August 31st, 2010

Sit-to-Stand Workstations

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Ergonomists have recognized the benefits of postural changes for many years, and have been recommending flexible workstation designs that support easy transition from sitting to standing as one solution to the sedentary office environment. Furniture that adequately accommodates sit-to-stand working postures for a wide range of body sizes and tasks has historically been somewhat scarce and expensive, but that is now changing. As more people recognize the benefits of standing, the demand is increasing, and so is the supply and market innovation — and prices are coming down.

I’ve come across many home-made standing workstations, and even helped build a few, but they tend to suffer from stability issues and invariably lack the flexibility and adjustment range needed to accommodate both sitting and standing postures. For some people standing all the time, or sitting all the time, may be appropriate. But, for most, being able to easily change from sitting to standing is more beneficial.

Ease of use is a critical factor when choosing a sit-to-stand workstation. If tools of any kind are required to adjust the system, it’s very unlikely that users will change postures at all, let alone frequently, as many experts recommend. Some adjustable systems utilize manual hand cranks. However, most of these systems require so many crank revolutions that it’s difficult and time consuming to make the necessary adjustments, and users therefore typically don’t. The most effective adjustment systems currently on the market are electric or counterbalanced/spring balanced.

Several trends and factors are converging to make sit-to-stand workstations a more recognized, viable and cost effective choice.

  1. Research indicating sitting and sedentary lifestyles contribute to health issues and may even reduce life span.
  2. Productivity — standing can increase energy, improve thought processes and foster teamwork.
  3. Musculoskeletal disorders that result from long term static postures, whether they be related to sitting or standing postures.
  4. Obesity — standing burns more calories than sitting and can assist in weight control.
  5. An aging workforce — movement and activities that require balance skills can help our aging bodies.
  6. Ease of use — systems are getting easier and more effective to use.
  7. Cost — prices have been dropping in recent years, and continue to trend lower as demand increases.

In order to be effective across different tasks and users, a sit-to-stand workstation should be adjustable in several ways. The absolute minimum adjustments should include:

  1. Keyboard and mouse height
  2. Monitor height

For greater flexibility and better fit, purchase or piece together a system with these adjustment options:

  1. Keyboard and mouse height
  2. Keyboard tilt
  3. Keyboard and mouse depth
  4. Monitor height
  5. Monitor depth
  6. Monitor orientation

If you seek a fit for a variety of people, body sizes and tasks, you should purchase or piece together a system that accommodates computer users from a 5th percentile female in a sitting posture to a 95th percentile male in a standing posture, which equates to a keyboard height adjustment range from  roughly 22″ to 46.5″ above the floor for the USA population.

If you’re considering purchasing a sit-to-stand workstation, there are several varieties you should consider:

  1. Dedicated Systems (see examples below)
    1. An integrated system that includes keyboard and monitor height adjustability in a single unit.
    2. An adjustable height table. The adjustable table provides keyboard and worksurface height adjustability, but users will also benefit with the addition of an adjustable monitor arm. It isn’t necessary to have a separate keyboard tray installed, although some users prefer the added flexibility this option provides.
  2. Retrofit System (see examples below)
    1. A desktop system that includes adjustable keyboard, mouse and monitor features.
    2. A fixed height table with the addition of an adjustable keyboard tray and adjustable monitor arm. The adjustment range for the keyboard and monitor height must adjust between sitting and standing postures.
    3. Cubicle retrofit, which replaces a fixed worksurface height with an adjustable worksurface height. This arrangement will also benefit from an adjustable monitor arm, and some may also prefer to add an adjustable keyboard tray.


Example Dedicated/Freestanding Sit-to-Stand Systems


Adjustable Table with optional add-ons
Adjustable Keyboard Trays Adjusable Monitor Arms
ConSet Adjustable Keyboard and MouseTray Options Adjustable Monitor Support Options










Example Retrofit Systems

WorkFit-S Desktop Series (Ergotron)
 WorkFit-S Single Monitor Support WorkFit-S Laptop with Dual Monitor Option WorkFit-S Dual Monitor Support
Single Monitor Support
Laptop and Monitor Support Dual Monitor Support


Computer TaskMate
Computer TaskMate (Health Postures)


Mix-and-Match — piece together your own system
StandUp  Scissor Lift  Adjustable Monitor Arms
StandUp (NeutralPosture)  Scissor Lift (SpaceCo) Adjustable Monitor Arms



  1. genekay says:

    Nice summary hitting all the key points Peter. Another mix and match solution that works well is to use a monitor arm + a dual-arm keyboard tray to achieve keyboard height range from approximately 25 to 41 inches/ 63-104cm. This range can be extended slightly with negative or positive tilt for various users.
    When I was at American Express we used a lot of these configurations to enable desk sharing and for all the positive reasons you mentioned.
    HumanScale, Workrite, and 3M have all manufactured dual arm mechanisms. We used a 32 X 12 inch/ 81X30cm keyboard platform to hold keyboard, mouse, and note pad.
    Gene Kay MS CEA

  2. ergomaniac79 says:

    One aspect left out from the standing aspect – I recommend some sort of foot support no higher than 4 inches or so for the person to set one foot up on periodically to take the pressure off of the low back when standing. They can alternate feet at will. Care must be taken to assure that the foot support does not become a tripping hazard for themselves or others!

  3. keith.osborne says:

    I have actually designed a couple of combination sit/stand stations at our Bayfield Facility and they had an immediate and positive affect on the employees who are using them. More comfort, higher productivity due to lessened fatigue and discomfort, and better morale.

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