If you’ve followed the world for the past five years, you probably already know the latest hype in workplace technology: the standing desk. There’s a good chance that at least one person in your office is a „standing desk“ advocate. Now, as we outfit our homes with the latest remote work tools, these devices have made their way into our bedrooms, living rooms, and makeshift home offices.
The perfect companion to mindfulness and Soylent, standing desks are all the rage to counteract the negative health effects of sitting all day. While the hype has died down a bit (largely due to the predictable anti-hype training accusations that standing desks cause knee problems), standing desks continue to be popular, and millions of people swear by them.
Is the hype justified? This article will delve into the fact and fiction behind best standing desk and try to answer a simple question: Is a standing desk worth it?
Origins of the Standing Desk
Standing desks are by no means a recent invention. In fact, many prominent intellectuals, writers, and politicians have used standing desks as a means of improving posture and concentration—including Thomas Jefferson, Ernest Hemingway, and Charles Darwin.
The theory behind height standing desk is sound: According to a meta-analysis of studies done on the subject, it is clear that prolonged sitting is associated with higher mortality. So, according to this line of thinking, standing should solve this problem. correct?
Well, the answers there are frustratingly vague. Why this is a difficult question to answer is partly because we’re not entirely sure why sitting is so bad. We know it’s bad for your posture, and we know it can cause circulation problems. It’s also a strong signal of obesity (although this is more of a lifestyle issue than directly related to being sedentary). So if posture and obesity are the two main problems with sitting, is a standing desk with drawers the answer?
Is a standing desk better than sitting?
This is partly due to the lack of research on the subject, and partly because the results are simply not convincing, and there isn’t much evidence to argue against sitting convincingly. In other words, we can’t convincingly say that a sit stand desk is better for you.
Here’s what we know. A 2011 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that standing desks reduce upper back and neck pain and improve overall mood compared to sitting. While this sounds convincing, this conclusion has two glaring flaws: 1) the placebo effect may be at least partially related to the latter, and 2) the study did not investigate possible disadvantages of standing desks.
Orthopedic Health Effects
When it comes to orthopaedic health, standing is definitely better for your posture and your back and neck than sitting. However, standing for long periods of time can also bring some problems, mainly related to knee pain. When all of the unique disadvantages of electric standing desks are considered, the research surrounding this issue shows that standing desks generally offer no more orthopaedic benefits than sit desks.
There are ways to offset some of the disadvantages of standing desks. For example, some studies show that fatigue mats can reduce standing fatigue and knee strain by up to 60%. While there’s certainly no research to come to this conclusion, this difference may be enough to make a standing desk setup stand out when compared to its 4-leg counterpart.
Impact on obesity
Another purported benefit of standing computer desks should be obesity. In this regard, there is a scientific consensus. A standing desk setup doesn’t burn any more calories than sitting, and it’s certainly a far cry from its often-hyped miracle obesity cure. At best, you can expect to burn a few pounds per year, but it won’t make a huge difference each week.
So if we had to summarize, there isn’t enough research on the actual physiological effects of standing desks to draw conclusions, but the small number of studies that do exist seem to strongly suggest that they’re not all helpful alternatives.
Are Standing Desks Worth It?
Short answer: it depends.
Long answer: Research doesn’t seem to show that standing desks are helpful from a physical standpoint, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t improve your overall work experience. Until more research is done on this question, the right answer may depend on your personal preferences and your physical response to standing while you work. Even if l-shaped standing desks don’t significantly affect your physical health, they have a good chance of improving your overall mood or increasing your productivity.
Problems with standing desks are not related to problems with sitting desks. In other words, standing can alleviate a lot of sitting problems while introducing some of its own, and vice versa.
Along those lines, you can conclude that the best way to minimize risk while maximizing the benefits of both is a hybrid setup. Sit-stand desks are an increasingly popular alternative to pure sitting or standing desks – desks that can be moved up and down electronically to switch between sitting or standing positions.
In theory, this setup should achieve the best of both worlds; minimizing the risks of either setup, while still reap the benefits.
Sit-stand desks are still relatively new and not well understood, but there is some research showing that this line of thinking works. A study by a team of researchers in the UK aimed to answer this question, examining the impact of hundreds of office workers switching to sit-stand desks. The results were quite convincing: participants experienced significant improvements in job performance, job engagement, occupational fatigue, everyday anxiety, and quality of life.
In addition, you can choose an ergonomic office chair. The design of a good ergonomic computer chair must be ergonomically designed, that is, the structure of the chair body needs to conform to the curvature of our human spine. In this way, the fatigue caused by operating the computer for a long time can be relieved, and the important parts of our human body, such as the waist, back and spine, can be better protected.
Standing Desk Reviews
Several Hive employees use standing desks, so we reached out to find out what they thought. When we asked 2 people if their standing desk was worth buying, they both answered yes immediately. They were very eager to share their thoughts on the desks they now use (and love).
Our People Ops lead, Jovanna, uses this small standing desk for kids. While pricey, Joe says it’s worth the money. Her pro tip? Get the kids table! The size is still suitable for adults, but it’s small enough to fit in an apartment, which is great for remote workers.
Hive’s VP of Product and Engineering, CJ, also uses his standing desk – the Realspace Magellan Performance Desk – now to be more productive while working from home. He said the desk gave him an excuse to get up for a few hours a day, something all remote workers think about. An unexpected benefit that CJ mentioned? This is a nice space saver. The raised height allows him to tuck the chair under the table, which keeps it out of the way in his apartment.
So should you buy one?
There is no doubt that standing desks are exaggerated, and most of the purported benefits are simply not true. While science is still catching up, existing research strongly suggests that standing desks are simply not worth the investment.
Sit-stand desks do show some promise, however, which ultimately obscures the basic point: the real problem is structural and not about your desk. We need to move away from the sedentary office life and move towards a workplace culture that encourages activity.
Regardless of your desk setup, there is one proven technology that can improve your health: walking. Changing an hourly 2-minute sitting time to a brisk walk around the office reduced the risk of premature death for office workers by up to 33%.
Seriously – just getting up and drinking a glass of water every hour is 33% less likely to die prematurely compared to your peers. Compared to any reported benefits of a standing desk, this has a much bigger (and less expensive) health impact.
The best workplaces don’t focus on desks, but rather a steady mix of sitting, standing, and walking — and ultimately, that’s the future of work we need to strive to achieve.