Standing Desks – Are They For You?

Standing Up for Standing Desks!
By John C. Stewart

There are two types of individuals who start looking at standing desks – those who are basically healthy and wish to remain so, and those who have one or more physical ailments such as a bad back or temporary leg problems (that’s me) and hope that one of these desks will help alleviate their problems.

This is the Apex model that I ended up purchasing.

Having just gone through my second hip operation in the past four years, as well as suddenly experiencing some lower back pains, I fall into the latter group above.

As a result, I started doing some basic research on what I called adjustable desks. Ultimately, I ended up purchasing one of these new desks and this article is about my experiences, and offers some tips for others who might find themselves doing similar research.

First, there are indeed “adjustable desks” that actually replace your current desk or workstation. Some of these desks are fancier than others, but most are basically rectangular desks that come in various laminate colors, and they typically measure between four and six feet in width. These desks can be automatically raised and lowered to accommodate you whether you are sitting in a standard office chair, or when you choose to work standing up.

Although they appear simple and possibly very plain, these types of adjustable desks can end up being far more expensive that the desk-top models I was looking at.

In almost all cases, these height-adjustable desks are raised and lowered electrically by pressing a button on the front or side. Some of these desks controls can get pretty fancy (and expensive) and offer “pre-sets,” meaning that once you have found the “perfect” height for standing and sitting, you can store that setting. Many of these desks also feature multiple USB ports as well as other outlets for plugging in various devices.

Selecting an Alternative

I quickly eliminated considering one of these standing desks because I already have a large office desk that I like, and I am a creature of habit. My desk is a fairly large “U-shaped desk,” with cabinets and shelves behind me and is basically a full-size wrap-around piece of furniture that I was not willing to give up.

What I was really looking for was what I would refer to as an “adjustable desk stand,” or ADS. I just made up that acronym because as I did my research I found that even the manufacturers have a very difficult time from a marketing standpoint when it comes to clearly distinguishing between what are truly two distinctly different types of devices – (1) Height Adjustable Stand-alone Desk – An entirely separate desk that replaces a previous desk that raises and lowers as opposed to (2) A Height Adjustable Desk Stand – an adjustable desk “stand” which is a separate piece of furniture designed to sit on top of an existing desk.

In the fully lowered position, the new desk top sits 5.5″ above the “old” desktop.

Almost by definition, An ADS is a separate piece of furniture that is designed to sit on top of an existing desk. It can be quickly and easily raised or lowered to accommodate your requirements.

ADS devices should not be considered mobile devices that can be quickly placed and then removed from the desk top. They are substantial enough in both size and weight that you shouldn’t plan on casually lifting them off your desk and then replacing them two hours later.

Anyway, I pretty much knew early on that I wanted an ADS so I began to refine my search.

Searching Out an ADS

It is hard to believe, but if you visit Google and type in the search phrase “standing desks” you will end up with 24,000,000 results! Let me tell you something, if you can’t find what you want in the first 2-3 pages you’re probably a bit anal, and the rest of this article is probably not for you. Better yet, just take a look at the two links listed near the end of this article. My apologies to all the other companies out there selling similar products, but I am not a patient person. I have a life to live and in the short time I have remaining I will not be spending it researching desks.

The trick in using a standing desk is finding that “perfect” height for your size. It does take some considerable amount of time to find that “perfect” height. To be honest, I am still looking for the right height for me.

Since my current desk set-up relies on two 21” Acer monitors side-by-side, my new ADS had to accommodate the same. I also needed a desk-top with room not only for the monitors but also some front to back space  on which I could place stuff like folders, notes, calculators, coffee cups, etc.

My full U-shaped desk is often a picture of utter chaos, so I needed some room on my new desk-top to spread out. As it turns out, front-to-back space was not an issue in making my final decision.

Most of the basic desk models I looked at came in three basic widths – 30”, 36” and 48”. The latter was overkill in my book, and a 30” width desk is simply too small to accommodate two monitors sitting side-by-side.

I will note (as you can see in the photos) that my monitors are angled slight towards each other. Even though the two monitors measured horizontally measure approximately 42” in width, their stands are centered and thus two 21”+ monitors can easily fit on a 36” wide surface. If by chance you use three monitors on your desk, you will definitely need a 48” wide ADS.

Electric or manual?

The Varidesk model appears to be solid and well-built but it did not offer the electric up and down feature.

After conducting less than a thorough research, I ended up choosing an electric model made by Apex. Even though I work out at a gym 2-3 times a week and can easily bench press 225 lbs. (that’s me bragging!), I really didn’t want to exert myself raising and lowering my new ADS, no matter how little effort or strength was required. I wasn’t absolutely locked into an electric desk, but if price wasn’t a major consideration electric was going to be my choice. As it turns out, at least in my case, electric also turned out to be less expensive.

The non-electric ADS desks are spring-loaded, and it is just a question of gripping a lever on each side and either lifting-up slightly or pushing down. Very little exertion is required, at least so they promise.

No big deal either way. It occurs to me now, however, that if the electric motor goes out it is going to be a hassle to get it fixed or replaced, and in the meantime you are going to be stuck with a desk that you can’t adjust. I suspect that a manually adjustable desk would present a lot fewer problems in this regard.

Minor Cautions and Considerations?

A Rubber Mat – First, you are going to need a firm, rubber floor mat to provide for a cushioned support while standing. I don’t suggest trying to stand for any length of time without one of these mats. However, when ordering a mat, you also need to make sure that it is firm enough to accommodate a desk chair on wheels. (UPDATE 11-21-17) – I must admit finding an adequate rubber mat that is comfortable to stand on while at the same allowing a desk-chair to freely move on top of the mat has been a much bigger challenge than I thought. I’m still looking.

Wireless Keyboard – For efficiency sake, you’re also going want to purchase a wireless keyboard and mouse if you don’t already have one. Standard keyboard and mouse cables may not be long enough in some scenarios. The wireless feature also allows for much easier position between the ADS keyboard tray and your normal keyboard tray or standard desktop. I bought a wireless keyboard and mouse for $19.95 on sale at Office Depot.

A Chair Cushion – You may also want to consider purchasing a 3-4” thick chair cushion, but not for the reason you may think. I am not suggesting a cushion from an enhanced comfort standpoint, but rather it is based on the fact that the ADS desk top, even when fully lowered, is approximately 5-6” higher than your current desk height. I discovered that many adjustable desk chairs may or may not offer that much additional adjustment in height to accommodate the new desk height, even when the ADS is in the lowest position. I have not yet purchased a cushion but it is worth considering. Also, I have not settled into a routine yet to decide when I am in the seated position whether I like my keyboard on the original beneath-the-desk platform or located on the ADS keyboard platform that comes with the new desk.

Coffee Cups and Cell Phones – Used coffee cups and soda cans typically don’t present a problem on the standard desk top, but your new ADS calls for you to give a little extra attention as to where you place items on your desk top. When standing, it is not unusual to casually place a cup, a soda can or even a cell phone on the desk top directly beneath your new ADS and then forgetting you placed the item there. If you lower the desk and forget about these items you can have a real mess on your hands when the items are crushed, the liquid spills out, or your cell phone ends up being much thinner than it was minutes before!

Health Benefits and Considerations?

I could have easily placed this section at the top of the article, but I assumed that if the original headline caught your eye you’ve probably already read about the numerous health benefits of standing desks.

Common sense strongly suggests that sitting on your ass six to eight hours a day staring at a computer monitor simply cannot be healthy for you. It might be necessary, but it still isn’t healthy. Of course standing for that same period of time in a single spot, at least without the benefit of a cushioned floor mat, probably is not going to be much better.

Nonetheless, if you must spend this amount of time working at one or more computer terminals then an ADS might improve your overall health. One of the “health” articles I came across during my brief research suggested that, “If you’re not getting out of your seat much during the day, you really are hurting your body. If you’re sitting 8 or more hours a day, your risk of dying prematurely increases by about 15%.” Go here for a fairly well balanced article on the pros and cons of standing vs. sitting: http://lovework.standdesk.co/standing-desk-vs.-sitting-desk-which-is-best-pros/cons

If you’re want to be frightened to death and convinced that you should buy one of these desks in the next 10 minutes you need visit a site named Mercola – Take Control of Your Health. One of the many health and fitness articles they feature includes a great article titled, “Improving Your Health by Ditching Desks and Chairs.” This is the link to that site: https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/11/27/sitting-standing-moving.aspx

My Final Choice

After talking and bragging around the office to anyone who would listen to me (they never do) that I was going to get a standing desk, I finally started some serious research. To be brutally honest, a few years ago I would have first posted my interest in this subject on the old Printowners list serv, and I would have asked subscribers for their help.

Unfortunately, I have been permanently banned from the list by the NPOA BOD because they apparently are worried about losing more members if I am allowed to post questions and comments. They worry too that exposure to another association or industry consultant somehow represents a threat to their own association. Sad – no, make that pathetic!

Now back on track – So, anyone who conducts any type of serious research is going to stumble upon what I believe are two of the leaders in the field of stand-up desks:

1. Varideskhttps://www.varidesk.com/products/ (Pro-Plus 36 Black, $395.)

2. Apex Deskshttps://standingdesknation.com/collections/electric-adjust (Vivo Electric, $298)

I tend to shop based upon features and not price, but my final choice offered the best of both worlds in my opinion. I ended up selecting the Apex Desk because the “electric” feature appealed to me. The bonus for me was the APEX desk was actually cheaper as well. We purchased it from Amazon and paid slight less than the list price noted above. I am sure that either of these two devices can be readily purchased for less than list price, especially if you are good at such things.

The Apex desk was literally plug and play. No assembly required, but because of its weight and bulky size it did require two individuals to place it on my desk.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me at either membership@printingresearch.org or johnstewart@quickconsultant.com

P.S. By the way, if you’re considering buying or selling your shop or you are just interested in company valuations, visit our home page and check-out some of the other articles we have posted in the past few weeks.