Tips for Taller Stand Up Desk and Treadmill Desk Users
It’s not always easy being tall. Vertically-blessed, prospective stand up desk and treadmill desk users often run into one simple problem: the industry hasn’t quite reached their level. Even the best of desks are generally designed to ANSI/BIFMA certification standards, and so come with a 22″-47″ range to accommodate 95% of the population. According to US census statistics that means anyone over 6’2″ is going to find themselves out of this range. Add a treadmill deck under your feet and anyone over 5’9″ would be excluded. WorkWhileWalking has added its voice to the cause for a new ANSI/BIFMA standard to apply to desks being used for walking workstations.
It’s important to realize the implications of ANSI/BIFMA when shopping for an adjustable height desk. If you’re any taller than 5’9″ (or 5’4″ on a treadmill) then desks built to ANSI/BIFMA standards – which include the majority of manufacturers – are going to have some shortcomings you should be aware of prior to investing in a new desk. Even desks that are not ANSI/BIFMA certified still generally top out at 47″ or 48″ in height, with few exceptions. They’re all after the same core market, and aren’t motivated to pursue the child market on the low end, or the NBA players on the high end of the range.
This has three implications for tall people: stability, monitor height and keyboard height.
Focus on the Ergonomics
All adjustable height desks will become less stable as they reach the last few inches of leg extension. This is just basic physics; the telescoping tubes have less and less overlap between them and so the desks become more susceptible to left-right shake (lateral stability) as they get taller. front-to-back shake (longitudinal stability) will also increase with desk height, naturally, so longer feet are a good thing to look for.
Monitor height is a simple solution; use the Ergotron LX “Tall Pole” version if you’re over 5’10” to make sure the top edge of your monitor aligns with the zero-degree sight line (i.e. straight line perpendicular to the floor) while holding your head straight up. However, all monitor arms – even the most rigid, like the Ergotron LX – will shake with a heavy monitor on the end. To completely eliminate shake consider a wall-mount arm. Divorcing the monitor from the desk prevents instability in the desk from translating into the monitor.
Keyboard height is a different matter. To determine how high a desk you’re going to need, stand straight up with your forearms at just lower than a 90 degree angle to the floor, and then have someone measure the distance from the floor to your fingertips. That’s where you’ll need the keyboard to be for the best ergonomic position when standing. Add 5″ for the treadmill deck if you plan to walk at your desk.
One thing we like about the Leader 5 and ThermoDesk Stowable Ergonomic Keyboard Tray is their ability to rise slightly above the desk surface. For a tall user this can add an inch or two. Compare this to conventional trays which tend to lower the keyboard below the desk surface and you have a much higher range of height adjustability. Try to mount the keyboard tray as close to the edge of the desk as possible: doing so lets the keyboard tray elevate even further, giving you a little extra height. This is a double-edged sword, however. Sliding the keyboard further away from the desk will let you raise it higher than the desk, but it will also increase the “lever” on the entire desk – so unless you are using a wall-mounted monitor arm expect increased monitor shaking.
You can also gain more fingertip height by using an ergo keyboard that is elevated at the user edge (e.g the Microsoft Sculpt), extending the screw-threaded footpads on the feet of the desk, adding spacers underneath the four corners of the desk, or placing a spacer under your keyboard to raise it a bit. All of these are good solutions, and in combination will get you where you need to be.
iMovR’s ThermoDesk Electra rises well beyond the ANSI/BIFMA range to 51″, higher than the average desk, and our usual go-to recommendation for taller users. Their ThermoDesk Elite and Omega Everest desks also offer leg extensions that bring the desk up an additional 4 inches, to a max height of 54″.
The Wobble Factor
One other piece of advice we can proffer to the very tall deskers: all adjustable-height desks exhibit great rigidity until they reach the top end of their height ranges. The wider the table top and the more weight on the desk, the greater the momentum on the entire frame. If you think you might need to stretch your desk up to the very end, be careful how much weight you add to the tabletop, and consider using a 72″ versus 83″ top in a sit-to-walk configuration. With 48″ or 60″ tops the wiggle at maximum height extension is much less perceptible.
The plight of the vertically-endowed is a real one, and while a perfect sit-stand desk is still a ways off for our taller brethren, there are always workarounds available. Head over to our reviews section, where you can find all sorts of detailed info on desk risers, keyboard trays, and other desk accessories to help you make the most of your standing desk. Also check our Ergonomics 101 section, where we provide tips on getting the most ergonomic benefit out of your new workspace – a must-read for anyone thinking of making the switch.