What Should I Look For In A Standing Desk?

By Robert David Orr / Last updated: Jan 19, 2022

Feeling a little confused about what to look for in a standing desk?

You’re not alone.

There are a lot of desks and a lot of features to evaluate to see whether a desk is going to meet your needs or not.

So what should you be looking for?

When looking to get your own standing desk you should look for the following:

  1. The Height Range Of The Standing Desk
  2. How Much Weight It Can Lift
  3. The Width And Depth Of The Desktop Surface
  4. How Easy It Is To Adjust
  5. The Lift Mechanism
  6. The Estimated Number Of Lift Cycles
  7. Whether Or Not It’s Programmable
  8. What Kind Of Layout & Configuration You Need
  9. The Quality Of The Construction Materials
  10. How Easy It Is To Put Together
  11. How It’s Going To Look In Your Space

Let’s talk about each of those things.

By the way – before we get too far into it here, if you want to get more great ideas for your gaming room or home office and want to connect with other home office hackers to make your space the best join my free private Facebook group, Home Office Hacks here.

The Height Range Of The Standing Desk

First off, you need to make sure that the desk can serve as a true sit-stand desk and that means that the height is going to be adjustable.

But not all sit-stand desks are equal.

Some standing desks are specifically designed for taller people, so if you’re one of those people then you need to make sure that the desk you’re looking at is going to work for your height.

In addition, you need to know how low the surface will go. Standard desk manufacturers use 29.5 inches as the “standard” height for a desktop surface. But this is too high for many people when they’re sitting.

So that means that the desktop surface should be able to go lower than 29.5 inches (~75cm) to a height that’s appropriate for you when sitting.

I know for my sit-stand desk I regularly have the surface lower than 29.5 inches when I’m in the seated position.

And when I’m in a standing position, I usually like it to be at least 40 inches (~101cm), sometimes about 42 inches (~107cm).

And my desk handles all those positions easily.

How Much Weight Can The Desk Lift?

When choosing a standing desk, make sure that it can handle the amount of weight you usually use it for.

And you want to be generous with your weight estimates and get a desk that can life a lot.

A big mistake many people make when buying an adjustable desk is thinking that the larger the desk, the more weight it can hold.

This isn’t necessarily true.

Your standing desk needs to be able to lift the entire weight of your desktop surface over and over again over the course of years, so that means you need a very strong and powerful motor to lift it.

You should also take into consideration how much weight you’ll actually use.

On average, you will likely be lifting 100 pounds (~45kg) or more with all the various different things you have on your desk (and don’t forget that your desktop surface itself is one of the things that the motor needs to lift!).

When looking at the lifting capacity you want to be able to lift 25-50% more weight than what you estimate you’ll need to lift.

Many of the high quality standing desks available on the market today easily lift 300 pounds or more, so finding one with a lot of lifting capacity won’t be a problem.

Determine Your Ideal Work Surface Size

When thinking about what to look for in a standing desk one of the big factors is the actual size of the desk itself.

The ideal size for your desk depends on many factors including the amount of space you have available, whether you want to sit at your desk all day or just part of the day, and the type of work you do.

Here are two things that you need to think about when it comes to figuring out what size work surface you need.

Desk Depth

A deep desk allows you to sit further back from your computer screen, which means less strain on your neck and shoulders. It’s important to find one that fits your body type and works well for you.

It also determines the amount of desk space that’s right in front of you where your keyboard and mouse will be.

The deeper your desktop surface the more space you’ll have and the further away you will be able to place your computer monitor (or monitors).

If you don’t like the feeling that a deep desktop surface gives, then you can opt for one with a shallower depth.

A shallower depth for your standing desk is good, especially when you want to use a keyboard tray to hide away your computer controls when you’re not using them.

Desk Width

The width of the desk really depends on the space where you’re going to be placing your desk.

Some home offices are larger than others.

The width of desk you choose should also take into consideration whether or not you need additional office storage at your desk as well.

I’ve seen many instances where people have bought a large slab of wood to use as a surface along with a couple filing cabinets from IKEA, and create a huge desktop surface that way.

Standing desks more narrow than 64 inches (~162cm) are going to feel very small and compact.

If that’s what you’re going for then a 48 inch (~122cm) desk surface will do perfectly.

As an example, the Uplift V2 desk is 60 inches x 20 inches, but is available in widths of 42, 48, 72, and even 80 inches, with a depth of 30 inches which is fairly standard.

The Lift Mechanism

How do you plan on raising and lowering your desk?

It’s assumed that most people will prefer an electric standing desk, but that’s not always the case.

Some will prefer a manual crank standing desk.


Some prefer a fixed-height standing desk where they use a tall chair to get them to their work surface when they’re ready to sit.

Some even prefer using hydraulic desks.

The point is, that whether you want an electric desk, or something else, you need to take into consideration how you plan on raising and lowering your desk.

Electric motors will wear out over time, so keep that in mind.

Whereas your arms are going to last a lot longer, so a manual crank adjustable standing desk may be the right one for you.

The Estimated Number Of Lift Cycles

This is something that many people don’t thin about when considering what to look for in a standing desk.

They just assume that the desk is always just going to work.

Nothing can be further from the truth.

Electric motors die.

It’s just a matter of time.

And the quality of your desk and the estimated number of cycles your desk go hand in hand. (We’ll talk about that more in a minute.)

A lift cycle consists of a single instance of raising it once and lowering it once using roughly 20 inches as the distance travelled.

If you use a conservative estimate of 4 full cycles per day, to give yourself two morning intervals of sitting and standing and two afternoon intervals, that’s 20 cycles per week, and 1040 per year.

Those add up over time.

The good thing is that the best standing desks come with strong warranties.

But as mentioned before, you don’t want to buy your desk twice, or end up having to replace expensive parts because it wore out too fast.

Many high-quality desks will last in excess of 20,000 full cycles.

Keep in mind though, that performance can degrade over time too, as the desk ages.

Some manufacturers may not know what this number is, so in those instances, you need to make sure you understand the warranty they offer and its requirements very clearly.

Adjustment Speed

Ok, so now that we’ve talked about the different kinds of ways that you can power your standing desk, we’re going to focus on electric standing desks because those are the most common.

The speed at which the desk adjusts its height is important because you don’t want to be waiting several minutes for the desktop surface to raise or lower.

This would be especially bad if you’re in the middle some important work and you want to lift your desk, only to have to wait while the desktop surface slowly makes its way up to the position you need it in.

This can be distracting and could mean that you completely lose that train of thought.

So you need a height adjustable standing desk that moves at a quick pace between positions.

Most adjustable height desks move at a brisk pace these days, but if you foresee a situation where speed of movement is a concern for you, you need to make sure your standing desk is going to move fast enough for your preferences.

Do You Need A Programmable Standing Desk?

One of the greatest features of electric standing desks is the ability to program presets so that you can adjust the height of your desk with the touch of a simple button.

I’ll admit – this is not a feature that my current standing desk has, and I see now how critical this feature can be.

Being able to program preset heights for various different positions is such a convenience when you’re ready to move from one position to another!

The number of preset options will vary by manufacturer, but most will have a maximum height preset option, and a minimum height preset options.

As an example, Uplift standing desk’s keypad has an option to store up to 4 different positions and has a digital display showing the desk height.


My next standing desk will definitely have these programmable presets!

What Kind Of Desktop Surface Do You Want?

There is no limit to the kind of surface you can get on stand-up desks these days.

For most people a laminate surface, or a veneer will do just fine.

But there are all kinds of surfaces available these days.

You can get all kinds of beautiful and different woods like bamboo, mahogany, cherry, and more.

Walnut is a very popular choice right now and it’s a beautiful surface.

Or you can go with something more simple like a laminate surface that will look fantastic too.

Whichever surface you choose, make sure that it’s going to be an appropriate surface to use in your work.

You want something that’s going to endure and not wear off, or easily degrade over time (that’s one reason why real wood surfaces have become so popular!).

A dark surface will hide accidents and spills that could potentially stain better than lighter colors.

But lighter surfaces will hide scratches more easily than a darker surface will.

And let’s be honest: we’ve all spilled our coffee on our desk at one time or another, so something that won’t be damaged when we have an “oops” moment, is a good idea.

Do I Need A Desk Shelf Or Adjustable Monitor Arm?

Another thing you need to take into consideration when you’re looking at standing desks is to figure out whether or not you want to add more features like a desk shelf, on top of which you can elevate your monitor(s).

Desk shelves are great, not only for elevating your monitors, but also for having a place to store papers and other small things that often clutter up your desktop space.

This helps free up your work surface and de-clutter so you can focus on producing your best work.

Another popular item that’s combined with a standing desk is an adjustable monitor arm mounted on your desktop surface.

In some instances, these are included as part of the desk you buy, which is a nice perk if you’re buying one that has them.

Other times the desk is manufactured to work with 3rd party mounting systems so you can easily attach a monitor arm.

One thing about monitor arms that’s important if you’re using a standing desk:

Mount the monitor arm to the desk instead of the wall.

If you mount it to the wall, your monitor will not rise and lower with your desk – it will stay in one position.

That eliminates any health benefits and defeats the whole purpose of using a standing desk!

Your monitor and your desk should move together as one unit, so make sure a monitor arm will work with your desk if you need to mount your monitors.

Quality & Workmanship

In most instances, you’re going to spending a few hundred dollars on a decent standing desk.

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “why are standing desks so expensive?” the reason comes down to workmanship and the quality of materials that are used to manufacture the desk.

The quality of the design materials used in their construction, the quality and type of desktop surface chosen, the research and implementation of ergonomic design principles that the desk manufacturers use, the electric motor that powers your desk, along with the huge increase in demand all factor in to the desk cost.

Here’s the bottom line:

You do not want to make this purchase twice.

Going cheap virtually guarantees that you will be replacing your desk frame, or electric motor, or some other component of the desk in the not-to-distant future.

There are fantastic options in most budget ranges, spend as much as you can afford, but know there are good options available at most price points.

Investing in a high-quality desk that will fit your budget is essential.

And in most instances you can tell by reading the reviews.

You can find real gems in all price ranges by reading what other users have learned about their experience with different brands and models.

It’s worth taking the time to read through the comments section of Amazon reviews, Reddit posts, YouTube videos, blog articles, etc.

Check the manufacturer website too, they always post helpful information about their products.

I hope my recommendations help you decide where to start your search for a new standing desk.

What Kind Of Layout & Configuration You Need

When you’re figuring out what you need to look for in a standing desk you need to look at what kind of desk layout you need.

What I mean by that is the shape of the desk you use, and where you’re going to be placing it has to fit your space.

Your desktop layout is a big deal.

Do you need a big L-shaped desk?

What about a corner desk?

Or is the regular desk shape and size going to work for your scenario?

Right now, I personally have a regular shaped desk (64×32) but I wish I had an L-shaped desk because of the shape of my office layout.

When knowing what to look for in a standing desk the layout of your office, the layout of the desk’s features, and the shape make all the difference and you want to make sure that the manufacturer you’re looking at has a desk available that will fit your space and layout needs.

How Easy Is It To Put Together?

Your desk is going to show up to your house – whether you buy it from a showroom, or order it online – in a box.

It’s good to get an idea of what’s going to be involved in actually assembling your desk because it can vary quite a bit depending on the brand and model you choose.

Some companies will have instructional tutorial videos on YouTube and others may have only a set of printed directions included with your shipment.

I don’t know about you, but being able to see someone actually complete the steps I need to take is so much more helpful than just reading instructions off a piece of paper.

You want to also get an idea on how long it’s actually going to take.

Assembling most standing desks should take roughly 30 minutes to an hour completely assemble so you want to know as much about that process as you can before you jump in.

How Is It Going To Look In Your Home Office?

Finally, the last major factor you should look for in your standing desk is, how is it going to look in your office?

This is really important because you’ll be using it every day for years to come.

You want it to match up with other elements in your office that you already have in place.

You definitely don’t want it to clash with the other stuff you’ve already got in your office.

You should (hopefully) be inspired when you sit down to work.

And when you’ve got a really sharp looking standing desk in a clean and organized office that’s decorated with some great stuff should be really inspirational!

You want to make sure that when you walk into your home office, you feel comfortable and confident that it’s going to look great.

Do You Need A Floor Mat?

Let’s face it:

Standing takes some adjusting and a little getting used to.

So using an anti-fatigue mat when you’re standing will make a big difference in how comfortable you are when you’re standing.

A good anti-fatigue mat will provide fantastic support for your feet and ankles, reduce your aches and pains due to standing while you’re working.

It can also help improve your circulation, encourage good posture and help with your overall energy level, so you can be more productive in your work and enable you to stand while you working longer so you can enjoy all the health benefits and avoid the pitfalls of sitting too much.

So when you’re considering a stand-up desk, add a quality anti-fatigue mat to your cart too.

Do I Still Need a Chair?

A common question that people have when considering a standing desk is whether or not they’ll still need their chair or not.

Yes, you still need a chair.

Because you’re not going to spend every moment of your workday standing!

A good ergonomic chair should always accompany your standing desk because, during those times when you’re seated, you need a good chair that takes care of your body and keeps you healthy during your seated times.

Next Steps

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Robert David Orr

I'm an award-winning web designer & developer, creator, an all-around digital marketing guy and, most importantly when it comes to this site, a long-time veteran of the working from home life. My work from home life spans more than 10 years, and I've experimented with just about everything you can think of when it comes to getting the most out of my home office, how to work from home without going crazy, and found solutions to the numerous challenges that those of us who work from home run into in this life.

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