The best standing desks 2021: improve your posture and banish back pain

We round up the the best sit-stand desks and standing desks, to protect your spine and improve core strength

Flexispot Adjustable Standing Desk Pro E7 in situ
(Image credit: Flexispot)

The best standing desks often seem a little pricey, but consider this: they could change your life. If you, like many of us do, spend several hours each day sat down and slouched over a computer, you may be doing untold damage to your back and general health. Using a sit-stand desk may save you serious problems in years to come. It may seem counter-intuitive, but standing at your desk rather than sitting all day is a great way to protect your spine. And although you might think it'll tire you out, most people say it makes them feel more energised and creative. 

Plus, lest you think this is just some weird fad that will soon go out of fashion, rest assured that standing desks have a long and rich history. The likes of Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, and Vladimir Nabokov all wrote while standing, some of them at specially made desks or lecterns.

Thankfully, these days we don't need to go to the expense of having something custom-made for us. There are a wide range of standing desks on the market to choose from, including dedicated options, and contraptions that sit on top of your regular desk and can be raised and lowered at will (if you're planning on sitting down at all, you'll also want to invest in one of the best office chairs, too).

Read on for more advice on using a standing desk, followed by our pick of the best sit-stand desks and standing desks available right now.

Are standing desks good for you?

A number of studies suggest that constant sitting can significantly damage your health. For example, a 2012 review of 18 studies by the Universities of Leicester and Loughborough found that people who spent the most time sitting were around twice as likely to suffer diabetes and heart problems, compared to those who spent the least time sitting. 

Even if you exercise often, that won't necessarily balance things out. A research paper published in The Lancet suggests we need to do between 60-75 minutes of moderate- to high-intensity exercise a day to counteract the negative health effects of sitting for eight hours a day or more. And let's be honest, few of us are ever going to achieve that on a daily basis.

Using a standing desk won't automatically prevent health problems, of course, and experts advise that you still take plenty of breaks and engage in regular exercise as well. But there is evidence that it can help. For example, research published in the British Medical Journal, following trials involving 146 NHS staff, showed that those who swapped their regular desks for sit-stand workstations, reported better job performance and psychological health.

  • These top desk exercises will help stretch out your joints and prevent aches and pains
  • Our pick of the best laptops available today

How long should you stand at a standing desk?

Just because sitting in the same position all day is bad for you, doesn't mean that all sitting is bad for you. And conversely, going from sitting all day to standing all day might well be counter-productive, which is why most of our list focuses on the best sit-stand desks, which can be adjusted in height, rather than fixed standing desks that you can't use sat down. 

After all, people in jobs where they have to stand up all day, such as retail staff or factory workers, suffer from back pain too. This is backed up by one Canadian study, in which people were asked to stand at a desk for two full hours. Although none were back pain sufferers in general, 50 per cent developed back pain as a result.

Consequently, there's a generous consensus among medical experts is that you should alternate regularly between standing and sitting. The research for this is still in its infancy, however, so there's no agreement yet on how long you should spend on each. Depending on who you talk to, a suggestion that you spend between 15 and 30 minutes standing in every hour seems to be a common rule of thumb. However, to put it bluntly, everyones' different and so it's something you'll essentially have to work out through trial and error over time.

The best standing desks and sit-stand desks right now

Flexispot Adjustable Standing Desk Pro E7 in situ

(Image credit: Flexispot)

1. Flexispot Adjustable Standing Desk Pro E7

The best sit-stand desk all round

Specifications
Material: bamboo, laminate or wood
Desk size : 120 x 160cm
Height range: 58-123cm
Weight capacity: 125kg
Reasons to buy
+Solid construction+Quiet and efficient to operate+Various customisation options
Reasons to avoid
-A bit tricky to self-assemble

A reliable all-rounder for a decent price, the electric-powered Flexispot Adjustable Standing Desk Pro E7 is our current pick for best standing desk. Once assembled – admittedly a bit of a faff – the build quality is sturdy and well constructed. It can be adjusted between 58 and 123cm, which will suit pretty much everyone, the motor works reliably, and the ability to save specific heights is a handy bonus. There are a range of finishes, both for the desktop and the frame, which gives you the chance to pick something that fits with your office decor. Head to our Flexispot Adjustable Standing Desk Pro E7 review to find out more of what we thought.

Humanscale Float Height Adjustable Desk

2. Humanscale Float Height Adjustable Desk

An ergonomic desk that allows you to work at your preferred height

Specifications
Material: Steel, aluminium
Desk size: 160x80cm
Height range: 70-120cm
Weight capacity: 165 lbs / 75kg
Reasons to buy
+Work seated or standing+Sturdy
Reasons to avoid
-Tricky to assemble

The Humanscale Float Height Adjustable Desk is a 'floating' desk makes for a versatile workstation in your home, so whether you're doing paperwork, on a conference call, or working on a craft project, you can adjust the height of this desk to suit your needs. The design is sleek and minimalist, and should blend nicely with a range of office styles. This is great for those who are considering investing in their first standing desk, and want to keep some flexibility. You’ll be able to limit your time sitting, and gradually build up your standing time until you are fully comfortable. Customers found this desk to be incredibly sturdy and easy to adjust, but you’ll definitely need an extra pair of eyes and hands when assembling this one. 

Yo-Yo DESK 90 standing desk converter

(Image credit: Yo-Yo)

3. Yo-Yo Desk 90 desk riser

The best standing desk converter

Specifications
Material: MDF
Desk size: 89 x 59cm
Height range: 15 - 50cm (+ current desk height)
Weight capacity: 15kg
Reasons to buy
+Install in 5 minutes+Easy to adjust
Reasons to avoid
-Heavy to move around 

The Yo-Yo Desk 90 is perfect for placing on any work surface and creating a workstation where you can sit or stand. It's super simple to set up – all you need to do is unpack it and place it on your desired surface. As with all desktop standing desk converters, you'll need to keep the surfaces on and around the converter fairly clutter-free if you want to be able to adjust it freely. The gas springs make it easy to adjust exactly to your desired height and users found it easy to flip the mechanism without the risk of pinching fingers in the springs. It also comes in different sizes to cater to different sized homes, so even if you only have a small study, this standing desk will fit nicely. Some retailers refer to it as 'portable', but be aware that at 20kg it's really too heavy to shift around easily.

Flyatta 2 standing desk

(Image credit: Flyatta 2)

4. Flytta 2

A premium electric standing desk option

Specifications
Material: steel
Desk size: various size options
Height range: 64-130cm
Weight capacity: 100kg
Reasons to buy
+Large lift capacity+Memory function
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive

Based around an extendable high-grade steel frame, Flytta 2 doesn't just make it easy to adjust its height, but it also includes a digital display memory switch option, so you can save your height settings for a later date. This can be a real time-saver, especially if you want to set different heights for different kinds of task.

Adjusting the height of the desk itself with the dual motors happens smoothly, the lift capacity of 100kg makes it suitable for even heavy computers, and with a height adjustment range of 64-130cm, you're sure to find the perfect sweet spot. Note, however, that you need to choose the appropriate desktop when ordering; there are four sizes to choose from, so don't end up ordering the default size by mistake. There's some assembly required, which will probably take you a couple of hours, although it is fairly straightforward. Overall, this is a very sturdy and solid standing desk. 

The Eiger Pro Standing Desk converter

(Image credit: Eiger)

5. The Eiger Pro Standing Desk

The best low-tech standing desk converter

Specifications
Material: birch plywood
Desk size : 67 x 38cm (main shelf), 48 x 28cm (top shelf)
Height range: Up to 69cm
Weight capacity: not stated
Reasons to buy
+Each product is unique+Adjustable platforms
Reasons to avoid
-Design won't be for everyone-More fiddly to move up and down once set up

If you're looking for something a little different, try the Eiger Pro Standing Desk. Made from birch plywood, this standing desk has a unique design that you'll probably either love or hate. Platforms slot in at different heights for your laptop and peripherals, and there's a sturdy base to keep things secure. For those less industrial looks, you sacrifice a little functionality – for example, you won't be able to set it up with all your desk paraphernalia if you still want to be able to adjust it easily. 

Fellowes Lotus VE Sit-Stand Workstation converter

(Image credit: Fellowes)

6. Fellowes Lotus VE Sit-Stand Workstation

A sit-stand converter that clamps to your existing desk

Specifications
Material: steel
Size (HxWxD): 42.50 x 29.00 x 28.50"
Height range: 15" of vertical adjustment
Weight capacity: 25lbs
Reasons to buy
+38cm of vertical adjustment+Streamlined design
Reasons to avoid
-Designed for a PC  -Clamp might not suit all desk setups

The Fellowes VE Lotus Sit-Stand Workstation is an extending platform designed to be clamped to your existing office desk and provide you with the option to adjust to standing height when you feel you need to stretch your legs. The unit itself is fairly compact, with a much smaller footprint than other sit-stand desk converters. Use the handy levers either side of the waterfall platform to raise and lower the desk to a height that suits you. 

Be aware, this comes in pieces, so you'll need to put it together yourself when it arrives. And like all sit-stand systems, it doesn't work well with clutter. While there's plenty of space for peripherals, if you want to be able to raise and lower it you'll want to keep it fairly clear of other bits and bobs. If your setup won't suit a clamp for whatever reason, try the Fellowes Lotus Sit-Stand Workstation, which sits on top of your existing desk.

Arozzi Arena standing desk

(Image credit: Arozzi)

7. Arozzi Arena Gaming Desk Metal

The best standing desk for gamers

Specifications
Material: metal
Desk size: 160 x 82cm
Height range: 71 - 81cm
Weight capacity: not stated
Reasons to buy
+Sturdy and ergonomic+Mouse-mat surface
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Height adjustment is manual-Pointless for non-gamers

The Arozzi Arena Gaming desk has all the features you need to get maximum joy out of playing videogames on your PC. For a start, it's covered with a hard surface coating that's similar in texture to a mousemat, which probably means you shouldn't need a mousemat at all. Obviously that's not guaranteed, given the near-infinite variety of mice on the market, but it does also come with a decent mouse pad.

It's pretty sturdy, which you means you won't have to hold back from mashing that mouse when things get frenzied. There's plenty of surface area, allowing plenty of room for a decently large PC, which still letting you sit back from the screen at a comfortable distance. And the desk can be adjusted up to 3.9 inches (10cm) using the included Allen key; which isn't a huge range, but it does make a difference in terms of reaching the right level of comfort. The design, which is available in six colours, is pretty stylish too, with an ergonomic curve that matches your seating position and good cable management. All in all, there's little here not to like, apart perhaps from the high price.  

Tom May
Tom May

Tom May is a freelance writer and author of the book, Great Ted Talks: Creativity. He has been editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. He has also worked for a wide range of mainstream titles including Radio Times, NME, Heat, Company and Bella.