What if you could get a burst of energy just by standing at your desk?

Over the past two months, I've tested two "standing desks" in my regular workday. They look like every other office desk, but can rise up to the height of a standing position. The idea is to encourage better posture, better health, and more active and energetic thinking.

The Rebel Desk Crank-Up 1000 costs $599 and comes with a white, teak, or glass top. I also tested the Rebel Treadmill 1000 which costs $649. The desk is 48-inches wide by 28-inches deep, or about the standard desk size. It lowers to 28-inches and rises to 48-inches.

This is the standing desk you want if you are mostly interested in the idea of raising and lowering a desk but don't really need any high-end features like a switch that raises and lowers the desk electronically. Instead, you turn a crank located on the front right of the desk. (At least it folds out of the way somewhat and doesn't look too obvious.)

The much trendier Teknion 30″ x 60″ Livello Counterbalance height adjustable table (shown to the left) costs $1,200 through a wholesale office supplier. At retail, you can expect to pay more like $2,995. The company doesn't offer a treadmill. I tested a model that's six feet wide. There are quite a few custom options with surfaces (like veneer or laminate) and having a rounded or knife edge. Mine had rounded edges. It lowers to 29 inches and up to 49 inches.

This is a wider, more expensive standing desk than the Rebel Desk. I kept both models in the same area and switched between them, alternating between sitting and standing (and walking on the treadmill), over the course of several weeks.

It took me a while to "adjust" to the desks. After working 13 years as a technology writer, for some reason I've never had a chance to work at a standing desk for long periods, unless you count my kitchen bar counter-top at home. (And, by the way, my wife does.)

First, there's the odd sensation of doing real work while standing. Your brain has to get used to the spatial adjustment. It's like working at an airport: possible but challenging at first. It only took me a few days, though--like learning to talk on a smartphone while you walk down a hallway. Maybe we were all meant to stand while we work, who knows?

The treadmill is an interesting idea. I know a few colleagues who swear by the idea. I found I could work fine using the Rebel Treadmill situated under the standing desk at full height when I used a lower speed setting like .5, but at the fastest 2.0 speed the desk starting shaking too much and I couldn't type as accurately. A curious thing happened, though. I decided to browse news sites and research while walking faster and it worked fine.

The Teknion standing desk is sturdier, looks a bit more elegant, and uses a tension-loaded lever. You can pull the lever to quickly raise the desk. An adjustment crank lets you change the tension level depending on how much gear you have sitting on the desk. More gear requires a bit more tension so that the desk slides up smoothly into place. I found it easier and faster to adjust the Teknion desk using the lever, which meant I went into a standing position more often. With the Rebel Desk, I knew I had to turn the crank to stand up.

I really wanted to do more than just work at the desks--I wanted to see if anything changed in my health. Over two months, I actually ended up losing about five pounds. I had changed my diet, so I can't say the standing desks were the only reason, but I can say I felt healthier and more motivated. I felt more energetic and tended to prefer the standing position. It took me a few weeks, though. I used the standing desks only for about 30 minutes per day at first. Eventually, I worked up to an hour work session a couple of times per day.

Could I have worked in a standing position even longer? I am not so sure. When I needed the most focus for long typing sessions and intense research, I had to sit down. I also debated about the cost. The desk I normally use costs about $200 at Ikea. There's something to be said for being able to stand, though, and the standing desks did give me more energy.

I recommend both models for different reasons. The Rebel Desk is cheaper and uses a crank, but it gets the job done. It felt a bit shaky but the price is reasonable. The Teknion Livello offers a wider workspace and adjusts much faster. It looks like a fine piece of office furniture, and I enjoyed using it in a lowered or raised position. It's remarkably stable.

If you do try one, I'm interested in your feedback. Let me know if you "adjust" quickly to working in a standing position. We're all unique. For me, standing worked wonders.

Published on: Nov 14, 2014