4 Times When a Standing Desk is Not a Standing Desk

June 24, 2020
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Varidesk Pro Desk
standing desk versus sit-to-stand desk
A true adjustable-height desk can be used in the sitting or standing spectrum, as opposed to some standing desks that don’t reach down to sitting heights.

Standing desks have gone mainstream, yet there appears to be a bit of confusion about the different labels that both manufacturers and consumers use to describe the different types. Unfortunately it’s mayhem out there, with a lot of casual swapping of non-synonymous terms going on. Let’s clear things up a bit, shall we?

Alternative monikers for things that can allow you to get your work done unseated include standing desk, stand-up desk, sit-stand or sit-to-stand desk, sit-stand-walk desk, adjustable-height desk, desktop riser and desktop workstations, to name the most common. While some of these are just synonyms for the same thing, some mean completely different things.

For example, a standing or stand-up desk could be just that – a desk used only for standing. It could be fixed-height or adjustable-height. If the latter, it may have a short adjustment range designed to accommodate taller and shorter people only when standing. In other words, some standing desks do not lower down all the way to sitting heights, even though most do. It is the most popular, generic search term in Google, and hence many manufacturers prefer to use it even when they mean to indicate their product can adjust to both sitting and standing heights.

Sit-stand, sit-to-stand, sit-stand-walk and height-adjustable desk more strictly refer to desks that can be used both at sitting and standing heights. Sit-stand-walk desks, popularized by iMovR, are six- or seven-foot-wide desks that work in three modes: sitting, standing and treadmill desking, with enough space between the lifting legs to accommodate both an office walking treadmill and a full-sized office chair side-by-side.

Electric Kangaroo Desktop Riser
A desktop riser, or “desktop workstation” gives users the ability to stand without swapping out their fixed-height desk

Desktop risers and desktop workstations are devices that attach to the top of a fixed-height desk (e.g. VariDesk, Ergotron Workfit-T, Humanscale QuickStand and Winston Workstation) to allow users to change from sitting to standing without having to replace their entire desk. Some desktop riser manufacturers refer to their products as sit-stand desks, which is misleading as these products are not desks in and of themselves and cannot be used independent of an actual desk, adjustable-height or otherwise. Nevertheless, this habitual misnaming continues.

We’ve also noticed a problematic, bordering on lazy, trend of using the words “desk” and “table” interchangeably. A desk is properly a workstation for one individual, while a table is something for multiple people to use. Sit-stand meeting tables like the Synapse are designed for 4 to 14 individuals to gather around and hold their congress either seated or standing. Like with the desks, you can’t assume all standing conference tables can be used in a seated position as well; for example, Focal Upright’s Confluence Table is designed for “leaning” or standing only.

To learn more about these different options, see our reviews of Adjustable-Height Desks, Desktop Risers and Adjustable-Height Meeting Tables.

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