Written by Claire Folland on 24 August 2020

Sit Stand and Height Adjustable Workstation Comparison

They may sound the same, however the nuance lies in the language!

A “sit-stand” desk implies a limited ability to adjust only to 2 “fixed” postures. As Certified Professional Ergonomists (CPE's), we prefer to use “height adjustable workstation”. This more accurate description immediately implies more features!

Height adjustable workstations allow the user to adjust the height of the work surface, not only to allow for regular variation of working postures but also to adapt to the demands of different tasks.

Sit, stand, perch, stretch, recline, collaborate, your equipment should readily adjust to work for you!

A height adjustable workstation also allows for the height of the work surface to be adjusted to the individual requirements that meets the physical dimensions of the individual user. Some of us are tall and some of us are more “vertically challenged”, a “standing” desk is not the same height for all users!

So what are the most important considerations when looking for the right height adjustable solutions for your project? 

Hint: there is lots to consider!

  • Universal design! When selecting any equipment, we must consider the variation in the physical dimensions of the people who will use it. We are not all the same height! The adjustable range must be sufficient to go low enough to allow for appropriate seated postures for shorter statures and also be able to go high enough to allow for taller users to work comfortably in standing postures. The adjustable height should provide the ability to adapt readily to sit, stand, perch, stretch and collaborate, whatever the task demands!
  • Does it meet the minimum standards?! In the table below you will find AS/NZS 4442:2018 Australian/New Zealand Standard minimum requirements for height adjustable workstations. However, as ergonomists, a sit to stand range that can include 580mm to 1300mm is preferable where possible. This enables the shortest user (>5th percentile) and tallest user (95th% percentile) to adjust the sitting and standing height to within a functional range.
Functional ClassificationWorktop height ranges (minimum requirements)
Sitting620 to 845mm
Standing≤975 to 1220mm

620 to 1220mm

  • Manual or electric? There are many different options available, from simple manual crank handle styles to electric motors that can include preset functions and counterbalance mechanisms. Manual crank handles can be slow and inconvenient to adjust and may not be appropriate for users with pre-existing injuries whilst electric motors may be a bit noisy. If the mechanism is too cumbersome or slow many users don’t bother using them and conversely, if the mechanism is too noisy many people feel awkward and reluctant when adjusting the desk in a quiet office environment. Many concerns can often be easily be overcome with education on the benefits of active postures, establishing a good culture in the office that encourages regular changes in working postures. If everyone is doing it......
  • What about the retrofitted desk top options? Desktop mounted equipment that features a height adjustable platform may seem like a simple, easy solution. However, whilst this solution may be appropriate in certain circumstances, it can inadvertently introduce other issues. Often this style of equipment can require heavy or awkward adjustments and introduce manual handling risk factors. Often they are not suitable for people with preexisting lower back or upper limb complaints. Remember, those employees that are interested in adjustable height (sit-stand desks) often have preexisting injuries that need to be considered as the introduction of some equipment may be inappropriate for their limitations. Other considerations include the ability of the equipment to handle multiple monitors where needed, the stability of the platform at standing heights (you don’t want it to wobble when holding expensive monitors and laptops!) as well as the ability of the existing desk to handle the weight of the equipment. Cost should also be an additional consideration with many retrofit solutions not being much cheaper than a stand-alone height adjustable desk.
  • Cost is an obvious factor when selecting the right equipment but remember, the financial considerations should not be limited to the price tag of the desk. Financial considerations of equipment selection are often allayed by the financial benefits. Employees represent 90% of the cost of running a business. Workers who are comfortable are more productive and have lower rates of absenteeism. Think of it as an investment with guaranteed returns! How much does it cost to have just one employee absent due to musculoskeletal discomfort from poor working posture? It can add up very quickly!
  • Interior fit outs that feature access to adjustable height workstations contribute to WELL, Green Star and Fitwel Ergonomic credits, recognising the importance of the user’s ability to adopt a variety of comfortable working postures.

As you can see, there is lots to consider!

Still a bit overwhelmed or confused? Get in touch with the team here at Alba Ergonomics, we are here to help!

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