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March 18, 2021

Standing Desks vs. Desk Converters - Ergonomic and Practical Differences

By Paulina Wegrzyn.
Paulina Wegrzyn is a physiotherapist residing and practicing in British Columbia, Canada. She completed her Master’s in Physical Therapy at the University of Toronto, in Ontario, Canada. She currently treats a large persistent pain population. Paulina is a certified pelvic floor physiotherapist, and takes a biopsychosocial approach to treatment. She uses a combination of education, manual therapy, soft tissue release, and exercise prescription with her clients. She is interested in educating others regarding the benefits of physiotherapy in order for them to feel empowered to take control of their health. She enjoys writing content related to this field of study as she believes that physiotherapy should be accessible to all.
Pauline - Masters Qualified Physiotherapist


What is a Desk Converter?

A desk converter is a manual or electric system that sits on top of your existing desk and allows you to elevate your computer screen and keyboard. This allows you to stand while working.

How does a Desk Converter Differ from a Standing Desk?

Desk Converters elevate your computer monitor and keyboard to a level where you can comfortably stand and work at your screen. However, when you buy a desk converter, this is the only adjustable element in your work station.

A standing desk allows you to modify the height of your entire workstation, rather than just your computer screen and keyboard. When you raise or lower your standing desk, your entire workstation is raised or lowered to the same height.

Why use a Desk Converter?

Desk converters are a good option in specific cases.

You can’t replace your existing desk

If your desk is built into the wall, or is an old family heirloom that you would have a difficult time replacing, a desk converter can offer you the flexibility of being able to stand while you work without replacing or altering your existing office furniture.

You require a lot of under-desk storage

Your existing desk may have a lot of drawers, filing cabinets, and storage space. Typically, a standing desk offers less storage space under the desk compared to a traditional office desk. However, there are many other storage solutions that you can purchase along with a standing desk, such as mobile filing cabinets and hanging drawers.

You move work locations regularly

Desk convertors are not small items, but they are more portable than a standing desk. If you are regularly moving from one workspace to another e.g. temp work, then a desk convertor may be a great option.

Disadvantages of Desk Converters

There are a few disadvantages to desk converters that are important to be aware of.

Monitor stability and adjustability

As a standalone unit, desk converters are typically less stable than a standing desk. You may find that the monitor shakes more when you use your keyboard to type. Although the technology has been optimised to minimise this instability, it cannot be compared to the stability of using a high-quality standing desk.

Furthermore, some desk converters do not allow you to tilt or maneuver your monitor angle in a way to suit your own individual ergonomic needs. This could cause you to use your screen at a suboptimal position or angle, that may lead to neck or shoulder discomfort over time. Make sure you research the adjustability options of your desk converter before purchasing.

Treadmill option

Desk risers are not compatible with ergonomic setups using a treadmill. Typically, your standard desk is much too short to accommodate a treadmill.

Treadmills are an excellent way to increase your energy expenditure while at work, and allow individuals to stay active while working, if the type of work you do allows for it.

Ergonomics

Desk converters do not offer nearly the same ergonomic benefits and comfort as a standing desk, due to their lack of customisability. I will expand on this below.

Ergonomic Benefits of a Full Standing Desk

Standing desks offer a far superior ergonomic experience as compared to a desk converter. A desk converter only allows you to use your keyboard and screen in an ergonomic manner. This is not ideal as most of us have cups of tea, snacks, pens, notes, devices, books, documents etc that we reach for and use throughout our work day.

When using a desk converter, your desk is not at the same level as your computer. You must lean over or bend over at your desk to access anything on its surface. If referring to documents or devices below, your neck will be constantly bent down.

If you use a telephone or write notes frequently throughout the day, a desk converter will cause a lot of forward bending in the neck and low back and this is also very inconvenient.

When a desk is set up in an ergonomic manner, all manner of reaching, bending, and straining to access commonly used items is minimised. This cannot be said about a desk converter setup. Standing desks offer an unparalleled level of comfort and ergonomic benefits as compared to desk converters. It is without question that standing desks are better for your health and wellbeing.

To learn how to do a full ergonomic setup of your standing desk, refer to our article “How to Set up an Ergonomic Work Station.”

Summary

Despite their convenience and accessibility, desk converters lack the ergonomic benefits of a standing desk. Although there are some valid reasons for choosing to purchase a desk converter instead of a standing desk, a standing desk should always be the preferred choice.


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