How to Use a Standing Desk Correctly: A Guide to Ergonomic Positioning

Standing desks have emerged as a popular alternative to traditional office desks, offering potential health and productivity benefits. While the adoption of standing desks in offices and homes across the world increases, it is crucial to understand how to use them correctly to maximise the advantages they offer. Ergonomics plays a pivotal role in the proper usage of standing desks, ensuring that work posture does not contribute to strain or discomfort.

The transition to a standing desk should be gradual to allow the body to adapt to the new working posture. Users need to be aware of the correct desk height and monitor positioning to prevent musculoskeletal issues that could arise from improper alignment. Adjusting the desk so that the elbows are at a 90-degree angle and the top of the monitor is at or just below eye level can help maintain neutral body positioning.

The health benefits of standing desks, including reduced risks of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer for those who stand regularly, can only be reaped if they are used properly. It’s important to alternate between sitting and standing, as prolonged periods in a standing position can lead to its own set of health issues. 

Those incorporating standing desks into their routines should aim for a balance, moving throughout the day to avoid the pitfalls of both sedentary lifestyles and excessive standing.

Understanding Standing Desks

Standing desks, also known as height-adjustable desks or sit-stand desks, are designed to promote a dynamic work style that allows the user to alternate between sitting and standing. The principle behind their use is rooted in ergonomics—the science of optimising products for human use—aiming to enhance comfort and efficiency whilst mitigating health risks associated with prolonged sedentary behaviour.

To properly utilise a standing desk, the individual needs to adjust the desk to the correct height. Their elbows should be at a 90-degree angle when typing, and the top of the monitor should be at or slightly below eye level. This arrangement helps maintain good posture and reduces strain on the neck and shoulders.

The transition from a traditional desk to a standing desk requires a period of adaptation. A person should start with short durations of standing and gradually increase them to avoid discomfort.




Begin with 30-minute standing intervals.


Slowly increment standing time as comfort allows.

For optimal health benefits, it's recommended to regularly fluctuate between sitting and standing. Alternating positions aids in maintaining blood circulation and can reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders. A sit-stand desk should provide a seamless transition between these positions, ensuring the user's workflow remains uninterrupted.

Investing in an ergonomically designed office chair is also crucial when sitting. It should support the natural curve of the spine and encourage an upright seated posture.

Optimising Desk Height

Proper desk height is crucial for comfort and ergonomics, especially when you spend long hours at a standing desk. To prevent strain and injury, it is imperative to set the height of the desk to align with the user's body dimensions.

Finding the Right Desk Height

You should adjust the desk such that the elbows are at a 90-degree angle when resting on the desk surface. This posture ensures that arms are comfortable and that the shoulder muscles are not unduly taxed. 

To determine the optimal desk height, you can stand upright, relax their shoulders, and bend their elbows to 90 degrees. The surface of the desk should meet the hands without the need to raise or drop the shoulders.

Desk Height Range for Different User Heights

User's Height

Approximate Desk Height

5'0" (152 cm)

36 in (91 cm)

5'6" (168 cm)

39 in (99 cm)

6'0" (183 cm)

42 in (107 cm)

6'6" (198 cm)

45 in (114 cm)

These figures provide a general guide and might require fine-tuning based on individual arm lengths and body proportions.

Adjusting to Laptop Use

When a laptop is used on a standing desk, additional considerations come into play. The height of the monitor should be adjusted so that the top of the screen is at or slightly below eye level. This position helps reduce the risk of neck strain from looking too far up or down.

However, this ideal monitor positioning can cause the keyboard to be too high for comfortable typing.

To address this, a separate keyboard and mouse can be used, placed at a height where the elbows can maintain that 90-degree angle. The laptop can then be elevated using a stand or a secondary monitor can be installed to ensure the screen is at the correct height, while the keyboard remains in an ergonomically sound position.

Correct Standing Posture

To optimise ergonomics and minimise discomfort, correct standing posture at a standing desk is essential. It involves aligning elbows and wrists properly, positioning the monitor and keyboard strategically, and maintaining an overall good posture.

Aligning Your Elbows and Wrists

You should adjust the height of your desk so your elbows are at a 90-degree angle when typing. The wrists must remain straight and in-line with the forearms to prevent strain. An ergonomic keyboard may further enhance comfort and wrist position. 

Here's a brief checklist for elbow and wrist alignment:

  • Elbow angle: 90 degrees
  • Wrist alignment: Straight with forearms
  • Keyboard: Ergonomic design preferred

Positioning the Monitor and Keyboard

The monitor should be at eye level to prevent eye strain and neck pain. You should ensure the top of the screen is not higher than their eye line. The keyboard must be positioned to allow easy access while maintaining the 90-degree elbow angle. This setup reduces the risk of leaning forward or backward, which can compromise the spine's natural alignment and potentially lead to back issues.

A wireless keyboard can help you position your keyboard exactly where it’s needed, without the fuss of a wire which may get in the way.

Ideal monitor and keyboard positioning:

  • Monitor height: Top of the screen at eye level
  • Monitor distance: An arm's length away
  • Keyboard placement: Directly in front, easily reachable

Maintaining Good Posture While Standing

You should stand with feet shoulder-width apart and distribute your weight evenly between both feet. A slight bend in the knees can prevent stiffness. Using an anti-fatigue mat adds cushioning and encourages subtle movements of the feet, ankles, and legs, which can further support your posture and reduce strain on the back. Shoulders should be relaxed, and the spine should maintain its natural curve.

Key components of good standing posture:

  • Feet: Shoulder-width apart, weight evenly distributed
  • Knees: Slightly bent to avoid stiffness
  • Back: Neutral spine, avoiding excessive arching or slouching
  • Shoulders: Relaxed, not hunched

Enhancing Comfort and Avoiding Discomfort

Maximising the benefits of a standing desk involves taking steps to boost comfort and prevent discomfort. Employing anti-fatigue mats, choosing the right footwear, and regular movement (such as stretching) can help maintain energy levels while mitigating fatigue and back pain.

Using Anti-Fatigue Mats

An anti-fatigue mat is designed to cushion the feet, which reduces strain on the legs and lower back. It encourages subtle movements of the leg muscles, which improves blood flow and reduces overall fatigue. Users should select a mat with enough cushioning to provide support, yet firm enough to maintain stability while standing.

Choosing Appropriate Footwear

The right shoes play a crucial role in comfort levels when using a standing desk. Footwear should have adequate arch support and cushioning but remain flexible to promote natural foot movement. High heels and flat-soled shoes are often not recommended as they can contribute to discomfort and back pain.

Incorporating Movement and Stretching

Frequent movement and stretching maintain muscle flexibility and energy, preventing the negative effects of static standing. Incorporating simple stretches or positional changes every 30 minutes can be beneficial. Legs, back, and shoulder stretches should be emphasised to offset tension and promote continual blood flow, which aids in comfort and concentration.

Proper Use of Accessories

Accessories can drastically improve your experience while using a standing desk; selecting the right ergonomic chair and setting up monitor arms and supports are essential to achieving a comfortable and productive workspace.

Selecting an Ergonomic Chair

An ergonomic chair is a cornerstone of any desk setup, especially important for those times when you transition to a sitting position. 

The chair should offer a height that aligns the knees at a 90-degree angle when seated, with feet flat on the ground. It is imperative to look for chairs that provide adjustable lumbar support to maintain the spine's natural curve.

Learning how to properly sit at a computer may sound trivial, but there are many important aspects you should be aware of to ensure you’re not doing any long-term damage to yourself.

Here's a checklist for the ideal ergonomic chair:

  • Height Adjustable: The chair's height should be easily adjustable, ideally through a pneumatic lever.
  • Lumbar Support: Look for adjustable lumbar support to fit the inward curve of the lower back.
  • Swivel Ability: The chair should swivel freely to allow for easy access to different parts of the desk.
  • Seat Depth and Width: The seat should have enough width and depth to support any user comfortably. Typically, the depth from the front to the back of the seat should be enough so that the user can sit with their back against the backrest whilst leaving approximately 5-10 cm between the back of the knees and the seat of the chair.
  • Armrests: Armrests should be adjustable to allow the user's arms to rest comfortably, with shoulders relaxed.

Setting Up Monitor Arms and Supports

Monitor arms and supports are indispensable accessories for a standing desk setup, as they help to position the monitor at the ideal height and distance to prevent strain. The top of the monitor screen should be at or slightly below eye level, and about 50-70 cm away from the eyes, to minimise eye strain. Most monitor arms offer the versatility to tilt, swivel, and adjust the monitor easily, thus catering to different postures throughout the day.

Below is a guideline for setting up monitor arms and supports:

  • Monitor Height: The monitor should be placed so the top of the screen is at or just below eye level.
  • Distance: The monitor should be around 50-70 cm from the eyes.
  • Tilt: The monitor should tilt back slightly, around 10 to 20 degrees, to ensure that the user is looking down at a slight angle to the centre of the screen.
  • Swivel and Rotation: The ability to swivel or rotate the monitor is useful for sharing the screen with visitors or accessing ports and cables.

Health Considerations of Standing Desks

Employing a standing desk can bring about significant health advantages, but it's important to understand the correct use to prevent discomfort and health issues. This section explores the balance needed, the potential impacts on existing health conditions, and how to leverage standing desks for better circulation and energy.

Alternating Between Sitting and Standing

Experts recommend alternating between sitting and standing to prevent the fatigue associated with prolonged periods in one position. A balanced ratio to aim for could be to stand for 15 minutes every hour, with regular adjustments based on individual comfort and fatigue levels.

  • Fatigue Management: To prevent fatigue, you might use a timer to remind themself to switch postures regularly.
  • Ergonomic Adjustment: Ensure the standing desk is set to the correct height to maintain proper posture while alternating positions.

Understanding the Impact on Health Problems

Standing desks can influence various health issues, and their use should be tailored to individual needs:

  • Heart Disease and Obesity: Prolonged sitting is associated with increased risks of heart disease and obesity. Standing desks can decrease these risks by encouraging standing, during which the body burns more calories compared to sitting.
  • Diabetes and Blood Sugar Levels: After eating, blood sugar levels typically rise, and standing rather than sitting can lower this spike, which may be particularly beneficial for those managing diabetes.

Promoting Blood Circulation and Energy

Standing desks can assist with enhancing blood circulation, potentially reducing the likelihood of developing varicose veins, and can elevate energy levels:

  • Regular Breaks: Incorporating breaks to stand and walk can promote better blood flow, combating the stationary blood flow that can lead to varicose veins.
  • Increased Energy: Standing periodically can help maintain high energy levels, mitigating the afternoon slump many experience while sitting for extended periods.

By following the guidelines above, individuals can make the most out of their standing desk, promoting health benefits and avoiding potential health complications.

Addressing Specific Pain Points

When using a standing desk, it's important to configure your setup to prevent discomfort. This involves adjusting your desk and adopting habits that support your body's natural posture. Below are targeted measures to address pain in specific areas.

Combating Lower Back Pain

To reduce lower back pain, ensure the desk height allows for a neutral spine position. Your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle, which prevents slouching. Introducing lumbar support, such as a small pillow or a specially designed support, can minimise the stress on the lower back. 

Additionally, standing on an anti-fatigue mat can encourage subtle movements, engaging multiple muscle groups and alleviating pressure on the spine.



Adding lumbar support

Maintains natural spine curvature

Using anti-fatigue mats

Reduces pressure on spine

Alleviating Foot and Leg Discomfort

For those experiencing foot or leg discomfort, a footrest or footstool can make a significant difference. By allowing the user to shift weight and change positions, a footrest can help to activate leg muscles and reduce strain. Also, periodic stretching of the calves and hamstrings can relieve tension.

  • Use a footrest: Helps maintain balance and encourages circulation.
  • Stretch regularly: Aids in relaxation of hamstrings and calf muscles.

Preventing Wrist and Arm Strain

Wrist and arm strain can be prevented by ensuring that the keyboard and mouse are placed at a comfortable height, allowing the wrists to remain flat and the arms to fall naturally at the sides. Arm supports can also be beneficial, providing a restful position for the forearms and easing the risk of conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injury (RSI).

  • Adjust keyboard and mouse height: Keeps wrists in a neutral position.
  • Install arm supports: Relieves pressure from wrists and forearms.

Managing Fatigue and Energy

When using a standing desk, maintaining energy while managing fatigue is crucial. Strategic breaks and specific exercises can significantly enhance your experience.

Using Breaks Effectively

You should take regular breaks to prevent tiredness and sustain energy levels. A methodical approach such as the Pomodoro Technique, which suggests a short break every 25 minutes followed by a longer break after four cycles, can be instrumental. 

A simple, structured schedule for breaks could look like this:

  • Work: 25 minutes
  • Short break: 5 minutes
  • Repeat: 4 times
  • Long break: 15-30 minutes

During these breaks, engaging in activities unrelated to work helps to recharge mentally.

Standing Desk Exercises

To combat fatigue and enhance energy at a standing desk, a user can perform certain exercises. These exercises promote circulation and muscle engagement. 

Here are two suitable exercises:

  1. Calf Raises:
    • Stand straight, feet shoulder-width apart.
    • Raise heels off the ground, then slowly lower.
    • Repeat: 10-15 times.
  2. Standing Desk March:
    • March on the spot, bringing knees up high.
    • Aim for a steady pace and continue for 1-2 minutes.

These physical activities are designed to keep you refreshed and invigorated, serving as a practical tool to manage your energy and alleviate fatigue throughout the workday.

Practical Tips for Workspace Setup

In aligning your workspace for optimal use of a standing desk, attention to ergonomics and desk accessories' placement is paramount. These practices not only improve comfort but also sustain energy levels and focus during both standing and sitting periods.

Arranging Desk Accessories

  • Monitor: Position the monitor at eye level to prevent neck strain. The top of the screen should be in line with one's eyes, and the distance should be about an arm's length away.
  • Keyboard and Mouse: Use a keyboard tray to ensure the keyboard and mouse are at a comfortable height. They should allow for a slight bend at the elbows when typing or using the mouse, with wrists in a neutral position.





Slightly below elbow height

Neutral, flat


Same as the keyboard

Neutral, flat

  • Desk Accessories: Keep frequently used items within arm's reach to minimise reaching and twisting. Less used items can be placed further away to avoid clutter.

Adapting to Various Work Tasks

  • For writing tasks: An external keyboard and mouse are essential when alternating between sitting and standing positions to maintain ergonomic comfort. Adjust the desk height so that forearms are parallel to the floor while typing.
  • For reading or referencing documents: Position documents at eye level using a document holder or a second screen if required. This alignment reduces head movement and can help sustain concentration.
  • When attending virtual meetings, adjust the webcam to be at eye level. This may involve placing the webcam on a stack of books or a stand to ensure your eyes are in line with the camera.

Final Tips and Guidelines

Proper use of a standing desk is crucial for maximising comfort and minimising the risk of body pains. These final tips and guidelines focus on the key aspects of ergonomics and equipment that significantly impact one's experience with standing desks.

Following Ergonomic Guidelines

  • Monitor Height: Position the monitor so that the top of the screen is at or just below eye level. This helps reduce neck strain and maintains a natural viewing angle.

Checklist Item


Monitor Distance

Place the screen approximately arm’s length away.

Eye Level

Ensure the top third of the screen is aligned with one's eyes.

Keyboard and Mouse Position

The elbows should be at a 90-degree angle when using them.

  • Body Posture: Maintain a neutral body posture. Shoulders should be relaxed, elbows close to the body, and wrists not bent while typing or using a mouse.

Investing in Quality Standing Desk Equipment

  • Desk Accessories:

    • A sit-stand desk converter allows for easy transition between sitting and standing.
    • Consider using an anti-fatigue mat to reduce discomfort and fatigue while standing.
  • Support Equipment:
    • Invest in an adjustable chair that provides proper lumbar support for the times one chooses to sit.
    • If using a laptop, one might benefit from a separate keyboard and mouse to maintain ergonomic posture.

Cookies in ChairOffice

We use cookies to give you the best experience with us and track our marketing. You are free to manage cookies via your browser settings at any time (Allow/Remove). By continuing to use the site you confirm are happy with our privacy policy.