The health benefits of sit-stand desks are no longer disputable. But, is there a benefit to choosing an electric standing desk? And how do electric standing desks work?
In a world where convenience and efficiency are considered priorities, an automated sit-stand desk is an asset.
Research has shown that alternating between sitting and standing during a workday, not only improves health, it enhances cognitive function and productivity.
An electric standing desk is not a cheap investment and making an informed decision about whether an automated desk is suitable for you is a wise move.
In this article, I take a deep dive into what an electric desk is, how it works and important considerations when looking to invest in one.
An electric standing desk is a height-adjustable sit-stand desk that is operated by motors and gears.
Motorised standing desks are usually powered by a small direct current motor, activated by a digital control that raises, lowers or stops the desk.
Electric motors potentially raise and lower loads of up to 150kgs and the weight capacity and speed at which a load can be raised are what determines the number of motors used on a desk.
The legs contain a gear and glide system that raises the desk when the motor is activated.
Essentially the glides serve two purposes and play an essential role in the function of the desk. Firstly to combine two or three columns of different sizes that hold the gear and raise the desk.
The second function is to act as a natural lubricant which allows the inner components to move without friction.
Battery operated desks are available but have some serious limitations.
Batteries need to be recharged often and although allowing for more mobility, weight capacity is limited.
Electronic appliances are often about speed and convenience and it is no different when it comes to standing desks.
Having a desk that raises and lowers with the press of a button is an advantage for those who change position frequently.
It is also ideal for people with injuries or pre-existing conditions that restrict their movement making manual operation of a desk challenging.
The big advantage electric stand up desks hold over pneumatic or manual stand up desks is arguably strength.
If all you need is a portable stand up desk for a laptop, monitor and cup of coffee, the assisted lift that an electric desk provides for heavier loads is not necessary.
In higher-end models, memory settings allow for a user to have to set their preferred height only once.
A sedentary lifestyle has numerous adverse effects on health including a higher risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Lengthy sitting weakens back and abdominal muscles resulting in poor posture and back pain.
By alternating between sitting and standing we not only burn more calories, but our core muscles also work and there is an increase in blood circulation leading to better heart and brain function.
What's more, research has shown a significant increase in productivity in those who use variable standing desks.
Taking advantage of the increasing popularity of adjustable sit-stand desks, some manufacturers are producing cheap models to meet market demand.
But when it comes to electric standing desks, the quality you pay for is the quality you get.
You want this to be a long term investment and inferior quality components or buying the incorrect desk for your needs will rapidly decrease the desks lifespan.
When considering strength three features in particular need to be taken into account.
The frame structure, the strength of the component and the work surface material. All should be made from heavy-duty materials.
Cheap components carry the risk of easy breakdown and rapid wear and tear.
Weight rating is important. Do not underestimate how much weight your desk needs to carry. Take into account too that the weight of the worktop is included in the weight rating.
Instability on your desk is going to create distractions. By instability, I mean either left to right wobble or a front to back rocking motion.
Stability starts from the bottom up and rigid materials are a must for the foot design. Solid and long steel feet are crucial for longitudinal stability.
Likewise, frame weight is an important factor. The heavier the frame the more stable the desk.
Loose bolts can also cause instability, often due to user error during assembly.
This is where we see the advantage of buying a desk pre-assembled from the factory.
Some parts are permanently connected with welding while bolts are fastened with either a Loctite solution or the correct torque.
Too many moving parts contribute to instability and add to rapid wear and tear.
Cheap plastic components wear down quickly, a problem particularly apparent in the gears and glides. Poor-fitting glides allow for play in the leg columns creating unwanted movement.
Exceeding the recommended weight will create instability, particularly as the desk is raised. Again, be sure to have a clear idea of the load you are going to put on the desk before you buy.
Check out the next point.
Weight limit or lift capacity is a big determinator in how efficiently your desk functions.
The DC motors that are used in automatic stand up desks provide high power density. The number of motors used on a desk is determined by the weight capacity.
Weight capacity determines how much you can place on your desk. Most models have adequate capacity for desktop items typical of an office.
It is essential not to underestimate the load of your items resulting in owning a desk inadequate to support your needs.
Budget-focused desks usually only have one motor. Adding extra monitors, printers or a full desktop machine will result in the motor straining and burning out.
Reputable or high end automated sit-stand desk manufacturers use electric board systems specifically made for sit to stand desks. These are single boards and the quality is consistent throughout with components held solidly on secure stands.
Conversely, it is common for cheaper models to have two board systems comprising mass-produced power supply attached to the functionality board with cheap loose connections.
Components are untidily and held in place with silicone.
Vibrations from the desk cycles loosen the cheaply held connections over time resulting in a breakdown.
Having a desk stuck at sitting or standing height, or worse, in between, will be frustrating. If parts can be replaced you will need to wait for them to arrive from the manufacturer.
Dimension refers not only to the size desktop you require to work on but what the space you work in can accommodate.
Desks can vary between 105 cm to 180cm and as large as 240cm in adjustable frames. As exciting as a large workspace may seem, it’s not going to be a happy experience to find your desk does not fit into your office or home space.
A good tip is to mark out your desk space on the floor with masking tape.
The depth of the desk is also important. Most desks offer a depth of 60cm but some are narrower. Be sure that screens can be placed far enough back for the correct eye to screen distance which is on average at arm's length.
Range of adjustment is a major factor. One of the primary roles of a sit-stand desk is to provide good ergonomics, enhancing posture and preventing or reducing back pain and the other health hazards related to poor posture.
The adjustable-range needs to suit the person who will be using the desk.
Not every manufacturer accommodates the particularly shorter or taller user.
Some desks may be too high for a short person at sitting height, affecting the arm position. This may be overcome by using a dropped keyboard but be aware of this limitation before you buy.
For tall people, some desks do not have the reach required and are not high enough for the correct eye to monitor contact resulting in a slouched posture.
What about memory settings?
While memory settings are becoming increasingly standard in sit-stand desks, it is still not a feature on some.
This may seem like a convenient extra but it makes a significant difference when raising or lowering your desk frequently during the day.
A memory setting ensures that you are ergonomically set up every time you adjust your desk up or down.
With manual desks lacking this feature, it becomes a time-wasting exercise to find your ideal setting every time you move the desk up or down.
Speed is about efficiency and convenience. In a busy workspace, nobody wants to waste time waiting for their desk to shift up or down.
Speeds of up-down desks range from 35mm/sec to 43mm/sec.
Load capacity must be taken into consideration here too. Overloading the desk may not only cause slower lift time but put a strain on the motor and reduce the lifespan of your desk.
As technology in standing desks advances, so does engineering on noise reduction.
In an office environment where the usual conversation takes place, the whirring noise of the motor of an electric desk will go unnoticed.
To give you an idea, normal office conversation measures around 60 decibels and the noise of a sit to stand desk between 45-60 decibels.
Do your research though as there are still desks that make enough noise to be a disturbance in a quiet office. Desks with multiple motors will be noisier too.
Something else to be aware of is that a straining motor will make more noise as will cheap loose parts.
Reputable companies put their products through rigorous testing. This includes a cycle test in which the desk is raised and lowered ten to twenty thousand times simulating a desk raised and lowered up to ten times a day over a period of five years.
Weight testing involves working the desk under four times the manufactured load capacity.
Materials used are a further determining factor in the durability of the desk.
Work surfaces and frames of electric rising desks can be made from several materials.
Good quality work surfaces are made of high-density MDF covered with eitherthermally fusedlaminate or high-pressure laminate producing a strong and lasting product.
Natural wood is considered to be the best material for desk work surfaces, including standing desks. But, surface choice will be determined by the purpose of the desk.
The frame and legs should be made with heavy-duty materials like steel and aluminium. Metal components are usually powder-coated for durability.
Focus on environmentally friendly furniture is increasing and ethical manufacturers of sit to stand desks are taking this into consideration.
For the eco-conscious, there are several manufacturers who not only use leading technology to minimize waste products but also use high grade recyclable and sustainable materials.
An aspect of buying a height-adjustable desk that many people overlook is the ease at which it can be assembled.
Many of the less expensive desks come with dozens of bolts and screws and a lengthy assembly instruction guide.
Not only is there the annoyance of needing multiple additional tools to get your desk up, but there is a high rate of failure at installation due to user error or missing parts.
Many good quality desks can be assembled in under half an hour by a single person. Keep in mind though that the desks are assembled upside down and may be too heavy for one person to put upright.
A high-quality adjustable desk does not come cheap but skimping on quality may end up costing you more in the end with limited warranties and low-grade parts
For most homes and offices the noise of a desk motor is negligible. But, the heavier duty desk with three motors will obviously make more noise than a single motor desk. Where noise may be an issue is in a study area or library.
An electronic failure can be inconvenient with the deks stuck at sitting or standing height or somewhere in between.
When overloaded it can slow down and burn out. This can be avoided by adhering to the manufacturer's load recommendations.
Multiple cycles up/down will cause overheating. Electric standing desks are not made to run for more than a minute or two at a time.
In countries where power outages are common, repeated outages not only prevent the desk from being adjusted but require that the desk is reset after each outage.
That being said, a high-quality desk will mitigate most of these potential problems.At UpDownDesk, we only offer the best electric desks. Our quality combined with our comprehensive warranty will ensure that you don’t face any of these problems.
We would say so.
Whilethey are an investment, the automation means that you can adjust the desk to your height specifications without any hassle.
Different standing desks come with different specific benefits and limitations. A cheaper standing desk modification can be done with a more budget-friendly standing desk converter.
But for those who spend the majority of the day at a desk and require multiple monitors or numerous accessories, the benefit of an automated lift justifies the investment.