You’ve finally moved from the sofa to a desk and invested in a proper office chair, but given how little most of us now move during the working day, the time has come to make a stand for better posture and improved productivity.
While any significant weight-loss claims have long been refuted – standing burns roughly 88 calories an hour compared to 80 calories while sitting – there’s strong evidence to suggest not sitting at the desk for hours can improve back pain, posture, mental health and even lower blood sugar and cholesterol.
On the flip side, standing still for long periods of time isn’t great either, with back, leg and foot pain all common symptoms.
The solution for healthier WFH is therefore a mixture of sitting, standing and generally moving, as Catherine Quinn, president of the British Chiropractic Association explains. “The good news is that simple changes can make a really big difference to all age groups,” she says. “Our bodies love variation, so try to change the position you work in – if you work at a desk or table, consider a laptop stand which will allow you to work standing up. I’ve improvised with a small coffee table on top of my desk as a DIY standing desk. Just make sure your screen is eye level.”
So, a change really is as good as a rest, and while you can drop thousands on a motorised sit/stand desk there’s plenty of affordable (even free) options available to help improve your home-office health.
What is a desk riser / standing desk converter?
These adjustable units sit on your existing desk and give you the option of sitting or standing with your laptop, keyboard and monitor staying in the ideal position for comfortable working.
You can adjust the height to suit, and, depending on the model you choose, they can be raised electronically or done manually either using brute force (to be avoided) or with the help of gas lifts.
Price, specification and quality varies enormously, with desk risers costing from £75 – £450, but if you already use a separate monitor, keyboard and mouse, and not just your laptop, which is an ergonomic nightmare regardless of whether you sit or stand, you can create your own.
If you’re feeling inventive IKEA Hackers is a great source of DIY inspiration, but in truth, a pile of books, small coffee table or empty boxes can just as well do the job, assuming you get the ergonomics right.
Your desk needs to be deep enough to give 50-70cm distance between your eyes and your monitor. The screen should be tilted up at around 20 degrees, and the top should be at or slightly below eye level to avoid slouching. As with any desk, your wrists should be straight and your hands at or slightly below the level of your elbows.
A desk riser – or pile of books – and wireless keyboard on a standard kitchen worktop might be ideal for occasional stand-up sessions, and a healthy change of scenery, while Deskmate, the pop-up cardboard box riser, offers a cheap (from £29.90) and surprisingly robust alternative if the DIY route doesn’t suit.
For those struggling to find space for a full desk, Paper Hive (above) has a clever standing plinth, £53, made from honeycomb paper board that slots together and stores flat when not needed.
When investing more, we strongly recommend purchasing through companies with suitable trial periods and reliable returns policy – at least 30 days. You need time to test properly and check it fits with the way you work.
At the cheaper end of the market you need to make sure the lift mechanism is smooth and can handle the weight of a monitor, and the pressure you exert on your keyboard. If you’re heavy handed and hammer away at the keys, the whole stand may bounce with each keystroke, especially with the cheaper cantilevered designs.
If you like to spread documents out across the desk you may find using a desk converter irritating as workspace is limited. Large 90-100cm wide designs are available with mounting space for two monitors, but make sure you choose an electric lift mechanism. In this scenario, however, a complete sit/stand desk might be a more viable option.
The price of standing desks is dropping however, with IKEA now offering their SKARSTA manually adjusted 120 x 70cm desk (above) for just £195 and there are several basic motorised desks on Amazon for a similar price. These are great if you have a dedicated office, but not so practical if you’re having to work from the dining-room table.
The best desk risers
AV specialists Vision have adapted technology usually used for professional projector mounts to create the VSS 2, a compact, stylish and practical sit/stand riser with separate keyboard tray and handy slot for a tablet. Reassuringly solid thanks to the aluminium hinge construction it can adjust from 170-430mm using gas struts, while the keyboard shelf has an 8° of tilt movement up and down for better ergonomics. Available in small (680mm wide) and medium (800mm wide) and supplied with a 30-year warranty.
Price: from £299 | Vision | Amazon
Yo-Yo Desk Classic
Not especially portable, but the Classic is great value and extremely sturdy. Available in three widths – 68, 90, 120cm – it has a gas-assisted lift that works without juddering. Height adjustment is between 15-50cm, and while the drop-level keyboard shelf makes it comfortable to use with a laptop and wireless keyboard, to achieve the perfect height may need a separate monitor. Not recommended for people over 183cm (6ft), try the £280 Yo-Yo Desk Go, instead. This company offers a 30-day free trial (with deposit) on many sit/stand desks.
Price: from £230 | Yo-Yo Desk | Amazon
Humanscale Quickstand Eco
A serious solution for the design enthusiasts willing to spend more to get high quality and style from a respected professional office furniture brand. This low-profile, perfectly weighted stand – available for laptop, single and double monitors – is simple to set up, has 47cm height adjustment, and the 762 x 480mm desk height can be adjusted using an ingenious self-locking mechanism.
Price: From £499 | Amazon | Humanscale | John Lewis
Vonhaus Electric Sit/Stand Rising Workstation
One of the most affordable electric desk risers available with a practical weight limit of 20kg. The steel frame and 80cm wide MDF shelf are solid – not always the case at this price point – and the keyboard tray is bigger than most, with room for mouse, trackpad, phone and even a cuppa. There’s also a tablet slot on the front edge if you need for dual screening. It’s big, and will dominate your existing tabletop, and the folding table design means you’ll need to keep the weight centred to avoid possible toppling, but you’ll do well to find better for a small budget.
Price: £150 | Amazon | Vonhaus
While the website would have you believe the company has revolutionised sit/stand working, what Freedesk has actually done is make a range of simple, attractive and adjustable tabletop side tables. Available in 54 x 80cm and 39 x 58cm sizes, each can be adjusted to nine heights and the bungy cord means you get a bit of assistance when lifting a loaded table. It’s not really suitable for use with monitors and doesn’t tick all the ergonomic boxes, but it is a fuss-free way to give your body a break while slaving over your laptop. It’s lightweight, portable and available in eight colours, and while it does seem expensive given its simplicity, it remains one of the only designs we can imagine keeping and using for other things once the offices open again.
Price: from €189 to €279 | Freedesk | Amazon
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