Ultimate Guide To Standing Desk Ergonomics

Maximise the benefits of standing at work.


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Last updated: November 7th, 2023

standing desk ergonomics

Last updated: November 7th, 2023

Reading Time: 6 minutes

You’ve invested in a standing desk. Now comes the fun part: learning about standing desk ergonomics to reap its full benefits.

A great sit-stand desk can lower your stress levels, increase your productivity and make work more enjoyable.

However, you must learn how to use it properly.

Follow the simple steps below to ensure you practice optimal standing desk ergonomics, avoid standing too long and set your desk to the correct height.

Expert Tip.

Ergonomics is the science of fitting your office furniture to your individual needs.

How To Set Up Your Standing Desk For Standing.

Follow the following three steps to stand in an ergonomically sound position.

standing desk ergonomics

Here are your cues for achieving perfect ergonomics when standing:

  • Shoulders relaxed.
  • Straight back.
  • Pelvis in a neutral position.
  • Knees unlocked.
  • Hips, knees and ankles aligned with gravity line.

Now that you know what your standing position should look like, here’s how you can achieve it.

1. Adjust Your Desk To Elbow Height.

The top of your desk should align with your elbows when bent at a 90-degree angle.

This will ensure that your forearms are parallel to the desk surface and your hands hover above the keyboard with relaxed, straight wrists. 

Your fingers can angle down to meet the keyboard.

Expert Tip.

Research shows that any angle or bend in your wrists increases the pressure in the carpal tunnel, which can result in carpal tunnel syndrome – a painful inflammation of the hands and arms. 

2. Maintain A Neutral Spine.

When we talk about a neutral spine, what we’re talking about is keeping a good posture.

This means keeping your shoulders back and relaxed, your neck and head nice and tall, and a slight bend in your knees to prevent hyperextension or locked joints. 

Let the balls of your feet bear most of your weight.

Expert Tip.

If you stand for long periods, you can reduce fatigue by shifting your weight from your toes to your heels (and don’t forget to use an anti-fatigue mat).

3. Adjust Your Monitor Screen.

Ensuring that your monitor screen is in the appropriate position for your height is crucial for establishing good standing desk ergonomics.

  • Your screen should be at eye level, but not too close to your face. (About arm’s length is perfect). 

You don’t want to be cranking your neck and bending it upwards to look at your monitor.

Your eyes should look slightly downward when viewing the middle of the screen. 

How To Set Up Your Standing Desk For Sitting.

You’ll often use your standing desk as a traditional computer workstation, sitting behind it for long periods.

Adhere to ergonomic principles by following my advice below.

standing desk ergonomics

1. Repeat The Same Principles.

Principles that apply to standing apply to sitting, too. I covered them above, but here’s a quick reminder:

  • Desk at elbow height.
  • Neutral spine.
  • Monitor at eye level.

2. Set Up Your Ergonomic Chair.

Height is the most critical adjustment of an office chair, and you know it’s in the right spot when your thighs are parallel to the floor.

  • Your feet must remain flat on the floor, pointing forward.

Next, adjust the seat pan depth (if available) until you see a 5cm gap between the back of your knees and the seat’s front edge (this will prevent pins and needles in your toes).

Expert Tip.

The best ergonomic office chairs feature seat pan depth adjustment. If yours doesn’t, and you find that the backs of your knees are flush against the seat edge, the chair is too big for you – and it’s time to buy a new one. My guide to choosing an office chair will help!

Finally, set up the arm pads of your ergonomic chair so that they act as an extension of your standing desk.

They should be at the same level as the desktop, allowing you to rest your elbows while preserving the horizontal position of your forearms.

If you experience discomfort in your lower back, consider investing in an office chair designed for people with back problems.

standing desk ergonomics

Above: a standing desk, an ergonomic chair, and a monitor riser set up in a perfectly ergonomic position. Note that the chair’s armrests are in line with the surface of the desk.

Are Standing Desks Compatible With Laptops?

As the name implies, laptops are designed to rest on your lap, so they’re not ideal for standing desk ergonomics.

Using your laptop with a standing desk will cause you to crane your neck and shoulders to look too far down, which leads to mechanical stresses on the muscles, ligaments and discs in the neck.

If you work from a laptop, buy a separate keyboard, external monitor and mouse to elevate the screen to meet your eye line.

Expert Tip.

If you don’t have the budget to buy a new monitor, buy a laptop stand or a standing desk converter to elevate your screen.

Why Should You Care About Standing Desk Ergonomics?

People buy standing desks for different reasons, and two of the most common are for better health and productivity. By sitting less and moving more, you can enhance both. 

1. More Energy.

Staying mobile throughout the day helps you stay awake and alert. You know the term “thinking on your feet?” Well, it didn’t come from nowhere!

You feel more engaged and switched on when you’re standing

Standing desks are a great way to counteract feeling sluggish during the work day and bring back some natural energy.

  • A significant 87% of participants from a study in the UK on the effects of standing desks said they had more energy when they used their standing desks at work. 
  • Closer to home, an Aussie study called Thinking on Your Feet found workers had more energy when standing rather than sitting.

Those who stood just 60 to 90 minutes each day were more active and felt more energised than workers who used traditional desks. 

2. Better Productivity.

A study by the Texas A&M University’s Health Science Center School of Public Health found standing desks significantly improve your productivity at work.

The study monitored employees at a call centre over six months, and found employees using a standing desk were more productive than their colleagues at a seated desk. 

Fun Fact.

In the first month alone, the standing desk users had 23 per cent more successful calls than their seated colleagues, and by the sixth month, they had 53 per cent more successful calls.

3. Increased Job Satisfaction.

Want greater work satisfaction? Give standing a go. Results from the Take a Stand study found 62% of participants felt happier throughout the workday when using a standing desk.

Standing while working releases endorphins and gives a natural high, and while it’s not as big a rush as say, exercising or sky-diving, standing does give you a small rush.

As little as 60 minutes behind a standing desk daily can result in great job satisfaction. Yes, that’s my official prescription.

(Related: 10 Tips To Clean & Clear Your Office Desk).

Frequently Asked Questions About Standing Desk Ergonomics.

Here are the most common questions we get about adjusting your standing desk.

How Long Should I Stand For?

Alternate between sitting and standing. While sitting for too long isn’t good for your health, neither is standing, which is why you need to create sitting/standing intervals.

  • Ergonomic experts suggest standing for 5-15 minutes every 60 minutes, but this research isn’t definitive.

A study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine recommends you should move, stand and take a break from sitting for at least 2 hours out of an 8-hour workday. 

(Related: Pros And Cons Of Standing At Work).

What Should I Stand On?

The floor is a good start! But in all seriousness, you might find your feet and legs fatigued standing on a hard floor.

  • Fight fatigue by using an anti-fatigue standing desk floor mat.

These mats typically have contoured surfaces engineered to encourage movement and stretching while standing.

Are Standing Desks Worth It? 

Yes, mostly. Even the cheapest standing desks help counteract a sedentary lifestyle.

  • Human bodies don’t love to sit all day. Standing desks offer an opportunity to reduce the amount of time you spend in an office chair.

But I’d encourage you not to think of your standing desk as a panacea that will solve all your health problems.

Yes, it can help increase blood circulation, and alleviate neck and back pain while also having a positive impact on your mental health by making you more energetic, engaged and productive. 


But a standing desk alone isn’t enough to counteract unhealthy habits. Think of it as icing on the cake in an otherwise healthy lifestyle, rather than a magic shortcut to great health.

Final Word About Standing Desk Ergonomics.

Standing desk ergonomics are incredibly personal; a standing desk position that’s good for you is unlikely to be good for your colleague.

That’s why it’s important to keep customising your desk until it feels good (even daily if you wear shoes of different heights). 

Still finding your standing desk uncomfortable after implementing the above tips?

Keep adjusting it until you get it right. You will find a comfortable, ergonomic position eventually, even if you have to make micro-adjustments. 

Remember that standing in an upright position with a neutral spine might initially feel uncomfortable as you become accustomed to it, especially if you’re used to slouching (guilty!)


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