Standing desks are becoming increasingly more common — and for good reason. As more and more people find themselves sitting at a desk all day, their concerns about potential health risks increase. I found myself in this exact situation: sitting at a computer all day. And despite keeping an active lifestyle, sitting for long periods of time still causes problems.
So, I set out to build a sitting/standing workstation, and upon doing so, discovered several necessary things a standing desk owner should do and have. Whether you plan to buy or build a standing desk, or if you already have one, a standing desk isn’t the only thing you need to improve your health in the office.
Comfortable Supportive Shoes
You might be tempted to just use your everyday work shoes that you wear to the office (when you sat at a desk), or if you’re at home, bare feet or slippers. When standing for hours, though, your body relies on your feet, thus proper support is crucial for your overall health. Just like proper posture when sitting is important, proper standing is important, and supportive shoes help this tremendously. Running/walking shoes will provide the most support, although those vary as well.
Have you ever noticed your feet aching after standing for a long time? It may not even be that you were standing for too long, but rather than your feet are fatigued by the hard surface. Granted, comfortable and supportive shoes can help this tremendously, but you also need an anti-fatigue mat. I used a standing desk for some time without one (despite knowing one was recommended) and once I did purchase one, the difference was incredible and increased my comfortable standing time.
When choosing a mat, you of course want to keep within a budget but don’t fall for buying a cheap mat: durability is key when you’re stepping all over it! There are a couple mats I recommend.
I personally own the Genuine Joe anti-fatigue mat and have been very satisfied with it. Though it is on the inexpensive side, after five months of use, it’s proven durable – even despite being accidentally rolled over with an office chair from time to time (not recommended). It’s 3/8 inches thick, which provides plenty of cushion, 3 feet wide by 5 feet long, has no-curl edges, and comes constructed from vinyl foam with a ribbed surface for traction. It does collect dirt, dust and pet hair (it’s on the floor!), but is easy to clean.
I don’t have any personal experience with the Imprint series, but it has accumulated excellent reviews on Amazon (90% on FakeSpot), appears very durable and comes with a 7-year warranty. Prices vary by color and size, but for a 20 inch wide by 36 inches long mat, which should be enough for most workstations, you can expect prices between $45 and $60, only dependent upon color.
If you ever pay attention to how you stand, you might notice that you occasionally change positions. As stated previously, good posture while standing is important. A step stool can add some variety when placing one foot on it, taking the pressure off of the parts of your feet that bear the majority of your weight.
A great option for this is the Kikkerland Rhino Easy Fold Step Stool (pictured above). It’s versatile enough for other uses, in addition to being used at your desk, and can easily fold up for quick storage, all while coming at an affordable price point of around $12.
Foam rollers can be used a countless number of ways for exercises, but one that you might not have thought of is using one to stand on while at your desk. Obviously, this isn’t something you’d do for long periods of time, but like the step stool, it can offer some rest, and even provide you with a bit of a work out.
There are several kinds of foam rollers, but you want high-quality and extra firm ones (so that they don’t get out of shape after standing on them). Below are a few that I recommend, all which are extra-firm and durable, but range from smooth to rigid surfaces. The prices of these also vary by size, but for the purpose of using at a standing desk, I selected the longer variation.
This “no name” foam roller has a smooth surface, will not lose shape even with heavy use, is great for balancing, and measures 36 inches long.
The Grid 2.0 is capable of heavy and repeated use without breaking down with a weight capacity of 600 pounds (272 kg). It measures 26 inches long and has some elevated texture.
For more of a massage feeling, the Rumbleroller has elevated knob-like fingers and features a tear-resistant material. It measures 31 inches at length and has an extra firm surface.
Note: There are two options available in the dropdown menu: extra-firm (black) or original density (blue). For standing on, the extra-firm model is recommended.
Mini Elliptical Trainer
The problem with most elliptical trainers is that they take up a ton of room, which offices generally don’t have. The other problem with traditional elliptical trainers is that you have to step away from your desk in order to use them. And while stepping away from time to time is definitely recommended, a mini elliptical trainer offers the advantage of being able to move and work simultaneously.
The In-Motion Elliptical Trainer by Stamina can be used while sitting or standing. It’s compact and lightweight, making it very portable and perfect for any office space.
Having a treadmill or bicycle trainer at a standing desk certainly won’t work for everyone, they take up much more room, and the treadmill especially isn’t something that can be easily moved out of the way and stored when not wanted. However, if you have ability and want to walk or bike while working, these are excellent solutions.
You can buy an entire treadmill desk setup, such as the LifeSpan TR1200-DT5 Desktop Treadmill, pictured above, or you could resort to a website like Instructables and follow guides such as these by “cessenburg” and “ewilhelm“. If you don’t need a desk, and don’t have an existing treadmill to modify, you might consider purchasing the LifeSpan TR1200-DT3 Standing Desk Treadmill.
If you’re into cycling, then a trainer might be more your style. If you don’t know much about them, I recommend learning about how to choose an indoor bike trainer. One company, called Kickstand Furniture, has set out to build desks specifically for this.
For more exercise ideas, take a look at Tim Brooke’s article featuring 6 must-see exercise videos.
Wait, a chair for a standing desk? Yes, and let me explain why. One of the biggest misconceptions (I think) that people have about standing desks is that they stand at them all the time. But from what I’ve found, this isn’t good either. Our bodies aren’t meant to do that (especially with very little movement). The solution is a combination of sitting and standing, thus your standing desk should allow for both.
There is actually a science to what to look for in the perfect office chair, and it’s something to take seriously, as you’ll be spending a lot of time in it. Upon searching for a chair to recommend, I discovered the Air Grid chair by Office Star, pictured above. And it just so happens to be the first on Matt Smith’s list of the best office chairs you can buy right now.
Whether you’re sitting, or standing a footrest, much like a footstool, can be useful to ease the pressure off your feet. Do you need both a footrest and a footstool? Probably not. I recommend you decide which one fits your needs better.
The Kensington Solemate can adjust from 3.5 to 5 inches high and at an angle up to 30 degrees. It’s easy to adjust with a foot pedal and has a memory foam that cushions the foot.
The foot rocker isn’t specifically for a footrest, but it can be one, while keeping blood flowing through your legs. It’s compact design allows it to be used in even the most compact workspaces. It can also be used on either side for multiple heights.
This is a fairly new concept, but a very exciting one. Currently there are a few ideas or products available, but not a highly competitive market. One that caught my eye, is called the Standing Task Chair and was actually a Kickstarter project. Unfortunately, its funding was unsuccessful and they haven’t revealed where they plan to go. But the product is great and revolutionary. I encourage all standing desk owners to keep an eye our for what happens next with the Standing Task Chair.
Tablet, Laptop, and/or Monitor Mounts
Whether you have a laptop, tablet, monitor (or multiple monitors) or a combination of them, being able to mount them is a huge advantage with a standing desk for a few reasons.
#1. Creates More Work Area
Sure, you might use your computer most of the time while at your desk, but being able to quickly move things around and out of the way to make room for other work is very nice.
#2. Allows For A Cleaner Workspace
There’s nothing more demotivating than a cluttered, unorganized and messy desk: I have to clean it before I get any real work done. Having mounts for various devices allows your tech to be moved easily out of the way to create a far more organized look.
#3. Promotes Better Posture (this is an important one)
One problem many encounter when trying to improve their posture is the inability to move their screen, thus they continue to look at it from the wrong angle. This is especially common with tablets, which actually have their own set of health risks. Mounts allow you to move the screen in any way to conform to how you want to sit or stand, as opposed to you conforming your body to where the screen is positioned.
In addition, mounts allow you to have a sit/stand desk, instead of just one or the other because they can be so easily moved to various positions.
When researching mounts for all kinds of devices, the Gator G-ARM stood out due to it’s compatibility with laptops, tablets and monitors—yes, all three! The mount comes with a cable management system and a table clamp that can be easily relocated, if necessary. The height of the mount can be adjusted and the arm allows for all kinds of positions for your devices. Below is a video about setting up the Gator G-ARM mount, which effectively shows all of it’s features in the process.
If you’re looking for a device-specific mount, below are three other options:
- LapWorks Armbot Bed and Desk Tablet Mount
- Notebook Desk Mount
- Monoprice 3-Way Adjustable Monitor Desk Mount
Not So Much an Accessory, Rather a Tool: A Timer
A timer isn’t something that you necessarily have to buy. There are a lot of apps for phones, as well as on the web and even your desktop that will suffice. But you should have a timer if you’re working at a standing desk. Why? Well, if you’re anything like me, you probably get lost in your work and find yourself sitting (or even standing) for far too long without adjusting your position. A timer keeps you be aware of how much time you’re standing in a certain position, by breaking up your work into intervals. It also acts as a reminder to take the appropriate breaks for workouts or just getting away from the screen for a bit.
The Takeaway: It’s More Than JUST Standing
I would like to re-emphasize that one should not only have a standing desk, but to alternate between sitting and standing. Also, just because you have a standing desk doesn’t mean you’re immune to all posture-related problems. I encourage you speak with a doctor and research how to transition to a standing desk and best setup needed for you.
Do you have a standing desk? What accessories and tips have you found most helpful? If you’re still on the fence about whether to go with a standing desk, what are your concerns? Feel free to share and we’ll be happy to try and help clear up any questions you might have.
Image Credits: Standing Desk by everydaypants via Flickr, New standing desk setup by aarongustafson via Flickr, Timer at 0 by numb3r via Flickr, Woman using elliptical at desk and woman using footrest at desk via Anthro, Bicycle trainer standing desk setups via Kickstand Furniture, Standing Task Chair via Kickstarter