Written by Jordan Lees, Occupational Physiotherapist and OHS Consultant.
Over the past 4 years, I have performed around 1000 ergonomic assessments in my capacity as an OHS Consultant and Occupational Physiotherapist. A common style of standing desk that I often see in offices is an on-desk unit, such as the Varidesk or Ergotron.
Until about two to three years ago, I commonly recommended such on-desk units to my own consulting clients. The main reason for this was that on-desk units were often the only affordable option available for the majority of organisations.
This isn't the case anymore, and as a result, I now steer my clients towards electric standing desks, or even manual hand crank standing desks. These options are more preferable to on-desk units from an ergonomic, and health and safety perspective, for the reasons that are outlined below.
Why are electric standing desks preferable to on-desk units?
Following are eight key health and safety reasons why I don't recommend on-desk sit-stand units and instead encourage my clients to purchase electric standing desks:
1) If you are getting a standing desk for an employee with a back injury, on-desk units have the potential to exacerbate their injury, due to the fact they will need to lean forwards and exert force through their back to grasp the levers to change the height.
2) The height range of an on-desk unit is extremely limited, with the majority of models only being suitable for individuals who have a height of approximately 175cm or below.* Those who are taller than 175cm are likely to lean forwards to reach the keyboard tray, increasing the likelihood of injury or pain.
3) When sitting, the on-desk unit increases the static height of the desk. The average office desk in Australia is already too high for the majority of people. The additional height increases the likelihood of shoulder and neck discomfort, due to the need to hunch the shoulders to get the forearms parallel with the desktop. It also increases the likelihood of back pain developing, as the individual is more likely to lean forwards.
4) Good quality electric standing desks allow you to save and pre-set your desired sitting and standing height, so that you can accurately switch between the heights with the press of a button. This is important because using a standing desk at the wrong height is counter-productive and may actually introduce new problems. On-desk units do not have this function.
5) The keyboard tray on the on-desk units is often too small for the keyboard and mouse to fit in the correct spot.
6) The flimsiness of the keyboard tray makes it difficult to properly rest the wrists when using the keyboard and mouse. This typically results in the individual needing to hold their forearms off the keyboard tray, increasing the likelihood of shoulder and neck discomfort.
7) The general bulk of the on-desk unit means it is near impossible to do any handwriting on the desk.
8) The bulk of the on-desk unit often results in an increased amount of clutter on the desk. Clutter encourages the individual to sit further away from their desk, making it very difficult to make the most of their chair, as well as increasing the likelihood of pain or discomfort developing due to leaning forwards.
What about the cost?
One of the key reasons many organisations have purchased on-desk units in the past has been due to financial constraints. High quality electric standing desks have typically been too expensive, meaning the less preferable on-desk units were the only option for many organisations.
However, this isn't the case anymore.
To address the problem of over-priced standing desks I founded a company called UpDown Desk Pty Ltd. With UpDown Desk, the middleman and expensive retail overheads have been eliminated, meaning our standing desks go straight from the manufacturer to the customer. The result is a saving of up to $400 on comparable standing desks around Australia.
The electric standing desk frames sold by UpDown Desk are now cheaper than the less preferable on-desk units. The two most common on-desk units that I have previously recommended are the Varidesk Cube Plus 40 and the Ergotron Workfit TL. A quick search on Google showed that the Varidesk option now costs $650, whilst the Ergtron option costs around $775. There is also another Varidesk option for those who a bit taller, the Varidesk Exec 48, which costs $875. Regardless of the model, these prices have increased considerably over the past 3 years.
Comparatively, the UpDown Desk electric standing desk frame starts at $650, with further discounts being available for clients of The Ergonomic Physio as well as for bulk orders.
If you would like further information about standing desks, or the discounts available to our clients, please contact The Ergonomic Physio via the contact page here. If you would like more information about UpDown Desk, please visit their website at www.updowndesk.com.au.
* based off the average office desk being a height of 72cm.
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