After months of working from home, why look at changing your desk and the way you work at a desk at home? Specifically, why change to a standing desk or to standing instead of sitting? There are a number of good reasons for making this change, and there may be no time like the present—especially if your working arrangements are about to change to full-time, part time, some form of hybrid working hour schedule, or if there are two people working from the same home. Here’s a look at some of the alternatives.

Why change to standing?

To begin with, the question is not about standing all the time, just about standing more. Standing won’t make you lose weight or keep from gaining weight, and it won’t (by itself) help you get into better shape. Standing while working only burns about 8 calories more an hour than sitting. In spite of these limitations, recent studies show that there are (potentially) more important benefits to consider.

  • After a meal, blood sugar levels return to normal faster on days when you spend more time standing.
  • Standing may reduce shoulder and back pain.
  • If you stand, you may also find that dictating routine email replies while standing is faster and more relaxing than typing them.
  • When you stand to work, you may also pace or walk around, increasing the number of steps you take in a day. Some people like the flexibility and freedom and the productivity increases they gain.
  • Or maybe you are just ready for a change to a nicer desk that may offer some interesting options for workflow.

Truthfully, for most of the potential benefits that we can name, there’s not any solid supporting research. The actual health benefits of a standing desk are not proven, and you may need to find a way to try standing while working in order to know whether standing is a good alternative for you.

What kinds of choices are there for standing desks?

Before I get into the choices that involve spending real money on a custom-built standing desk or a very nice traditional desk, consider this way to convert your current desk into a standing desk just by raising your computer. Put your computer on top of a stack of books. Try it out for a couple of days. Do you like the change in the experience?

Here is another way that worked for me. Almost 45 years ago, I bought a drafting table from a second-hand office furniture store. It was a good solid table and it was cheap. (I had a side gig as a calligrapher at the time.) The drafting table height could be adjusted from two feet to a convenient standing height (or sitting-on-a-stool height), and the angle could be changed. It made a perfect standing desk and I had an early sort of portable computer that I could easily move between the regular desk and the drafting table. It was a perfect way to experiment with the advantages of a standing desk.

These days most of my work is done on an iMac or a Windows machine on a regular desk. The drafting table is still in my office for use as a part-time standing desk, a change of pace for situations when I use an iPad, want to sketch, or want to spread out with research materials, note cards, or what-have-you.

The disadvantage of the stack of books and of the drafting table is simply adjusting the height of the work surface. Most people working from home will want something more convenient.

Height adjustments

There are a number of systems for making these changes.

  • Manual adjustments are least convenient. This may involve clearing off the top of the desk, loosening bolts, heaving the desktop into place (sometimes using a crank to lift or lower the desktop), re-clamping the bolts, and replacing whatever was on top of the desk.
  • Electric motors can raise and lower the desktop. Different manufacturers offer features such as continuous adjustment and pre-set heights controlled by pushbuttons.
  • Pneumatic or hydraulic systems can raise and lower the work surface.

Lighting and power

The work surfaces on standing desks vary greatly in size—from giant drafting tables to small platforms meant to sit on top of a traditional desk, and ones that are just big enough for a laptop. Some come with lighting kits that will give the user adjustable, even illumination across the entire surface, while others will illuminate only a small task area. Of all the options, choosing the lighting is probably the one that involves the most thought and frequent revision. Buyers should also consider obtaining small lights to boost the illumination when conducting webinars and demonstrations, and also how and where to attach the lights.

Power outlets and cable routing are also considerations when choosing a standing desk. The exact details also depend on the type of work you will be doing, for example making video podcasts or doing streaming (how many cameras and where will they be).

Drawers and storage

If you will have room under the desktop for a small two-drawer file or a small storage cabinet, plan for this as you make your choices for the standing desk. Some standing desks may also provide drawers under the desktop, but in most cases you will find yourself having to choose between the small files on the floor or the desk top.

Where to find the choices

These are review sites and other places to find actual examples and prices, according to common use cases. There are duplicates on these lists.

Consumer Reports (generic uses)

Good Housekeeping (desktop converters, partners, generic uses)

LaptopMag (laptops)

Techradar (focus on international choices and Black Friday prices for comparison) (US and UK)

iMovR (fitness and ergonomics focus workstations) Editor’s note: There are different opinions as to whether treadmill-style desks are suited to working from home. They are not for everyone.