When I was designing my home office, I wanted to make the switch to a standing desk. But I hesitated--those things are expensive. I didn't want to lay out a ton of money for a standing desk when I wasn't really sure I'd stick with it.
My neck hurt from leaning over a keyboard all the time, however, so I figured out a solution--and I felt better after using it for just a few weeks. (There are a slew of other alleged health benefits of course. My colleague Jessica Stillman did a nice roundup on these a few years ago, here.)
Time goes on, the market evolves. There are some really good, inexpensive standing desk options now, ranging mostly from $100 to $499. We'll go through seven of them below.
There are other options out there too, so if you've had a really great experience with one that isn't on this list, please contact me here. Maybe we'll update this article or revisit the whole issue.
Let's start with what I use--call it an ersatz standing desk. It's the Alvin MiniMaster Adjustable Drafting Table. I'm quite happy with it, and it's hard to beat the price--just a shade over $120 at Amazon with Prime. I paired it with a very inexpensive barstool, which gives me something to sit on when I get tired but isn't so comfortable that I'd ever kick back on it all day long.
Caveats: First, the maximum adjusted height on this table is 40 inches, which isn't going to be high enough for anyone over 5-foot-9 or so. (Let's just say that's not an issue for me.) Second, there's no motor or crank--if you want to adjust the height, you have to take everything off the top and adjust the knobs on the sides. This doesn't bother me, but if you really want to raise and lower your desk five times a day, maybe it won't work.
Option No. 2 has been around forever--and yet, if I've seen it mentioned on any other comparison or review site, well, I don't remember it. It's the Safco Products 1923MO Muv Stand Up Desk With Keyboard Shelf, which runs about $195.
Although it's a different manufacturer, this looks like it's from the same metal-and-laminate family as my adjustable drafting table above. So why choose this one? Height adjustment: It goes up to 45 inches, which means a person standing up to about 6 feet tall could potentially use it. With 80 reviews and a 4.5 average rating on Amazon as of this writing, it has a lot of aficionados.
The review site The Wirecutter did an exhaustive comparison of standing desks, and this one emerged as their winner: the Ergo Depot Jarvis Bamboo. I can't possibly do justice to their entire review and recommendation, which runs 9,000 words. That's about one third the length of Ernest Hemingway's short novel The Old Man and the Sea, so tl;dr: They've tested a ton of desks.
They love this desk: sturdy, well constructed--and adjustable, with a motor that reviews say provides a smooth, powerful way to raise and lower the desk from standing to sitting positions. It can even come with memory presets, if you pay a little extra.
The problem for our rundown is that it lists from the manufacturer at $742. However, many reviewers have a solution: buy the unit without a desktop on Amazon for $525 (free shipping with Prime), then pair it with a tabletop from a hardware store or Ikea.
Speaking of Ikea, when I started exploring standing desks, that was one of my first stops. I remember an employee telling me he had people asking him almost every day when the Swedish furniture company would make a low budget standing desk, but they hadn't done it yet.
Lo and behold: They've entered the market. The Bekant, as it's known, has a motorized adjustment system. It also had a glowing review from Gizmodo last year. The price starts at $489, but it looks pretty professional and seems like a good option.
A year ago, my colleague John Brandon reviewed two standing desks in a head-to-head competition. One of these retails for about $2,995, which puts it way out of our budget, but the other, the Rebel Desk Crankup 2000, came in at $599 last year--and now the manufacturer has since dropped the price to $499.
Of course it's going to pale a bit in comparison to a desk six times its cost, but as Brandon wrote, the Rebel, which rises and lowers between 28 and 48 inches high, is a decent option if all you really want is a basic, functional standing desk. If you want to stay away from Ikea for some reason, you might consider it.
Next up, you can get a standing desk made out of paper.
Wait, here me out. There's a small company in New Haven, Connecticut, called Chairigami that designs furniture made out of triple-ply cardboard. So while this isn't exactly a 1980s-style power desk that announces, "I've arrived," I can envision some great uses for it--startups, co-working spaces, and of course, the tentative standing desk convert who isn't really sure whether this whole thing is for him or her.
There are two options: the $95 Kickstarter version (major drawback: it comes only in a 42-inch high configuration), and the $165 expanded version (with three size options: 38-inches, 42-inches, and 44-inches).
Finally, we have to conclude with this: the cheap option that started things out, which Colin Nederkoorn came up with about three years ago. It requires buying a series of inexpensive products from IKEA (total cost: $22), none of which is actually intended to be used as a desk, and assembling them to make a booster that goes on top of a regular desk. (You can find Nederkoorn's blog describing the hack here.)
If you don't mind doing a little work yourself, and if you can sacrifice a bit of beauty for short-term functionality, it's a great option. It's also probably worthwhile if you're working in an office where it might seem a little odd if you bought your own desk--I can imagine doing this at my office when I worked as an attorney for the U.S. government, for example.
Bottom line: You can try a functional, if unusual, standing desk for about the cost of a beer or two after work--and if you like it, you can step up to a real standing desk later. It's hard to argue with that.