine pedal / i am now weaving on a floor loom / i experiment with stand up weaving for short bursts of time / it is fun !


  15. I hate to break it to you but standing around in one place all day has all kinds of health complications associated with it as well.

    Talk to any hairdresser, retail employee, cook, barber etc. . .

    Also my barber stood all day and was big as a house, died at age 62 from a heart attack.

    I know this isn’t very scientific but sedentary could also be expanded to include “standing desks”.

    1. Actually sedentary is currently being defined as ” as a distinct class of behaviors that involve sitting and low levels of energy expenditure, typically less than 1.5 metabolic equivalents (METs).” Standing usually get a person about a 2.0-2.3 METs depending on the activity they are doing while standing (e.g. doing dishes, folding laundry, etc.).

      Scientists have also looked at the difference between sitting (unloaded legs) and standing (loaded legs) and have seen significant differences in muscle functioning and metabolic processes related to fat metabolism.

      TL;DR : Standing is not sedentary

  16. This kind of reminds me of when all the guys in a typical office start subconsciously growing mustaches at the same time

  17. I have been using a standing desk now for about 2 months. My company is cheap, so instead of buying a standing desk or a coffee table, I used two iMac boxes to hold my 24″ iMac and 20″ second screen. I then purchased a laptop stand (with a cup holder ftw) that I use to hold my keyboard.

    Although it’s not pretty, it’s perfectly adequate.

    My only issue has been that my feet hurt and my lower back tends to ache. I usually sit for about 1.5 hours throughout the entire day and occasionally take walks, stretch, etc.

    I’ve found I have increased energy.

  18. my first internet purchase, in 1990, was a used dick blick drafting table that I use as my desk. (I am cheating and considering buying something from someone on The Well an internet purchase). It is made of welded steel tubing with four adjustable posts that hold up the 4×3 surface. I can convert it from standing to sitting in about a minute or two. I only change heights about three or four times a year. My family laughs at me because I prop one foot on the office chair when the desk is at standing height. It cost more to ship it from Kansas City to St Louis than the $100 price of the table, but this thing is rock solid and will last forever.

    further lessons learned: don’t stand on spongy stuff, stand on solid stuff. and. one of those inflatable exercise balls makes a good office chair.

  19. I just got a wire shelf thingy from OfficeMax that appears to be the perfect height to convert my sit-down desk to a standing desk. It’s an upgrade from the stack of books with a piece of Styrofoam on top that I was using before.

    I find that when I’m standing at this workstation, I tend to move around a lot – shift my weight from one foot to the other, step forward or back, move my arms – so I can believe that it burns a lot more energy than sitting does.

  20. Butts were made for sitting.

    We don’t want laps to become a lost art.

    Think about the children.

  21. Ugh, walking is better then laying with your legs elevated, laying with your legs up is better then sitting, sitting is better then standing. Have none of you ever had varicose veins? REALLY? Ever look at your mom’s legs from all her standing (canning, jarring, teaching, cooking – it wasn’t just being pregnant that did it)? Think some more about this activity and how standing can also kill you.

  22. standing in one place all day may be better than sitting in one place all day. but not much.

    i tried a standing desk for a while and was quickly reminded that i get “museum back” when i stand still. plus my feet hurt, which they don’t when i’m walking or running. i’m in great shape, so that’s not it.

    after having tried it for a while, i think the whole standing desk thing is stupid. we weren’t made to be sedentary, and being sedentary upright just is Not an improvement, just a different bad.

  23. Thoroughly enjoying this standing desk discussion.

    Also, is it my imagination or are those speakers duct taped to the bottom of that table?

  24. I am pretty tall so a standing desk would have to be sized for me. Then anybody shorter wouldn’t be able to use it. I have been thinking about installing some standing-height work benches in my home office. I could always use my wife’s drafting chair if I need to sit down. She doesn’t use it at her drafting board because she works in CAD now, sitting down.

  25. I used to work at a draughting board, either standing or perched half sitting on a tall chair, but have been at a desk behind a computer screen for the last twelve years (or more !!!!) since we moved to a CAD system. In the chaos of our recent office renovations I convinced my employer to buy me a motorized “geek desk”. I use a guitar players foot rest to elevate one foot while standing and have a tall draughtsman’s chair so when I do feel like sitting down I have the option of half-sitting or going all the way down to a full sit for a nice relaxing cup of coffee.

    I’m finding that staying in any one position for too long becomes a strain, so having the ability to sit when I’m tired of standing and vice versa makes for a much more comfortable day. Position seems to relate to the task as well; I tend to stand when I’m drawing and sit when I’m thinking or reading.

  26. I’ve been standing most of my work day for 2-3 months now, sitting over lunch. Of course it may not be great for every person in every situation, I do feel a bit better from doing so. It’s not a night and day change I certainly wouldn’t say I’m in better shape because of it, but it feels better. My circulation and attention span seem improved, I feel it right away when going from sitting, with probably poor posture, at a laptop to standing, it feels like everything stretches out a bit.

    To try it out at work I basically cleaned out the cubby above my desk and put my laptop in there. Very cheap if it’s an option, and power and network run through a small gap in shelf. The mouse and keyboard are probably a bit high, although I haven’t noticed discomfort yet, the monitor ends up at a perfect level.


  27. This seated/standing issue touches on what has been a pet peeve of mine for many years.
    As a college professor, I am constantly faced with classrooms fitted with ‘portable’ lecterns. These small (2’tall x 2-1/2′ wide) slanted boxes sit upon the normal office-style desks placed in the front of the classrooms. The problem is that I am too tall to use the lectern without bending uncomfortably, and I can’t sit, as the unnecessarily heavy contraptions block a good third of the classroom from view and the desk from use.
    So I move them at the beginning of each class, and sometimes (very rarely) I even move them back when we’re done.
    It’s not that big a deal, or wouldn’t be, except that the blasted things are so entirely useless, making the need to move them an exercise in repetitious aggravation.
    In summation, and to return to the initial subject, I consistently wind up standing and pacing, and have done so for so long that I can hardly sit and hold class.
    But I still move the ‘portable’ lecterns.
    It’s the principle of the thing, dammit.


    We had fancy motorized desks at my last job. I could lower it to the floor and sit indian style or raise it up to stand. One thing no one is mentioning is fatigue. It is very real in my experience. Your feet will ache and not just because it’s new to you. It will depend on your shoes and posture and the flooring. Get an anti-fatigue mat. The balls of your feet and your back will start to ache. It’s not a make or break but it will be much easier to keep the habit if you have one. This comes from someone who stood up at his desk consistently for years.

  29. Anyone know what arm is being used to hold up the iMac? That loooks like a great setup and I would love to have a similar setup for my workspace.

  30. Hey! to answer a few questions about the setup in the photo:
    @afkunk and @mellon yeah I have not solved the problem yet of visitors having their laptops at the proper height. I’m the only one permanently at that desk so everyone else is temporarily using it, sometimes for very short meetings. I’ll work something out though, its a good point.
    As a number of you pointed out, a drafting table is a good idea, they often fold flat, and you could use it as a 2-3 person workspace, and they’re height adjustable. that was my first standing-optional desk years ago in a live/work space
    @wrybread the speakers are hanging using some high strength straps, so they don’t take up desk space or vibrate
    @nick the monitor arm is ERGOTRON brand, its pretty good, they have a lot of different styles, this one clamps to the desk and raises and lowers plenty depending on my stance

    the monitor arm is pretty important too – I find that I adjust my stance and posture in reaction to where the display is, and as a lot of you have said, nothing is perfect and a variety of standing positions is healthier than one, so being able to move the target of your interest helps you move around.

  31. I’ve been reading up on the adverse health effects of prolonged sitting, and I heard Phillip Pullman writes standing up, so I thought I’d trial it before splashing out on an expensive standing desk.

    I bought a second-hand coffee table (just £3 off eBay!) and sat it on top of my desk. It brings the desktop to about 128cm height, which is just about perfect for my keyboard height (maybe a couple of cm lower would be ideal) and iMac eyeline.

    I’ve only been using this setup since yesterday, but I’m loving it so far. I find myself doing lots of bending and stretching, not because I’m uncomfortable, but just because it feels good – and because I can.

    One thing: I can’t really put a foot bar under it because the desk gets in the way of my knee. That would be one advantage of a “proper” standing desk.

    Here’s the monster:

    I’ll report back once I’ve used it for a while!

  32. I’m going the opposite direction. Rather than standing I’m placing my two Desktop PCs on a large coffee table instead of the traditional desk with office chair location. I use my Samsung LCD 26in TV as a monitor (great for watching downloaded Video files) and sit on my sofa.
    The added benefit is it gives me easy access to the rear panels of the PCs for those occasions when I need to switch/plug in USB and Audio cables. In the office setup the PCs are usually backing towards the wall, any alterations to cables etc can be a real pain but that’s no longer a problem.

  33. I have a StandnSit form Its a desktop workstation that sets atop an existing desk or work surface. Its height adjustable so it may be a better option than using a coffee table. It also folds down to allow you to sit down as necessary. Lots of pictures for a variety of uses on their facebook page, too.

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