A little free advice from someone who’s been working from home for years: buy a standing desk. There are plenty of well-documented health reasons why you should look into a convertible desk. It doesn’t even matter if it’s motorized or manual, just get one, trust me.
The reason that finally tipped me over the edge was not health-related, but price: standing desks are finally affordable. While I always knew they were better for you I couldn’t justify the expense — revealing my great sense of self-worth – until now.
Let me give you a little background on my situation. I’ve been working from a home office for four years. I previously worked in an office where I spent a lot of time sitting. But I was up often for meetings, coffee breaks, co-worker visits, and so on.
Then I started working from home and I became sedentary for 10 hours a day. That was only for work though: I often finished work then settled into the couch for the evening. Some days I would clock less than 1,000 steps, all day. Not good.
Sitting for extended periods is really bad for your health. Not only does it make your back stiff, but it also reduces blood flow, compresses your organs, affects your posture and generally makes you feel sluggish. Sit for most of the day, five days (or more) per week, and you’re in for a world of pain — and possible heart trouble.
Sitting for extended periods is really bad for your health.
I started out with a makeshift desk and one of those cheap and awful “office chairs” you find everywhere for around $30. After dealing with this setup for a while I finally bought a cheap Ikea desk. A year later, considering how much time I spent looking at screens, I invested in a pair of 4K monitors. The year after, I got a fancy gaming chair. Finally, after years of working from home, I’ve gotten around to a standing desk.
If I could do it all again, I’d reverse the order of my investments.
Yes, 4K monitors are better for my eyes, but I don’t plug them in every day so their impact is not very wide-ranging. The chair has undeniably made a difference to my posture and reduced back pain. But sitting for extended periods of time is not good no matter how fancy your chair. You simply have to spend less time sitting.
The desk is the one constant in my working life. Whether I’m standing, sitting, using external monitors or just working on my laptop, it’s on my desk. I never realized it before, but my desk is the most important piece of equipment I own. It’s also the one with the most transformative potential for my health.
The best part is that standing desks are really affordable now.
My desk, surprisingly enough, has the most transformative potential for my health.
The standing desk I went for is one of the best-rated ones on Amazon. There are several different configurations available, from manual crank-type desks to single- and dual-motor systems. You can get the frame on its own or opt for a tabletop and frame combo. Long story short: there’s a standing desk option for every situation and every budget.
I went for the FlexiSpot E5 standing desk. It’s a fancy dual-motor configuration with programmable height presets and a “get off your ass” alert. I went for the higher-end option because a discount code on the site shaved $80 off the price. I’d recommend you cross-check between Flexispot’s site and Amazon for that reason. One commenter on Amazon said they saved $200, so just keep an eye out.
The cheapest single-motor option is $299.99 with discount code BACK50 ($349.99 MSRP). There’s also an even cheaper dual-motor version, coming out at $269.99 using coupon code NEW100 ($369.99 MSRP). All three include tabletops, so go frame-only if you already have a tabletop at home or want to source one elsewhere.
If you want to save a little more, there are manual crank and standing desk converter options from as little as $99.99.
What’s it like to actually use a standing desk?
Let me walk you through setup and use. The FlexiSpot E5 frame came in a heavy box (76lbs/35kgs), but it was very easy to assemble. I’ve not built an Ikea standing desk but you get the analogy: you get a couple Allen keys and bolts in the box with clear step-by-step instructions to follow. All told I’d say I had the desk built in about a half-hour. I went for black, but there are gray and white frame options too.
My first impression of the FlexiSpot E5 was that it is very well built. It has a fair bit of heft to it and the powder-coated double steel tubing is very well machined. There are no issues with stability and I have zero doubt this thing will stand the test of time. The frame has a 5-year warranty and the motors, two or three depending on where you buy it. If you’re at all worried about the motors burning out, they can be bought separately via the manufacturer’s website.
My first impression of the FlexiSpot E5 was that it is very well built.
If you have a tabletop at home already, the E5 adjusts to fit tabletop widths between 43.3-70.9 inches (110-180cms). The prefabricated MDF tabletop I got comes in a variety of styles, colors, and shapes. It’s serviceable but nothing spectacular.
I did appreciate the pre-drilled holes on the bottom for easier assembly. And the two cable holes in the tabletop made things neater than my old tabletop.
Swapping tabletops is as simple as unscrewing the frame from the old tabletop and screwing the new one onto it. This takes about five minutes — just loosen the frame and expand its width to fit the new tabletop.
The dual-motor system made short work of both of my setups. I started out with my laptop, spare monitor, and some wireless peripherals, maybe 15kgs in total. I later switched to my full desktop rig — around 40kgs including monitor arms, two screens, full-sized speakers, and more — and didn’t notice any difference. The E5 is rated for up to 275lbs (125kg) so regardless of how many monitors you’re packing, it will manage.
The dual motors travel at 1.5 inches per second (3.8cm/sec) at less than 50dB, powered by a 100-240V AC wall plug. It takes around 15 seconds to go from the E5’s lowest height of 24.4 inches (110cms) to its high point of 49.2 inches (180cms). There’s a slight speed-ramp as you start raising or lowering the desk. There’s also a “dampening” effect as you reach the upper or lower limits. The three-stage constrcution of the legs means the E5 is faster to raise or lower than two-stage frames.
Even at full height, the FlexiSpot E5 is very stable with only the tiniest bit of wobble.
Operation is thus very smooth so you don’t have to worry about spilling your coffee. Even at full height, the E5 is very stable with only the tiniest bit of wobble.
All your cables (as well as those of the E5 itself) sit out of sight in cable management trays under the desk. A control box also sits under the desk in one of these trays. Both motors, the AC power supply, and the small control panel plug into it.
The control panel screws into the bottom of your tabletop on whichever side you prefer. It has seven buttons: up and down, three presets, a reminder button for setting sit-stand alerts (the “A” button), and a save button (“M”). The control panel only lights up when in use.
Saving preset heights is a simple affair. Raise or lower the desk to the desired height, hit the “M” button and then the 1, 2, or 3 to save it under that number. You can then quickly adjust the desk’s height to your perfect settings with the touch of a button.
Setting a timer to alert you when you’ve been sitting for too long is a good idea. You can stop it when the buzzer goes off by adjusting the height of the desk. Ignore it and it’ll go off again in five minutes. Unlike activity reminders on a smartwatch, this is one alert you ought to pay attention to.
I cannot recommend a standing desk enough for your home office.
All told, I love the FlexiSpot E5 and I only wish I had bought one sooner. I cannot recommend a standing desk enough for your home office. The combination of build quality, preset heights, smooth operation, super-stable construction — not to mention a nice discount right now — is too good to pass up.
In the short-term, you might notice your back is a little less stiff after a day at work. But it’s the long-term health benefits that cannot be overstated. The less time you spend sitting, the longer and healthier your life will be. It’s that simple.
In the first few days of using this desk, I noticed a feeling in my back like when you walk around a museum for too long. I then realized standing all day is just as bad as sitting and switched things up. The name of the game is to sit and stand, not one or the other. Variety is the spice and after a couple of weeks doing both (with an emphasis on standing), I just felt good all round. Less tired, less stiff, even less grumpy if you can believe that.
I have a little hip twister pad I stand on to keep my back active throughout the day so that probably helped. My colleague and standing desk aficionado Jimmy Westenberg tells me I should pick up a standing desk mat to mix things up for my feet and that wearing trainers tends to be even better for your posture. If I feel this good after two weeks I can only imagine what I’ll feel like in a few years.
I felt less tired, less stiff, and even less grumpy at the end of the day.
It took me several years to finally get around to investing in a standing desk. Now that I have, it is the most important piece of office furniture I own. Thinking back on all those years I spent hunched over a static desk makes my back hurt just thinking about it. Don’t make the mistake I did friends: get yourself a standing desk sooner rather than later.