UpDown Desks Australia Blog

The History of Standing Desks (and What the Future Has in Store)

When Did Standing Desks Become Popular

Even if the time and birthplace of  height adjustable desks are unknown, there is much reason to celebrate their existence.

Whether chosen for comfort, creativity, or the numerous health benefits, these desks have taken over every little nook and cranny across the globe.

The why’s are rather clear, but that doesn’t help to explain exactly when standing desks became so popular.

We’re on the road to discovery - across the globe over a couple of centuries - in hope of pinning popularity. 

What do you need to know about standing desks?

Adjustable height desks offer a better balance between sitting and standing. We recommend you to read our comprehensive  standing desks guide to make sure you’re entirely clued up on the topic.

Standing Desks in the Past

The 1400s

While Leonardo Da Vinci (1452 - 1519) hopefully needs no introduction, he is the earliest documented standing desk genius.

Even though this highly talented Renaissance artist, architect, engineer, sculptor, scientist, draftsmen, and designer is not the inventor of the stand-up desk, he undoubtedly realised the benefits rippling out to his reality.

The man that painted the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper and designer of early prototypes for modern inventions like helicopters showcased scientific inquiry and exploration of mechanical innovation -  well ahead of his time.

Why are standing desks so expensive?

Even in the 15th Century, owning a standing desk was a bit of a luxury. Today, standing desks are made with high-quality, durable material to ensure that everything placed on them will be safe and sound. 

It’s a long way to the ground, so you want to make sure that nothing is going to tumble and break.

The 1700s

In earlier years, standing desks were seen as a status symbol and privilege limited to the wealthy for a more convenient view of documents, maps, and books.

They gained popularity at prestigious learning institutions like the University of Cambridge, and exposure as various world leaders caught on to the benefits of higher thought-forms reached while standing.

Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826), American statesmen, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and founding father may have been the third American President, but he is one of the first noted users of an adjustable height standing desk. 

He improved the design with his own ‘tall desk’, which had six legs for stability, and an adjustable slanted desktop.

The Presbyterian minister Jon Orton warned people of the risks involved in sedentary lifestyles in the year 1797, but the Industrial Revolution (1760 – 1840) nevertheless took its toll. As technology transformed the workforce, an increasing number of people took a seat instead of working on their feet.

How long do standing desks last?

Quite a while, given that we still have the physical evidence of these desks. With the right amount of care and maintenance, an adjustable-height standing desk will last you anywhere between 15 and 30 years, if not more.

The 1800s

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821), the emperor of France, strategically planned a number of battles, while Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870) used a standing desk to write some great novels.

A self-help book dated back to 1848 advised professionals to write on their feet as nearly half of all business writing was being done at standing desks.

19th Century inventories of office furniture from state legislatures and other government bodies indicate that employees shared communal standing desks. In fact, they were more popular than seated desks.

School Hygiene (1899), written by Dr Ludwig Wilhelm Johannes Kotelmann, is one of the first books discussing potential health benefits with an entire chapter devoted to the ergonomics of school desks, including a design for a height-adjustable sit-stand desk.

The 1900s

Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965), Britain’s wartime prime minister, worked at a standing desk to write his books and speeches.

Virginia Woolf (1882 - 1941), the English writer and one of the most important stream of consciousness narration pioneers, is one of the most influential women known to have used a standing desk.

While inventors filed patents for early models of height-adjustable hand crank standing desks, Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961)’s  stand-up desk hack, was his typewriter on a bookcase.

And in 1998? The World’s first standing computer desk.

The 2000s

Despite the increase in commercial popularity, not enough was being done to save our spines, hearts, and healthy habits.

By 2010 the message was clear. Clinical studies provided scientific evidence. The situation – one of life and death – induced by ‘sitting’ disease.

Standing desks were becoming an urgent necessity to change the way we work.

Standing Desks in the Present

According to the Australian Government, 55% of adults do not meet physical activity guidelines. Even more concerning, is that 70% of children don’t reach theirs, and the percentage for teenagers, at an alarming 98%.

As a response, there has been a significant increase in the number of companies that provide standing desks for the battle against sedentary lifestyles.

Hopefully, the numbers, as much as adjustable desks, are shifting for the better.

As for trends and traditions?

Google got it all together. Times have changed, and many of us won't be returning to work any time soon. 

An increased search for adjustable desks shows a reassessment, not only in the balance between family and work-time but also sitting and standing.

Why are standing desks popular?

As we can see, the advantages of standing while you work have been well documented throughout the centuries. If Leonardo thought they were good enough to use, we’re not going to argue with him.

When Did Standing Desks Become Popular

Standing Desks in the Future

Standing desks, and especially height adjustable standing desks, are here to stay.

With an abundance of accessories promoting movement, including everything from under-desk treadmills, to desk bikes and mini steppers, what could be next?

May I dream at my desk? Unless a gravity-defying upside-down desk is on yours, maybe a speech-to-text service that projects from screen to ceiling? Or something in black marble for the kitchen? No strings attached.

Do you want to know  how to stop your standing desk from wobbling?

Routinely check and secure all parts. A wedge may work wonders as a temporary fix.


when were standing desks invented

Far from a new concept, standing desks moved from visionary vessels and trusted tools for innovation through status symbols and state shares up to the modern-day health and happiness assistants we could all do with.

Influential people and companies have given them the necessary exposure while proving their benefits.

From writing great novels to winning world wars. Freethinkers, artists, writers, innovators, and debaters. Political leaders and professional preachers.

From Apple’s tech super-station at Silicon Valley to Googleplex in Mountain Valley.

With the help of technology, adjustable height desks have not only increased in popularity but new levels of functionality.

The benefits of healthy working habits on body and mind undoubtedly contributed towards many great inventions and transitions in human evolution, while an increased awareness about the risks of sedentary lifestyles fuelled this transformative global trend. 

Health, happiness. And fitness? All in ergonomic balance. Even while at work.

Did you find our blog helpful? Then consider checking:

Steady as You Go: A Practical Wobbly Standing Desk Fix
Standing Desks Can Help Deal With ADHD: Here's How