Is a Standing Desk Worth the Investment?

by Josh Camson on March 25, 2010

The WorkFit C-Mod, Dual desk by Ergotron is a terrific addition to any office or home office. This is one of those new, adjustable desks. It allows you to move it from a sitting to a standing position, which is pretty cool. It looks nice once put together and gives you the option to stand when working, which the New York Times reports is a great idea. So why am I not urging everyone to rush out and buy one of these things? As I discuss below, the cons outweigh the pros.

Pros:
Option to stand while working
Having the option to stand at my desk instead of sit is something I’ve been working on for quite a while. I’ve rigged my own setups that never seemed to work, and tried to find a suitable desk replacement. So when I finally got to try the WorkFit, I was pretty excited. Sometimes after being at school sitting in class all day, I just want to stand up for a bit. At work, it would be nice to have the option. But beyond personal preference, the health benefits of standing instead of sitting are apparently huge. According to one New York Times article:

Lipoprotein lipase [is] the only molecule affected by muscular inactivity. Actively contracting muscles produce a whole suite of substances that have a beneficial effect on how the body uses and stores sugars and fats.

Which might explain the following result. Men who normally walk a lot (about 10,000 steps per day, as measured by a pedometer) were asked to cut back (to about 1,350 steps per day) for two weeks, by using elevators instead of stairs, driving to work instead of walking and so on. By the end of the two weeks, all of them had became worse at metabolizing sugars and fats. Their distribution of body fat had also altered — they had become fatter around the middle. Such changes are among the first steps on the road to diabetes.

Conversely, a study of people who sit for many hours found that those who took frequent small breaks — standing up to stretch or walk down the corridor — had smaller waists and better profiles for sugar and fat metabolism than those who did their sitting in long, uninterrupted chunks.

Nice design
This thing looks good. I apologize for forgetting to take a picture of mine completed, but as you can see from the company’s photo, it’s a nice looking desk. Theirs looks better anyway. My monitors are different sizes and colors so it’s less than ideal. The table gives you ample room for writing and taking notes, or having a book open. The way the wires are set up, they are all hidden nicely away, and so is the CPU. This gives your office or bedroom a nice organized feel to it.

Cons:
Assembly
The assembly on this thing was rough. I will be the first to admit that I’m not very good at putting things together, so that may have contributed. I got through the first half or so of the assembly all by myself, but it took a long time. Several hours and several ounces of sweat. Then I had to call in for assistance.

I’m not sure it’s possible to put this thing together by yourself. To mount the CPU you have to get the cords to go into the grooves in these little pieces of plastic that you adhere to the CPU. Then, while holding the CPU and making sure the cords don’t slip out, you have to use an allen wrench to tighten it into place. I would put the overall difficulty at 5/10, with 1 being taking a nap and 10 being rolling a boulder up a hill for all eternity. However, the time that it actually took still seemed pretty high.

The base comes put together already.

Price
This is the big breaking point for me. If you’re an associate in a big law firm making well over $100,000 a year, that’s one thing. I will not be making that much, and I certainly don’t make that much now. That’s why the $800 price point of this desk seemed a bit high to me. I think $500 is a much more reasonable price point for a desk like this, especially considering the space limitations discussed below.

Room for your stuff
I could have gotten over the price and the difficult assembly. Coupled with the lack of this desk’s ability to compete with my usual desk though, I can’t recommend it for anything more than an addition to your office. On my regular desk, I have a 24 inch Cinema Display, a 17 inch regular display, a printer, four speakers, and room to put a book or notebook down. Now, of course I don’t expect this desk to have room for all of that. I knew going into it that the Cinema Display wouldn’t be mountable. I knew that my surround sound speakers wouldn’t make the cut. Then I had nowhere to put my printer. That just seems infeasible for an office of any kind. I was initially under the impression that the CPU would move as the unit was adjusted. This was not the case. That meant that some of my shorter USB cords wouldn’t reach the desk when the unit was at its tallest.

Conclusion
So that’s my take on the standing desk. Definitely a nice addition to an existing office, but I don’t think it can replace your primary desk. Have you tried standing while working? Let us know in the comments.

Disclaimer: I was given one of these desks by Ergotron to review.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Josh D March 25, 2010 at 2:55 pm

It’s a very different design (more like a conventional desk than yours), but I’ve been using a GeekDesk Mini for about year-and-a-half now, and have found that I really, really like being able to stand part of the time, which it makes very easy. (I also use a kneeling chair sometimes). If I remember right it cost around $850 shipped.

Reply

Joshua Auriemma April 2, 2010 at 11:19 am

@Josh D, just out of curiousity, how much time do you spend standing vs. sitting (while using the desk)?

Reply

Amy April 22, 2010 at 9:42 pm

It’s a very different design (more like a conventional desk than yours), but I’ve been using a GeekDesk Mini for about year-and-a-half now, and have found that I really, really like being able to stand part of the time, which it makes very easy. (I also use a kneeling chair sometimes). If I remember right it cost around $850 shipped.

Reply

Mike Turco May 5, 2010 at 11:10 pm

I have had chronic neck and back pain for years. Not terrible, not every minute of every day, but there. I take ibuprofin like two/three times a day for this — 1200mg.

Four days ago I read an article about standing vs. sitting when doing work and thought I’d give it a shot. I set my computer up on a shelf with the monitors on the top shelf, the keyboard the next shelf down, etc. Had to adjust the shelves a little.

Anyway, my neck pain simply went away the next day. Gone. Hasn’t returned. My back is doing much better. My feet are a little sore but feel much better than my neck. I imagine the pain in my feet will go away once I get used to standing all day.

Anyway, regarding the desk, eh… I do fine with shelves. Standing instead of sitting, though, seems to makes a huge and immediate difference. I would suggest that anybody to give it a shot. (On the cheap, of course, like I did, with a shelving unit.)

I’m going to continue like this for a while and see how it goes. If it works out well, I’ll probably buy or build a standing desk. (Or get a nicer looking set of shelves.)

Mike

Reply

Josh Camson May 6, 2010 at 4:31 am

Mike,

That is great to hear. I’m glad the standing desk was able to make such a difference for you!

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Ian Henderson July 2, 2010 at 9:06 pm

What are the best brands of pedometer on the market?.;”

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