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What Is The Best Shape For An Adjustable Standing Desk?
Smart Products

What Is The Best Shape For An Adjustable Standing Desk?

|May 12, 2020

Whether you’ve already decided to get a height-adjustable desk or you’re still in the research phase, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed by the sheer number and variety of desks there are out there. There are a lot of options on the market that serve different people in different ways, but today we’re going to go beyond the norm and take a look at three differently shaped desks. 

Firstly though, let’s check out the design reasoning behind it all. 

The science behind shape


Ergonomy is a combination of many different factors but there’s no doubt that it is rooted in science and engineering. There are many principles when it comes to ergonomics, but the end result is effectively the same - to paraphrase Lee, Wickens, Liu, and Boyle slightly, it’s about improving lives and increasing productivity. So how is this related to the shape of desks? 

Well, through research conducted in the field of Anthropometry - the study of size and proportion relative to the human body - ergonomists calculated what we call ‘reach zones’. These zones can be broken down into three categories - which we can call the Optimal, Maximum, and Outer Reach zones. 

The Optimal (or Primary) Reach zone is the area of your desk where you can reach an object without having to move your arms from their natural, comfortable, resting position. This is the ideal place for your peripherals to be located, such as your keyboard and mouse. This zone typically maxes out at between 15 to 17 inches away from you, depending on your build.

The Maximum (or Secondary) Reach zone is the area encompassing the furthest point you can reach with your arms at full extension without having to leave your seat. This is where you should put items that you use intermittently, such as a printer or a telephone. This zone covers the area from 17 to 30 inches away.

The Outer (or Tertiary) Reach zone is the point beyond your reach - meaning that you’d have to lean forward or out of your chair in order to access it. This is where you want to place things that you rarely need to touch, such as your monitor, reference books, or anything on your desk that’s decorative. This zone will be 30 to 44 inches or so away from you. 

As we can see, the different zones have different purposes and so the size and shape of your desk will dictate how much space you have and what you can use it for. Let’s take a look at a few different examples. 

Curved desks

curved desksWhen you look at the different reach zones, you’ll notice that they conform to the mathematical shape of a semi-circle. In order to maximize your optimal reach zone, curved desks are great as they are centered around you rather than limiting you to a straight edge. These few inches may not seem like a whole lot, but when you consider it as a percentage, you’re unlocking quite a bit more immediately useable surface area. The shape of curved desks also makes them more inviting than their regular rectangular counterparts, helping you feel more connected to your workstation. 

The two curved desks that we manufacture are the Executive and Art desk. Both are height-adjustable and spacious, but they are quite different in terms of design. The Art has an ergonomic edge that is gently sloped - this additional level of support for your arms makes it perfect for artistic endeavors like sketching. The Executive, on the other hand, is a battle station for business. It’s 120° design, combined with over 80 inches of length allow you to take advantage of a huge amount of space, but comfortably within the optimal and secondary reach zones. 

L-Shaped desks

These desks are effectively two desks for the price of one. What they may lack in terms of the optimal reach zone compared to a curved desk, they make up for by the great deal of space they provide. They also give you the ability to compartmentalize your workstation into two separate areas. If we take our L-Shaped SmartDesk as an example, you’ve got a length of 77 inches and a width of 64 inches to work with - that’s a lot of space. 

L-Shaped desks are perfect for people who work from home, have multiple purposes for their desk, or need to store a lot on them. Let’s take professional streamers as an example - they often have a lot of equipment for recording and multiple monitors on their desks. It’s no surprise that people like Ninja, one of the most popular streamers on the planet, takes advantage of an L-shaped desk

U-Shaped Desks

shapeThe final alternative to consider is a U-shaped desk. These desks take the concept of the optimal reach area and stretch it to its limit, by encircling the owner almost entirely. The amount of space on offer is therefore extremely generous, as you can cram pretty much everything you want into your workspace within arm’s reach. 

However, the issue with pushing the envelope so much is that there are a couple of downsides. Firstly, these desks require a much bigger amount of floor space than the others mentioned in this list and you’ll have to be able to position it so you can get into your workstation comfortably.  Secondly, to find a height-adjustable standing U-shaped desk is going to cost you a lot of money. XDesk, for example, sells a U-Shaped desk for the princely sum of $4350 in its most basic iteration. To put that into perspective, you could buy almost 10 height-adjustable, motorized Curved or L-Shaped desks for that amount. If money and space aren’t considerations, then it’s certainly an option.

All in all, which desk has the best shape for your own sit to stand desk will depend on a few different factors. You’ll need to consider the space you have, your budget, what you’re going to be using the desk for and of course, your personal taste. The science and engineering behind these desks is sound, so whatever you choose, you’re not likely to go far wrong.   


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