5 Savvy Ideas For Making Standing Desks Work For You

Once upon a pre-pandemic, people went to offices. (Some still do.) And way back in the Before Times — going back dozens of years — people began looking for remedies for the long hours they'd sometimes spend sitting at their desks to work. That led to the rise of different kinds of desks. Some put you on a bouncing ball before a desk that may remind you of the kiddie table at Thanksgiving; others lofted you at happy-hour bar level wondering how you ever learned to do anything with your elbows constantly in the way.

But now, with the rise of home offices, people are buying desks to work from on their own rather than having them provided by a company. And many wonder if a standing desk might be healthier. Well, know going in that there's no consensus on that topic. Harvard Health Publishing muses that they may solve one problem while creating another. That is, if you stand all day, it's not much different (especially when it comes to burning calories) from sitting for the same amount of time. 

On the other hand, Get Healthy cites studies that suggest that while there was no real change in productivity, people could burn as many as 50 more calories an hour at a standing desk. But they were able to find respondents who simply felt better working while standing. 

We took a look around and found five ideas for standing desks that can get you on your feet and back in the game.

Shelf desk

One of the great things about deciding to do things your way is that it sets your imagination free. Here's a shelf (actually a drop leaf design) that could save you a ton of room if you live in a studio or you have an office that you'd like to repurpose when you're not on the job.

While roll-top desks and the grand ones made during the Victorian Age are eye-pleasing as well as functional, modern desks are more about function than form. And if you're not going to put something beautiful in a room, why not make it as unobtrusive as possible? Here's the best part of the idea: even if you don't have a shelf that will already fill the bill (and you should have a look around your place or maybe do a jaunt to a few flea markets), buying one is not going to put you in the poor house.

In fact, Dream Green DIY has a handy instruction guide on putting one together entirely on your own, and it can be made of anything that will support what you need at your workstation. Obviously, it's not going to have drawer space, but with the cloud, there's less need for filing cabinets than ever. If all you need to do your job is a laptop, this could be ideal for you.

Get boosted

Some people look at the image above and think they're seeing a stepping stool. But it's also the perfect tool to put on an existing desk that raises it high enough for you to stand as you work.

There is a nearly inexhaustible variety of stepping stools available (many made by Rubbermaid and available at Amazon, just as a starting point), and once again, when you're not using them to elevate your workspace, you can tuck them away where no one else will see them. Most, like the one above, have the unintentionally handy feature of creating space beneath your laptop and the surface that supports it, so it's the ideal place for a cup of coffee and your phone.

These too are inexpensive, and they put you in control of whether you stand or sit at your desk. You will want to avoid the kinds of footstools that have framework support — typically the ones that collapse for storage — that will often be too narrow for a laptop. But that doesn't mean you can't find one that folds away while it's not in use. Target sells one from Kikkerland that does just that.

There are retro models and ones made from wood, and Bed, Bath and Beyond offers one from Skip*Hop that's two-tiered, so you can keep even more at your fingertips. Some (like the one from QBestt) support up to 300 pounds, so two stacked on top of one another could actually elevate your desktop monitor even more.

Repurpose shelving and storage units

Here's a riddle: What do you get when you take two identical bookcases, pull them away from the wall, and make them perpendicular? You're one flat surface away from creating a standing desk that's as unique and appealing to the eye as it is functional. And it's likely this one will be big and strong enough that it will easily support a desktop monitor and other workspace paraphernalia.

The idea works just as well with the shelving you can buy at a bargain from The Container Store. Remember those stackable shelves that you can place bank boxes or cloth boxes inside? It turns out those are perfect to create a standing desk with all the storage you could possibly want. 

Okay, let's say you like the idea, but you're not wild about the look. Say no more. Songmics makes stackable faux-wood boxes that can do the job in style. You'll still have the storage, but you'll have a look that's much less dorm-like and demonstrably more sophisticated.

And the folks at Overstock have crafted a clever solution of their own. Not only do they provide a wide array of storage structures at a variety of price points, but one specifically stands out: a classy but unfussy storage container that comes with a sturdy top, their Sand Beige Bin and Storage Chest.

What makes this idea so appealing is that it's so malleable. You can customize to your heart's content, and have just as much space as you did at your office.

Adjustable desks

Now, with a few DIY ideas to percolate in your mind, let's turn to ready-made solutions. There are myriad desks that will adjust to whatever height you choose. Some require a few quick moments with tools most people already have or specialized tools that come with the desk assembly kit. Others adjust with machinery that moves the desk surface on its support while you watch.

It's the same principle as adjustable beds, really. Some, like the ones available from Poppin, boast features like telescoping legs that are practically silent but stretch or contract at a rate of 1.4 inches per second. Despite their minimalist appearance, they're also surprisingly sturdy and can support weight up to 250 pounds — more than enough to support many of today's desk monitors.

They also come in an assortment of finishes and at prices that range from under $500 to $3,000 and higher. You'll find that most of the differences between the less expensive and higher-end models have to do with the materials they're composed of, their designs, and their special features. You'll have options in many places, from huge box stores like Costco to online retailers like Amazon. But don't grab the first one you see. A little time spent comparison shopping can get you a desk that more closely matches your ideal choice.

Take, for example, this beautiful desk from BDI. Unlike the more gangly models, this one is a simple pedestal and it comes in three finishes: black, white, and natural wood.

Standing treadmill

The Mount Everest of standing desks is the treadmill desk, and it's definitely not for everyone. Still, for those who complain that sitting makes them feel less productive or even sleepy, it's the one desk where that's never going to happen.

The retailers at FlexiSpot discuss the merits of a desk where the floor beneath your feet is in constant motion. They point out that treadmill desks offer the user an opportunity to shift their weight while improving posture and circulation. This is good news because CBS News mentions that sitting all day — at a desk or anywhere else — has been linked to an increased risk for such maladies as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and premature death.

The experts at Work While Walking will caution you that these desks are not meant to provide a workout, and in fact, they warn that if you've broken a sweat on one, you're overdoing it. Most will also recommend that if you're looking to change it up by getting a standing desk — especially one that moves — that you ease your way into using it. Otherwise, you risk straining your feet, your legs, and your back. You can also expect that during your adjustment, you're going to notice that you're not doing things the way you're used to doing them, so expect some degree of distraction as well.