I’m a seasoned work-from-homer — which means my work-from-home setup is as curated as they come (I use a laptop stand, ergonomic chair, and a standing desk.) But that wasn’t always the case: Before I got my standing desk, I’d find myself hunching over the laptop on my kitchen table, leading to an ache in my back that persisted long after I logged off. When I spoke to chiropractor Dr. Steven Shoshany, he told me that I wasn’t alone: In his 25-year career, he’s never before seen back, neck, and wrist injuries occurring on the scale that they have since the pandemic. “I ask patients: ‘Have you been working from home, using a laptop?’ And they say: ‘How did you know?’ And it’s because their head is a full four inches forward from where it should be,” he says.
The most basic standing desk brings your monitor up to eye level (like this cardboard box that we’ve written about). But a great standing desk should be easy to adjust to your exact height preference — either with clear electrical buttons, or a well-oiled pump if you’ve no space near a mains outlet. I also think it should look pretty smart too — sure, it’s for your working setup, but it’s still a piece of furniture that you’re introducing to your home. A standing desk doesn’t have to take over your entire room. I’ve found that there are standing desks designed to suit every type of space (including teeny tiny apartments like mine.)
To find the very best standing desks for any type of home office or WFH-er, I chatted to chiropractors about how to spot the best ones. Then, myself and my Strategist colleagues tested the desks over several months, to see if they improved our posture (and productivity).
If you’re interested in other ways to improve your work-from-home setup, you can read our guides to the best computer chairs, laptop stands, and standing-desk converters (if you simply want to improve the function of a desk that you already own).
What we’re looking for
Motorized versus manual controls
To position your desktop at the right height, whether you’re sitting or standing, your desk will have either manual or electronic/motorized controls. Motorized controls mean the desk will require a power source so that you can change the height of the desktop simply by pressing a button. Some desks with motorized controls allow you to program and save a set of preferred heights. Manually adjustable standing desks are just that — manual. You may have to turn a crank or loosen various knobs and lift the desktop to change the height.
Seems obvious, but your height will determine the height range your desk needs to have. The standard height of a seated desk is between 28 and 30 inches from the floor, which is close to the lowest height for many of the standing desks below. A 28- to 30-inch standard desk height is meant to seat most people shorter than six feet tall, though needs may vary depending on body type and proportions. Most companies that make standing desks will provide an idea of what heights their standing desk can best accommodate in standing and seated positions, whether you’re five-foot-one or six-foot-two. To figure out your optimal desk height, the rule of thumb whether you are seated or standing is that your desktop should be at elbow height so you can use a keyboard and mouse with your elbows at a 90-degree angle for a more comfortable and ergonomic experience.
Meanwhile, the size of your workspace will determine how large your desk can be; if you only have a small nook, a CEO-size desk is obviously not an option. Many standing desks have a fixed base size but allow you to choose from multiple options for desktop size.
Standing-desk prices can rise quickly depending on the number of add-ons and custom features you select, motorized versus manual operation, and desktop size and material. For this guide, a price ranking of $ denotes desks under $300, while $$ indicates a price range of $301 to $700 and $$$ indicates a price of $701 and up.
Best overall standing desk
Controls: Motorized | Height range: 25.3 inches to 50.9 inches tall | Desktop size: Five starting at 42 inches by 30 inches | $$
Several Strategist editors own and love this desk by Uplift. There’s a range of five desktop sizes to suit your space, from 42 by 30 inches, up to 80 by 30 inches. Within those sizes, there are over 30 dozen desktop materials available, from more budget-friendly laminate or bamboo to much more expensive options like solid walnut, and even a whiteboard option. You can customize how many grommets and power outlets you’d like, the color they come in, the color of both your frame and keypad, and whether or not you’d like your desk on wheels. The height range is wide, and entirely adjustable (meaning there’s no pre-set sizes so you can find the height that suits you).
Strategist writer and home-design expert Lauren Ro bought hers in 2019, it’s a key part of her husband Chang’s work-from-home setup. Strategist senior editors Jen Trolio and Crystal Martin each own an Uplift, too. Martin is impressed with how user-friendly the desk is. “One time I tried to lower the desk with my chair underneath it, and it was stopped by the chair arms,” she says. “It very smoothly handled that little obstruction and wasn’t glitchy or anything afterward.” Meanwhile, Trolio likes that the desk is infinitely customizable. Trolio in fact just bought the desk frame so she could attach a custom maple desktop, made by a local carpenter. “I didn’t want any pre-drilled grommet holes on the desktop, and it wasn’t an option to purchase a desktop from Uplift without them,” she says. Assembling the frame and installing the desktop took some time but was fairly straightforward and went smoothly thanks to well-written, easy-to-follow instructions.
Depending on which frame style you choose, Uplift also sells an under-desk hammock that can attach to the frame for George Costanza–esque under-desk naps. Ultimately, you’d be hard pressed not to find a version of this desk that suits you and your space: that, along with the fact it’s in the mid-price range (it’s $300 less than the Secretlab desk, below), is why it’s my best pick overall.
Best less-expensive standing desk
Controls: Motorized | Height range: 27.6 inches to 47.3 inches tall | Desktop size: Two starting at 24 inches by 48 inches | $
This desk from Fezibo is remarkably reasonably priced. It has an option of two desktop sizes, from 48 by 24 inches to 55 by 28 inches, a choice of five desktop colors, and smooth motorized controls. Plus, it has the option of an additional drawer below the desk for storage — which is a rarity for standing desks. You can also add a hook for your headphones, and see everything on your desk clearly with a built-in lamp below the shelf for your monitor. As the desk is such a bargain compared to others on this list, I spent a great deal of time scrutinizing customer reviews to see if it is too good to be true. The general consensus is that the desk is sturdy, the motor is quiet and easy to use — but that assembly can be quite tricky and time consuming. For less than $200, though, I think it’s worth the extra hassle.
Best manual standing desk
Adjustment: Manual | Height range: 26 inches to 42 inches tall (not including wheel height) | Desktop size: Four starting at 46 inches by 24 inches | $
If you’ve no space near an outlet for your desk (or don’t want the added electricity bill), a manual standing desk is the way to go. I like this relatively inexpensive work bench from Husky. It has a range of four desktop sizes, with the option to add drawers in some configurations. Since it’s a work bench and designed to be used in a garage or workshop, the surface is made of solid wood, making it more durable than inexpensive desks you might find elsewhere with plastic or particleboard desktops. This is an added bonus when you consider other desks in the same price range won’t have the same durability. Strategist contributor James Lynch told me the 52-inch-wide version of this desk is where he does all his work. “It’s perfect for setting up a monitor, some speakers, and whatever else you keep at your workstation,” he says. “It’s designed for the bumps and bangs of hammering, drilling, and sawing, so the occasional mashing of your keyboard will hardly make it flinch.” His favorite feature is the manual hand crank that adjusts the height of the desk. “It’s supremely easy to raise and lower the desk from its top range of 42 inches high to its lower limit of 26,” Lynch explained. “All you have to do is turn the small crank on the right-front corner and it smoothly raises or lowers the desk by any incremental amount. When you get to your ideal height, there is no complicated locking procedure. Just stop cranking. The desk is ready to go.”
Best standing desk on wheels
Adjustment: Manual | Height range: 27.5 inches to 43.3 inches tall | Desktop size: 17 inches by 24 inches | $
This manual standing desk is portable — you can use it practically anywhere. And while it’s compact, it still has the range of heights that I’d want to see in a great standing desk. As it can be wheeled fully out of sight, it’s convenient for people who don’t WFH every single day, or don’t envision themselves standing up all the time. Although it looks small, it’s actually deceptively roomy, you can fit a 15-inch laptop, a mouse, a mouse pad, a note pad, and some other bits of stationary on the desktop. Assembly is also easy, and quick (almost every review that I combed through said that the desk is sturdy and easy to construct); it comes in two colors, espresso or white; and it has four wheels that allow you to roll it smoothly through your home, but two of the wheels are lockable to ensure it stays put when you want it to.
Best metal standing desk
Controls: Motorized adjustment | Height range: 25.5 inches to 49.2 inches tall | Desktop sizes: Two | $$$
I’ve been using this metal standing desk for around six months. It has all the features I look out for in a great standing desk, from a quiet motor to plenty of desktop space, and an entirely customizable height range (there’s half a foot between my flatmate and I, and we both find we can find a height to suit us when we use the desk.) The standout feature of this desk, though, is the fact it’s made from metal, and each of its add-ons are entirely magnetic. That means you don’t have to worry about drilling a hole or assembling something complicated when you want to customize your desk. My favorite add-on is the cable trough the rear of the desk: It keeps the desk clutter-free and from becoming unsightly when we both have a couple of devices charging or plugged in.
Best treadmill standing desk
Adjustment: Motorized adjustment | Height range: 27⅝ inches to 50.5 inches tall | Desktop size: Three starting at 38 inches by 29 inches | $$$
If you want to get your steps in during the workday, consider a treadmill desk. “Too often we work too many hours in a day and not enough hours exercising and moving,” says chiropractor Daniel Huang of Level Up Sports Chiropractic. “A sedentary lifestyle increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, joint pain, and other systemic issues that can be prevented if we just simply move.” The Lifespan treadmill desk combines an adjustable standing desk with a treadmill to create an “active workstation” where you can walk and Zoom at the same time at a maximum speed of four miles per hour — just be sure you have enough floor space for the treadmill element, which is about five feet long and doesn’t tuck away under the desk like a rolling desk chair might. You can choose between six desktop materials, two frame colors, and two desktop sizes. Lifespan also sells a non motorized, manually adjustable version of this desk, which will save you about $400 if you don’t expect to change the height very often.
• Antonia Bentel, acting digital features writer at House & Garden
• Brenley Goertzen, Strategist junior writer
• Daniel Huang, chiropractor at Level Up Sports Chiropractic
• James Lynch, Strategist contributor
• Crystal Martin, Strategist senior editor
• Devin McGhee, the founder of beauty brand Deon Libra
• Jay Peters, Verge news writer
• Lauren Ro, Strategist writer
• Dan Seifert, Verge deputy editor
• Jen Trolio, Strategist senior editor
• Dr. Steven Shoshany, chiropractor and clinic director
• Nick Statt, Verge news editor
• Jen Trolio, Strategist senior editor
• Winnie Yang, Strategist senior editor
Additional reporting by Jordan Bowman.
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