Standing Desk Height

Written by Jordan Lees, Physiotherapist and OHS Consultant, and the Founder of The Ergonomic Physio

If you want to get the most out of your standing desk, it needs to be set up to the correct height. This will help to make sure that no musculoskeletal problems develop as a result of you progressing from a seated posture to a standing posture. 

Keep in mind that there is no need to try and stand all day. To learn about how long you should stand for, read this article here.

Another thing to consider is that there is no single formula that will allow you to set your standing desk to the right height. I often get asked in my capacity as an Occupational Physiotherapist for The Ergonomic Physio how high should a desk be for someone of "x" height. Leg length, torso length, and arm length will all influence how high your desk should be. So, the safest option is to not follow any formula. 

Instead, use the angle at your elbow as your primary guide (explained below), and comfort at as your secondary guide. If it doesn't feel comfortable, then your desk is set to the wrong height. 
Adjust the height of your standing desk so that when your hands are on the keyboard (in a natural way - as if you're typing) there is a 90-100 degree angle at the elbow. 

Any range between 90 degrees and 100 degrees is fine for most people and it is fine if you find 90 degrees more comfortable than 100 degrees, and vise-versa. Problems can occur if you go outside of this range.

Note that in the photo to the below, my elbow angle is closer to 100 degrees than 90 degrees. I find this more comfortable than 90 degrees. 

Correct Standing Desk Posture
Correct standing desk height - between 90 - 100 degrees. Note that in this photo I am at about 100 degrees, which I find more comfortable for me personally.

If the angle is noticeably less than 90 degrees, or your standing desk is too high, it will mean that your elbows are below the level of the desk. This is shown to below. If this happens, one of two things is likely to happen. Either your forearm/wrist will dig into the edge of the desk because you're effectively reaching upwards to type, or you will shrug your shoulders to raise the height of your forearms back to parallel.

​Neither of these compensations are conducive to an ergonomic set up. 

Standing desk height too high.
Standing desk height too high.

If the angle is considerably more than 100 degrees, your shoulder muscles will have to do more work because your arms will not be supported on the desk. Your shoulder muscles (particularly your upper traps - "shrugging" muscles) will have to activate to help hold and support your arms up off the desk. ​​​

​Also, you are more likely to slouch forward if the desk is too low, which will lead to problems.

Standing desk height too low.
Standing desk height too low.

Do you need further help?

If you're an organisation and would like assistance in setting up the correct height for your employees' standing desks, or would like some education sessions for your employees, please fill out our ergonomic assessment booking form here, or contact our ergonomic and OHS partner, The Ergonomic Physio, here