Standing Desk Mechanism: What Are Desk Lifts in Ergonomics?
Smart Products

Standing Desk Mechanism: What Are Desk Lifts in Ergonomics?

|Feb 17, 2022

How much thought have you ever given to an adjustable standing desk mechanism? As you know, standing desks continue to get more popular, especially considering that people are now more focused than ever on the potential dangers associated with sitting too long. 

Standing for hours on end is just as bad, so the ideal solution is to take advantage of sit-stand sessions, especially since the human body is made for movement, as opposed to remaining in any one position. 

The ability to switch desk heights comes from an adjustable desk mechanism that people often don't talk about too much. Instead, the concern is usually squarely focused on the ability to choose a desk based on other features it may have. 

So, what can you hope to learn today? Well, the focus is less on tips for using your standing desk and more about understanding the adjustment mechanism and what to look for as you are contemplating a purchase. 

Throughout your reading, you're also going to notice a few links to stellar products that embody much of the information that you are going to see. Therefore, while this is not necessarily content meant to display a listing of desk options for potential buyers, you still get to see a couple, just in case you are interested in getting an adjustable desk mechanism for your office space. 

What Is a Standing Desk Lift?

What Is a Standing Desk Lift?

Starting with the low-hanging fruit may be a good idea. The standing desk lift mechanism sits at the very center of what separates an adjustable unit from a regular one. A traditional office desk or a static standing desk is always going to have a set height. 

So, you either decide to sit for your entire work session, or you decide you're going to “take a stand.” 

Adjustable standing desks, thanks to the desk lift mechanism builds they are known for, do not have to conform to either side of the fence. Instead, they can be sitting desks, or they can be standing desks upon request. 

The adjustable desk mechanism that's responsible for this alternating ability speaks to the components that work together, allowing you to go from seated heights to standing heights, and vice versa. 

As indicated before, the effects of consistent sitting and the associated sedentary lifestyle that it brings is consistently proving to be less than ideal for office workers. Therefore, people want to take advantage of the benefits of standing, particularly when combined with sitting at intervals in sit-stand sessions. 

Remember that working remotely is more common today than it has ever been before, so it does stand to reason that people are trying to practice healthier work habits in the home, just as they are in their traditional office spaces. 

Types of Desk Lifts

Types of Desk Lifts

The standing desk hardware or adjustable desk mechanism that comes together to create a lift mechanism can be arranged to give one of three lift types. These are electric, mechanical, and converters. All three are covered in detail below, which should allow you to contrast them and select which you think would be most appropriate for your needs. 


Electric standing desk mechanism

An electric standing desk mechanism completely replaces the typical legs of an office desk with an adjustable height system. Make no mistake as the physical appearance bears a striking resemblance to typical legs. However, the built-in adjustability functionality is where the difference lies. 

The name of this subtype comes from the motor that sits at the center of the adjustment. So, you are not required to put in any manual work in switching between sitting and standing heights. Usually, you're going to notice that a lever or button is present. Once you push it, the desk begins to adjust. 

Usually, the arguments for electric desk lifts speak to the extent to which they are easier to use than their counterparts. 


Mechanical standing desk mechanism

Mechanical lifts also substitute for what would be traditional desk legs. Therefore, you can, yet again, adjust your desk height between seated and standing positions. However, the mechanism that allows you to do this is not as hands-off as that of an electric lift. 

Instead of a button or lever, you typically have a crank here, which gives you the ability to make manual adjustments to the desk’s height. Surprisingly, the installation times and costs of electric and mechanical lifts are not too far removed from each other.  

However, you may find that the electric options can be slightly higher priced at times, which makes sense considering what they have running in them. 

One of the arguments against mechanical lifts is that they can present quite a bit of inconvenience to those who are going to be alternating their positions frequently. Having to do that with a manually adjusted mechanism is not the most welcoming prospect. 


Converters standing desk mechanism

Converters are technically less of a desk lift mechanism and more of a hack in a sense. Instead of being the support system to an entire desk, they are intended to help you convert your traditional sitting desk into a standing desk. 

So, you find that these units are a little smaller and they're placed atop your desk, giving you a new surface area to work on. While your existing desk is not adjustable, the height of the converter is. 

Typically, you find that this height can range anywhere from flat against your existing desk to a range of standing desk heights. Note that you do have converters that employ an electric desk mechanism. 

However, it is much more likely that you're going to see a manually adjusted converter style.

One of the biggest drawbacks with converters is the space differential. Based on the way they are built, they usually take away the desktop real estate that you would have had with your sitting desk. 

This forces you to use the surface area of the converter as your new desktop. That does not necessarily sound like a problem until you consider that converter tabletop space is usually smaller than the desk it's on. 

So, you end up giving up some of your desktop real estate in the process. Yes, there are indeed exceptions to this rule, as there are a couple of large standing desk converters out there. However, even when you do find one, it's unlikely that the legs are going to be aligned in such a way that you can position the converter to get a true one-to-one size experience. 

What to Pay Attention to in an Electric Standing Desk

What to Pay Attention to in an Electric Standing Desk

Now that you know about the different types of standing desk mechanism options, it's time to hone in on electric standing desks and what to look for in the ones you see with this kind of mechanism. You may be wondering, why is the electronic option being singled out?  

Well, of the three options, these tend to be the most convenient and sit at the center of a couple of the best standing desk options on the market. Make no mistake, as units, such as the Mount-It! standing desk converter, are incredibly solid choices that you should give a second look. 

Nevertheless, the focus is going to be on the electric adjustable standing desk space. 

Base Width

As you’d expect, the base width gives you an indication of how wide your desk can be. Note that some desks can be adjusted horizontally, just as they can vertically. Therefore, you may find that instead of a specific number, you get a range, indicating the minimum and maximum.

This is not a necessary feature, but it's one that you can find useful. In other cases, some bases are built with their legs being separate electrical lifts, which give you adjustment capabilities in assembly. 

Height Range

Height Range

This is yet another self-explanatory feature, but it's arguably a central one, considering the discussion is around the electric standing desk mechanism. Just as the base width speaks to the horizontal boundaries, the height range speaks to the vertical ones. 

This is a very important metric for you to pay attention to, as you may end up making or breaking your sit-stand experience. What you want to achieve is being able to sit and stand as you work. 

So, it would do you very well to have some level of grasp on the tabletop height that you need in both positions. Once you find a desk with an appropriate height range to fit both needs, then you know you’re making a solid purchase. 

Some desks, such as the Autonomous SmartDesk Pro, have a way more accommodative height adjustment range than others do. Therefore, they can be mass purchased for office needs, since they're going to be accommodating to short persons, tall persons, and everyone in between. 

Weight Capacity

Weight Capacity

Weight capacity is another critical metric, particularly if your workload is not the lightest of the bunch. Here, you get to understand the maximum weight that your desk can hold safely. 

Depending on the manufacturer and build quality of the item, you may also find that the adjustment mechanism starts to slow down the closer you get to the max weight. That's one of the reasons why you want to go for a sturdier design. 

It's the norm for standing desks to handle about 200+ pounds of weight. However, there are exceptions, such as the Autonomous' corner standing desk that can go all the way up to 330 pounds. 

Leg Stages

If you look at the telescopic section of your electric adjustable standing desk mechanism, you are going to notice it's being broken down into a couple of stages. There are two-stage legs, just as there are three-stage legs.  

What merit does either have to you? Well, because of the additional layer, you find that three-stage legs generally have greater stability than their two-stage counterparts.  

This is especially important to those who may be looking for a more stable desk in their office spaces. 

Shape and Number of Legs

Shape and Number of Legs

Unlike some of the other features discussed, there isn't necessarily one design here that is objectively better than others. The shape of the desk and the number of legs it bears are more likely going to appeal to you based on a personal preference. 

Generally, the larger desk is, the more legs it is likely to have. For example, an L-shaped desk such as Autonomous’ corner standing desk has three legs instead of two.  

L-shaped desks are better for those who want to capitalize on corner space and may have more office equipment to deal with than usual. 



What kind of tabletop does the standing desk that you are interested in have? These can be built out of many kinds of material ranging from wood to metal and beyond. 

Typically, you want a standing desk that uses a strong form of wood with a nice finish. MDF wood, for example, represents the pinnacle of high quality, so it stands to reason that you choose a desk bearing that material. The idea is to have a stable surface that is resistant to fast wear and tear. 

Apart from the material, there is also the size. You're likely going to find that the size of the tabletop is relative to the width of its legs, but there are exceptions where the legs are so offset to the middle, that the tabletop extends far beyond them. 

What's important though is that you have enough desktop real estate for your equipment and that you can work comfortably. 

Final Remarks

Final Remarks

That's quite a bit of talking about standing desk mechanism and standing desk hardware, isn't it? The idea behind adjustable standing desks is an incredibly solid one, and it stands to reason why their use continues to see improved patronage. 

Whether you want a standing desk for your home office or your traditional office, it's essential to understand how each desk lift mechanism differs, as it's a big part of guiding your eventual decision. 

Yes, you don't necessarily need to know about every little component that makes the various systems up. This is especially true of electric desk mechanisms, as there is quite a bit going on behind the scenes. 

Nevertheless, the information you have acquired about standing desk height mechanisms as well as the links you may have seen to some amazing products should be exactly what you need to start making office furniture decisions from a more informed standpoint.

April 2024 Offer

Spread the word