How to use a sit to stand desk correctly (tutorial)
Published: 17th February 2021
In order to fully benefit from your sit-stand desk, it’s important to customise your workspace to suit your body’s needs.
Using standing desks correctly may seem like a no-brainer from an outsider’s perspective: You stand. You work. You repeat. However, ergonomics is not an exact science because every human body is different. The optimal height for your desk will be different for you than for someone else, and that’s a good thing!
Here are some instructions for how to use your own body’s proportions and natural posture to create the ideal active workstation. Once you’re all set up, make sure to read further for additional tips on how to use the standing desk correctly and reap the most rewards from everything it has to offer.
The proper way to use a standing desk
1. Always adjust your standing desk to your elbows’ height
Bend your elbows at a 90 degrees angle, keeping your neck neutral and your wrists straight in front of you. Lift or lower the standing desk to align your forearms parallel with the desk surface. Your hands should float over the keyboard with straight, relaxed wrists. Your fingers can hang down to meet your keyboard, but your wrist should never be inclined up or down.
These recommendations aim to prevent injuries to your arms and hands.
2. Watch your posture
Keep your neck tall, and your shoulders relaxed. Make sure to keep your knees slightly bent while standing, so they’re not hyperextended or have their joints lock.
“Good posture is also known as a neutral spine. When we have good posture, the muscles surrounding the spine are balanced and supporting the body equally,” says Nina Strang, a physical therapist, and strengthening and conditioning specialist at the University of Queensland. Most back pains are attributed to sedentary habits and bad posture. Applying these recommendations will limit harm to your body.
3. Keep your wrists straight and parallel to the desk surface
The final adjustments are to ensure your wrists remain neutral: Your fingers can hang down to meet your keyboard, but your wrist should never be inclined up or down.
Repeated extension and flexion of the wrists (up and down) can compress the internal structure of the wrists and increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
*Save your custom height setting so you can easily transition between sitting and standing without interrupting your workflow. All Holistic Desks allow users to save 4 custom heights, so they can switch up easily.
1. Adjust the height of your ergonomic chair
Adjust the height of your chair so that the top of the seat cushion is parallel to the base of your knees. Keep your feet flat on the floor and leave a fist-sized gap of space between the back of your knees and the seat’s front edge. Your feet should be parallel to the floor with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
A proper adjustment of your ergonomic chair will allow you to maintain good posture while avoiding back pain.
2. Lift or lower the standing desk to meet your elbow’s height
Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle and allow your arms to hang loosely near your torso, with armrests barely touching your elbows. Raise or lower your adjustable desk until its surface reaches the bottom of your forearms. Your hands should float over the keyboard with straight, relaxed wrists.
As mentioned previously, repetitive and unusual wrist movements (up and down) can increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome due to the compression of their internal structure. The purpose of these guidelines is to protect your arms and hands from injury.
3. Watch your posture while sitting
Your upright posture while sitting should be supported by the chair’s backrest, which must be curved or padded to meet the hollow of your back. Sitting in an awkward position increases pressure on the discs and vertebrae of your spine and, consequently, can engender back pain. Lumbar support is essential to prevent pressure on the discs and vertebrae of the spine.
As most back pains are attributed to sedentary habits and bad posture, applying these recommendations will help limit the chances of harming your body.
*It's better to remove your chair's armrests if they cannot be adjusted low enough to stop your elbows from elevating - otherwise your neck and shoulders will be tense all day! Your chair should fit under your desk with its armrests attached. If the armrests don’t fit, remove them.
An ergonomic chair supports your lumbar spine’s inward curve which keeps it healthy. Sitting for extended periods of time without it can lead to slouching and, by extension, lower back pain. An ergonomic chair will help you make your time spent sitting way more enjoyable than a regular chair with its customisable settings.
What is the correct height for your computer?
Using a monitor screen
Your screen should be at eye-level, but not too close from your face. The top third of your monitor’s screen should be at eye-level so your neck doesn’t have to bend upwards to view it. Incline your monitor slightly upwards (10 to 20 degrees) and towards you so that your neck doesn't have to bend. Avoid having a single light source or any lights that cause glare on your screen to prevent eye strain.
Using a laptop
You need accessories to elevate your laptop screen on your sit-stand desk. Laptops were designed to rest on your lap (hence the name), so they’re not great for standing desks. If you work with a laptop, you will need a separate keyboard, monitor and mouse so you can elevate the screen to meet your line of sight. Prevent eye strain by making sure you don’t have a light source that causes glare on your computer screen.
Placing your computer screen lower than what is recommended will make you look downward at your screen. Prevent your head and entire body to tilt towards your screen - which would lead to bad posture - by making sure your screen is at the right level.
*Your monitor should be no less than 51-71 cm away from your face. Measure the distance from the tip of your middle finger to your elbow if you don’t have a measuring tape.
If your computer is too low, we highly suggest using monitor arms or another accessory like our handmade monitor stand beautifully crafted with wood to match your desktop. Our handmade monitor stands help position your neck in a comfortable ergonomic posture and allow for extra storage as well.
How long you should stand at a standing desk?
You should alternate between sitting and standing. It's been proven that sitting too much is bad for your health. However, just like sitting all day can harm your body, standing all day can as well. Alternating between sitting and standing can help avoid preventable body pains. According to studies, the ratio of sitting versus standing time should be 1:1 or 2:1. That means that for an eight-hour workday, you should stand between 30 and 45 minutes every hour. This will keep you active and productive.
Alternating between sitting and standing positions will not only keep you active, but it will make you more productive. Indeed, the ratios of sitting versus standing stated above have shown to be optimal for comfort and energy levels.
Keep customising your active workstation for comfort
Remember, everyone is different and should be able to adjust their workspace to their own needs. Some of us have longer arms or shorter legs. Some of us have weaker knees or flatter foot arches. No matter what your specific needs are, the advantage of height-adjustable desks is their versatile nature - they can be customized to suit everyone.
The tips provided here are a starting point. We suggest that you try minor tweaks as you get acquainted with your workstation. Try moving your desk up or down by 5 cm for half an hour and see how it feels. Any bodily discomforts should be dealt with as soon as they come up, and a truly ergonomic workspace will allow you to make proper adjustments in seconds.
Summary of the proper way to use a standing desk
- Always adjust your standing desk to your elbows’ height.
- Keep your neck tall and your shoulders relaxed.
- Don’t lock your knees while standing.
- Keep your screen at eye-level.
- Keep your wrists straight and parallel to the desk surface.
- Don’t stand for more than 60 consecutive minutes.
- Don’t sit for more than 30 consecutive minutes.