The Complete Guide To The Best Office Desks

Autonomous Autonomous | Aug 30, 2019
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Struggling to find the best desks for your office? Look no more! We’ve crafted this guide to help answer some of these questions.

The best desks need to be ergonomic

According to the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, an affiliate of the American Psychiatric Foundation, a mentally healthy workforce is good for business. To keep the mind sharp, active and focused throughout the work day, employees need to be put in a dynamic environment where they can move around more easily. As the workplace continues to evolve and more and more data comes to light on how ergonomics and office design affect everything from employee health to mental and emotional wellbeing, the marketplace is coming up with more and more solutions to help organizations reach optimal health, efficiency and profitability.

And the changes don’t have to happen overnight. Evidence shows that gradually incorporating a standing option with sitting throughout the day is the best option to help employees adapt. Although the guidelines differ from study to study, most experts recommend alternating between sitting and standing for fixed periods of time until the body adapts. The optimal amount may be every 30 minutes for some, or longer periods like an hour and a half to prevent breaking up periods of flow and productivity. Transforming your approach to office culture can lead to a huge shift in the productivity, health and well-being of you and all your employees, all it requires is a small change in mindset.

Why your office desk should be standing desks

While it certainly seems like standing desks are new and trendy, the standing desk may date back centuries. There are reports that Leonardo DaVinci preferred to work from a standing desk, a taste which Benjamin Franklin shared too. Standing workstations predate all the productivity blogs they’ve appeared in. And they’re here to stay. Research seems to suggest so. Customer intelligence firm Credence Research produced a bombshell report at the close of 2017 showing that the standing desk market is expected to double by 2025.

Standing desk adoption is happening throughout the U.S. and in a variety of industries. Apple recently announced that everyone at their new facilities will be offered a standing desk. One public elementary school in California put standing desks in their classrooms. Even the White House is interested. There was reportedly a $700,000 request from staff to buy standing desks for those who work in the presidential office toward the close of the Obama administration.

We’re not in the business of forecasting this stuff, but if one had to take a wild guess, you might reasonably expect standing desks are popular with office workers as the best desk for their office workspace and to be around for a while still.

Benefits

Prevent health risks

The biggest reason is that sitting is a serious (yet completely avoidable and unnecessary) health risk. There are some important benefits to both the individual with the standing desk’s ability to increase focus and productivity, and also to companies as a whole. As we mentioned above, standing desks deliver great gains at the business level and are an important way to set your business apart from rival companies that are after the same talent.

Encourage moving

The biggest selling point here is that standing desks get people out of their chairs. Sedentary work is a serious health hazard that all employers ought to take seriously. Whatever shock value the phrase “sitting is the new smoking” seems to have been diluted by overuse. Sitting and smoking are clearly very different activities. There’s something clearly unintuitive about equalizing the two.

A November 2018 summary of research comparing the two risks put it quite plainly: “…sitting and smoking are not comparable,” the paper says at its opening. Smoking poses a health risk that’s 7.2 times more dangerous than sitting, according to the research. Makes sense. However — and this point should be stressed too — this disparity may be due to how acutely harmful smoking is rather than how safe sitting is. This research also shows that sitting for long periods increases mortality risk by 25 percent.

Within the same paper, scientists also stated another alarming finding:

“Sedentary workers have a Type 2 diabetes risk factor nearly two times that of smokers.

So, sitting isn’t the new smoking, but in some respects it can be a lot worse. What the aphorism may have gotten right is that sitting and smoking are both commonplace and unnecessary health risks.”

If you take your employee’s health seriously (if you’re one of the 77 percent of U.S. employers who has a wellness program, the answer to this question is “yes”) a standing desk is the best desk for your office. What’s more, research shows you may help your staff that deliver stronger, better work. What would your company look like if everyone could deliver just a little bit more just by standing and changing their posture at work? That’s a question worth at least being curious about.

Before Buying Your Best Office Desks

Before you get online to start evaluating prospective models, it’s a good idea to:

Measure the office space

Break out the old tape measure for this step. Measure room widths to understand how new desks will fit in to your space. Precise measurements will allow you to anticipate not only how many desks you’ll be able to fit in a particular area, but any dead space or gaps that will be created with these new desks. Remember: even if your new desks are almost the same size as your existing desks, even the smallest size difference will be multiplied across a fleet of new desks.

Also:

- Measure not only the space of the rooms themselves, but the width of the walkways between them too. You may want to preserve those corridors as you consider new furniture for your office.

- Bear in mind that the desks will be moving up and down. Be sure that the space your desks will occupy is free of any unusual obstructions (shelving, circuit breakers, etc.) that would interfere with a rising surface.

Recheck your current office layout

Very few of us are working in offices that are perfect squares. Your office may have a variety of common areas as well as some desk-centered areas and dedicated offices. How will new desks fit in? Will the seating configuration need to be changed?

Even if you’re working out of an open office, employees may be attached to their existing seating arrangement and would prefer a desk upgrade to mirror their existing setup. That’s definitely something you’d want to ask at this stage in the standing desk purchasing process.

Accounting for everyone

The average person is about 5’11” and suitable standing desk for them would be about 44”. That said, there are probably plenty of people in your office that fall out of this standard measurement. A desk that is either too short for the tall people in your office or does not come down low enough to accomodate shorter employees is a nonstarter. It’s a big task, but getting height measurements of everyone in the office is the surest way to make sure the standing desk you buy accommodates everyone who will use it.

- To measure the ideal standing desk height for an individual employee, take the height of their forearms with the elbows angled at 90 degrees (forearms parallel to the floor). This is the ideal standing desk position.

- The elbows should similarly be at a 90 degree position in a seated position too.

- The ideal surface height leaves the top of the monitor at eye level. The monitor in this position should be about an arm’s length from the user.

Want to double-check your measurements and make sure you are on the right track?

Arrange to get the best desks into your office

Consider the route that the furniture will take on its way in to your office. It will go through doorways and hallways that need to be measured. Maybe it will go up an elevator if you’re not on the ground floor and lucky enough to have one available.

Here’s a checklist of considerations to make at this stage in the process:

Get the desk’s package dimensions. Use that to understand how the desk will be maneuvered through the building.

Select a preferred route to bring it in. If you need to go up, is an elevator available and is it big enough to handle a piece of furniture like that? If not, are the stairs wide enough to bring a large piece of furniture through?

Measure the doorways and hallways along this route not only for height and width, but also for diagonal length. If you’re going up the stairs, it’s essential to know the stair width. Note the ceiling height and any bannisters, low-hanging lights or other ornamentation that needs to be avoided for in this process.

Are there any corners along your route? Knowing the dimensions of the corners will help you avoid any unnecessary damage to your walls or your new furniture.

Learn as much as you can about the delivery process to craft a smooth reception. Will the desks arrive via overland 18-wheeler freight or in a smaller vehicle? Does your building have parking available for large deliver vehicles? Is there a less intrusive way to bring in furniture than through the common entrance for guests and clients? Use these questions to help you design a smooth intake process from freight to office floor.

Factors To Consider When Buying Your Best Desks

Space seems like an obvious first thing to consider when thinking about buying a standing desk. Of course you want to first know if your office can physically handle it, but let’s think more deeply. What else should one consider in buying a standing desk?

Noise restrictions

Even if you’re in an office where everyone is typing away with earbuds in, they’re probably not going to want to share a space with a standing desk that creates a lot of noise and distraction either because of noisy internal motors controlling the height or because of the person audibly struggling to move it up and down. Some of the standing desks on the market offer an adjustable surface that rises and lowers with onboard engines. Some of these desks are not quiet, however. Do look for a decibel rating to avoid accidentally buying a disrupting office addition. Look for an adjustable desk that generates no more than 60 decibels in sound, about the same sound volume as background conversation in a restaurant.

Desired appearance

Your office has a defined look and aesthetic. Maybe the vibe is fun and loose, or maybe it’s more reserved, plain and modern. A standing desk is a big piece of furniture that’s visually going to be a major element inside of your workplace. Consider how this desk or an entire fleet of them would look inside of the office and what kind of message that might send to the people who work inside of it.

Accessibility

Even if you don’t currently employ anyone who’s physically disabled, about one fifth of the U.S. workforce has a physical disability. If everyone is working at a standing desk, this is going to be prohibitive for talent, non-able bodied that you might want to acquire later. Getting an adjustable desk that can accommodate both standing and seated workers might be best for workplace inclusivity.

Office space

Of course, you’d want to know if your office can physically house as many desks as you’d like to bring to your workspace. Let this be a reminder to carefully note how much space you have and keep those numbers handy as you shop.

Choosing The Right Desk

You’ve done the research. You’ve queried the staff. Everyone’s in love with the idea and you’re getting pats on the back for bringing this thing home. Fast forward to days later when you’re shopping on the web with your office management (or, if you’re a small firm, it’s just you because you’re the C.E.O-slash-office manager-slash-anything else) and you’re deep in the product search with a bunch of unfamiliar terms. What’s a “DIY” desk? What is “manual adjustment” and how does that differ from a “fixed” desk? Let’s go over the major terms you’re likely to encounter in your search for the perfect standing desk.

1. Adjustable Standing Desk

This is a freestanding desk that allows users to change height to work from a sitting position when suitable and moves to a standing position when desired. If you’re going to buy a standing desk, this is the best way to go.

Adjustable standing desks are made in a range of materials, heights and appearances, but all will fall into one of two categories, manual or motorized.

Pros

- Sitting all day isn’t great, but not is standing all day either. An adjustable standing desk ensures that your staff will get the benefit of standing where desired and the ability to rest sitting throughout the day.

- Also, while standing provides important benefits to back health and energy levels, it may not be the thing for tasks that require deep focus, studies show. Researchers show that those activities may be better suited to sitting. With an adjustable standing desk, you can stand when desired and sit for the delicate stuff.

Cons

- Some of these can be rather pricey. It’s not hard to find a motorized adjustable standing desk with a four figure price range. There are plenty of affordable standing desks available, but these are among the highest priced items in mentioned in this blog.

Manual Sit to Stand Desk

Some adjustable desks require some user involvement to change their height in place of having onboard motors. These desks will change the height by a hand crank or by a weight inside that assist a user lifting or lowering the surface.

Pros

- It’s not as convenient as just pressing a button as you would on a motorized standing desk, but the manual desk tends to be cheaper than the motorized version. In lieu of the motor required to move the surface, manufacturers have gotten creative to craft simple ways to move the desk surface that are easy and require minimal physical effort.

Cons

- It’s not as convenient as just pressing a button as you would on a motorized standing desk, but the manual desk tends to be cheaper than the motorized version.

Also, be on the lookout for what some call a “one-time adjustable” standing desk. These are desks that have telescoping legs that lock into place with pins inside of holes. They adjust height but are neither easy nor convenient to change.

Motorized Adjustable Standing Desks

This is sometimes referred to as an “electric” desk, but what we’re talking about here is a desk that changes height with mechanical assistance. These desks vary widely in how much they can carry, how fast the surfaces move, how much noise the make among other variables. These are also priced along a broad price spectrum. It’s not hard to find an adjustable standing desk in the low four figures, but there are plenty available under $500.

Pros

- This is one of the best office tools available. As we noted above, there are numerous health benefits. Don’t be surprised if you get an additional, unanticipated benefits from you adjustable desk too, like having a “wow” factor for prospective employees as they come in to your company to interview.

Cons

- Some standing desks are rated poorly by users, principally for their use of low quality motors. A poorly made motor is going to be noisier than needed and may overheat after multiple cycles up and down damaging the desk’s most crucial feature. Do your homework and make sure you read some user reviews from owners who’ve had their desks for a long time and can attest to their durability over a long period of time.

2. Fixed Standing Desk

The word “fixed” here pertains to the surface height. These are workstations with a fixed, standing-level height. The advantage to workstations like this is that they’re generally cheaper than adjustable desks. The disadvantage is that one can’t work in a seated position at these workstations, or one would need to get barstool-style seats to pair with them.

3. DIY Standing Desk

“DIY” here means what it means anywhere else it’s used: “do it yourself”. While some have taken this tag literally and crafted a “standing desk” from some slipshod combination of boxes and raw ingenuity, usually “DIY” means “do just the surface yourself.” You provide the table top and the company will provide the desk frame to place it on. Remember that your company’s standing desks will be an expression of your company’s identity. A DIY desk could be a great way to give everyone a way to personalize their own space and give your workspace a look unlike anyone else.

4. Standing Desk Converter

Remember the standing desk add on that we covered earlier? This is a great way to bring the benefits of a standing workstation to your company without the large investment of a fleet of new desks.

This device is a platform for your monitor or your laptop that will be placed directly on your work surface raising your screen allowing you to work while standing. Typically, the platform will sit on scissor lift-like supports that hold everything in place. These products vary in material and look, but you want something that will support your (expensive) electronics and carry everything safely. Some are rated for up to 20lbs., which is the weight of a bowling ball. Maybe you don’t need that much lift, but having more strength than you need is definitely better than having less.

What Else To Look For In The Best Office Desks?

Remember to look for and consider your product’s warranty when you’re buying a standing desk. That’s not something you want to be learning about when and if your standing desktop fails and dumps its contents on to the floor overnight.

Also, consider the energy profile of the standing desk you buy. If you’re buying an electric standing desk, try to find out how much energy it draws while in a passive state. If you’re paying for the power on your building, it’s important to know how this will change your overhead costs, if at all.

A few other things:

  • Warranty: Look for a standing desk with a long warranty, at least a year. If you’re getting an adjustable standing desk, this may be a big purchase and a long lasting warranty will protect that investment.
  • Assembly: Be mindful of the tools, time and anything else required to assemble your desk. Look for a desk with quick self assembly so your company can complete the change in a weekend and make the transition as seamlessly as possible.
  • Lift Capacity: Make sure you know how much load your desk will carry. We recommend something that will carry at least 200 lbs. If you’re getting an adjustable desk, you’ll want the peace of mind of knowing that the expensive equipment on top of these desks isn’t going to tumble off.
  • Power Safety: Electrical compatibility between an electronic smart desk and your other devices. If you’re buying an electric standing desk look for products that have been tested for electromagnetic interference.
  • Ergonomic Office Chairs: The best standing desks are the ones that allow you to work sitting or standing. Complement a standing desk with a posture-sensitive chair that is built for those seated to maintain a position that is healthy for their back and spine.

Should Your Office Get Standing Desks?

All companies are different and there are a lot of factors to consider before bringing standing desks in to your workplace, but for many U.S. offices a standing desk is clearly a good idea that promises a wealth of benefits for both staff health and the quality of work. There are of course other considerations to be made, like whether your company has space for it both physically and budget wise. But the use of standing desks is expected to become more common as more people discover and get comfortable with this office implement.

Right now, there are a lot of organizations out there who, if queried, would respond positively to the possibility of having a standing desk in their office. Chances are one of them is yours.

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