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FACT: your standing desk wasn’t built for you. Yes, the manufacturer designed it for use by any office worker who wants to work while standing. For this reason, using it every day in your home office may leave you feeling pain and even develop serious health problems later.
You’ll need proper standing desk ergonomics to help you bond with it well, enhance your workspace comfort, increase productivity, and keep your health in check. This will kick away body discomfort, pain, and serious health risks attached to standing desks, such as varicose veins.
We researched a lot about the ergonomics of standing desks, and how you can set up your desk for maximum comfort. We discovered some great ergonomics secrets that will give you a good relationship with your standing desk and help you reap all its benefits.
Are standing desks ergonomic?
Before we can get to our guide on stand-up work area ergonomics, let’s first tackle this commonly asked question about standup workspaces:
The answer to this question is Yes and No.
Stand-up desks can be ergonomic or not, depending on how you use them.
Quality desks will give you a good user experience. If you set them up correctly, they’ll make a comfortable workspace in your office.
If you don’t customize them, they can also be a nightmare for you and your body’s overall wellbeing.
We have stated above that standing desks aren’t built for your specific body height. But the good thing is that these desks are adjustable, enabling you to set them to an ergonomic height for comfortable use.
Learning the best ergonomics practices for these desks, e.g., the best ergonomic position for standing workstations, correct standing postures, and the mistakes to avoid, is crucial to realizing full standing desk benefits.
In our next section, we’ll walk you through a complete checklist of the standing workspace ergonomic setup to give you a comfortable experience using your new desk.
Standing workstation ergonomics checklist:
If you want to use a standing desk correctly to beat excessive sitting and its health dangers, this is your part.
The following ergonomics tips will help you gain all the ergonomic benefits of a height-adjustable desk without making your body feel pain and discomfort.
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Set the correct height for your standing position
One of the puzzles you have to solve when you start using an adjustable height desk is the perfect working height to set it at.
The right height will differ from one individual to the other depending on your body height.
But the trick is simply to lift the desk surface up to your elbows levels. Note that your elbows should be resting at around 90 degrees to the floor.
Moreover, your neck and wrists should remain straight in front of you.
When you get the height right, your hands should float over your keyboard with the wrists straight and relaxed.
Ergonomic monitor height for standing desks
An ergonomic standing desk setup should also have the monitor set up comfortably for a no-strain viewing experience.
Proper monitor positioning will also help relieve pressure on your neck and shoulders and encourage good posture.
Adjust the monitor height to sit at or slightly below your eye level for comfortable viewing.
Also, ensure you place the monitor directly in front of you, and it’s set at around 20-28 inches away from your face (or simply a distance equivalent to your arm’s length.
If your monitor limits how far you can adjust your screen, buy monitor arms that offer an extended height range.
NOTE: If you wear bifocals, we advise you to lower your monitor by about 1-2 inches to ensure a more comfortable viewing experience. Also, try placing the computer screen so that the brightest source of light in your work area is on the monitor’s side.
Multiple monitors ergonomic setup
If your desk setup features multiple monitors, you’ll also need to set them so that you get a comfortable viewing for all of them.
Most folks usually have a dual monitor setup, so we’ll focus on how to set it up for ergonomics. The location of your monitors will depend on the percentage of time you usually spend on each monitor and the type of work you do.
If you give both monitors the same amount of time, then you should place them close together with the edges touching, at an angle, so they’re both facing directly in front of your face.
However, if you give one monitor more view time (say over 80% of the time), consider placing it directly in front of your face at the correct height. Place the secondary monitor off the side of the primary one.
Setting the laptop on your standing desk
A laptop is completely different from a desktop computer. The latter is built for desktops. This makes it much easier to set up on your desk than the former intended for placing on your laps.
Therefore, if you use a laptop, you should also be mindful of how you set it up on your desk surface.
Ideally, your laptop monitor should also be at your level. However, a laptop is an all-one package. Elevating it will lift the keyboard to a not-so-ergonomic typing position.
So, what’s the solution?
The best thing to do here is to get a separate keyboard and mouse for your laptop. This way, you can use a kickstand or a stack of books to elevate the computer monitor height separately while the keyboard remains in a pain-free typing position.
Mind your mouse and keyboard position
You have your monitor set up correctly; what’s next? It’s time to set the standing desk keyboard and mouse ergonomics!
You should have these two peripherals on the same surface, with the mouse sitting next to the mouse. You should have the keyboard and mouse placed at a distance that enables you to keep your elbows close to your body.
When typing or using the mouse, try to keep your wrists straight. Pay close attention to your upper arms and make sure they stay close to your body as your hands are at the same level or slightly below your elbows.
PRO TIP: Trying to use keyboard shortcuts as much as possible to cut short extended mouse use. You may consider increasing the mouse sensitivity to operate it with light touches.
Correct posture is important
Bad posture will lead to general fatigue and cut down on the amount of time you spend at your standing desk.
It can also result in body pain similar to what you experience when you sit for prolonged periods of time. Over time, poor standing posture can cause serious health issues like restricted blood vessels.
When using your desk, always ensure you stand upright without leaning or hunching over your desk. Your neck should stay high, and your shoulder should be rolled back and relaxed. That ensures that the desk isn’t too high.
Make sure your head, neck, legs, and torso stay approximately in line and in a vertical position.
Do you use a phone and other desktop essentials?
If yes, you should also consider setting them up correctly on your desktop. The most common essentials on desktops include the phone, stapler, printed material, etc.
We highly recommend keeping these items close to your body. This will ensure you don’t excessively stretch to get to them.
If you’re using a phone, consider talking on speaker or getting a headset device. This is way better than cradling the phone between your head and neck and will ensure you don’t compromise your posture at your standing desk.
Move and stretch
Staying inactive while standing at your stand-up is one way to compromise your ergonomic setup.
You’re more likely to get fatigued quickly and lose focus due to a sedentary posture. Standing still for long will also lead to poor posture.
Try moving while using your standing. One way to achieve this is by listening to your favorite music while working. Movements will come naturally and help promote blood flow, keeping you active and energized.
Using an anti-fatigue mat is also sure to promote some movements that will keep you active.
Most importantly, doing quick stretches while at your standing is also a great way to remain active in your workspace. Examples of such stretch exercises include standing hip flexor stretch, calf raises, leg extensions, standing with one leg, etc.
These simple exercises will keep you active and energized, enhancing your moods and improving your focus.
Avoid standing at your desk for too long
You may be following all the above practices for an ergonomic workspace. But if you overuse your standing desk, it will be all for nothing.
Most folks have this misconception that stand-up desks are meant for all-day use. But that’s misleading. Just like sitting, too much standing isn’t good for your overall body health and wellbeing.
You shouldn’t use your desk for more than 2 hours. Experts recommend regularly alternating between sitting and standing positions.
The recommended standing-to-sit ratio is 1:1 or 1:2. For every hour you stand, you should get to your standard office chair for 1-2 hours.
Aim for standing desk sessions of around 30 minutes every hour and then switch back to sitting. If you follow this, you’ll stand for 4 hours and stay seated for 4 hours in your 8-hour office workday. That’s great balancing!
Also read: Which standing desk size is right for your?
Accessories to improve sit-stand desk ergonomics:
Are you willing to go further and achieve an ultimate standing workstation ergonomic setup? If yes, here are some additional accessories you can introduce to your desk to unlock its full ergonomic potential.
Standing desk anti-fatigue mat
Also known as a standing desk mat, this is a nice accessory to put under your desk to beat fatigue when using your desk.
The contoured standing mat is typically cushioned, which renders it unstable. When you step on it, it actively engages your muscles as you seek to counter the cushion and gain stability.
This active engagement leads to micro-movements that help eliminate sedentary posture and keep the blood flowing through your feet.
If you like to level up this experience, you can also use a balance board at your standing desk.
A footrest in your workstation can also impact your standing experience. When you elevate your foot on a footrest, you simply shift your weight and change your posture.
Even in a sitting position you can use a footrest for better ergonomics.
This is better than standing still. It keeps your muscles engaged and helps beat fatigue—keeping you active and energized throughout your standing sessions.
Standing desk chair
Commonly known as active stools, standing desk chairs can also help improve your stand-up desk ergonomics.
Like the normal office chair, this type of chair will give you support and a cushion, which helps beat the fatigue you experience when working in the standing position.
These chairs are unique in that they rotate through positions, translating to dynamic support that keeps you active and energized.
Well, shoes may not fit this category of accessories for standing workstations.
But it won’t hurt to get a good pair that offer you excellent support and enable you to use your desk for long without putting pressure on your feet.
In this regard, you want to avoid shoes like high heels for stand-up desks. If you wear orthotics, make sure you use them while working at your stand-up desk.
Also read: How to get a standing desk from your employer.
As the standing desks’ popularity continues to soar, it is important to remember that you can only enjoy using them and reap full standing benefits if you set them correctly.
Good standing workstation ergonomics ensure user comfort, safety, productivity, and good health in the long run. Always set the right ergonomic standing height, set your screen height correctly, and maintain the right posture.
You should also avoid mistakes beginners make, including standing for too long and standing still.
Adding accessories like armrests, anti-fatigue mats, and comfortable shoes to your standing workspace will increase your workspace’s ergonomics.