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Standing Desk Mechanisms: A Guide on Standing Desks in 2023

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We all know excessive sitting is wrong, but so is standing up for too long; so how are we supposed to outfit our home offices? Enter sit-stand desks! These handy gadgets are outfitted with various mechanisms to help lift and lower your tabletop at will. That said, there’s no single perfect standing desk mechanism, which you’ll quickly find out. Continue reading this quick primer to learn more.

Types of Standing Desk Mechanisms

Here’s a brief overview of the different types of standing desks on the market today.

Electric Standing Desk Mechanisms

An electric standing desk is pretty simple to operate and can quickly shift between different standing heights. They rely on electric motors to lift the tabletop.

You can raise or lower your tabletop using a few buttons without any physical effort. There are also two general types of electric standing desks: single-motor and dual motors.

Electric desks offer more convenience but are typically pricier than their manual counterparts. Electric standing desks also come in various materials, from wood to glass.

Pneumatic Standing Desk Mechanisms

A pneumatic desk has a reasonably simple working principle: Once engaged, one or two gas cylinders will inflate and lift the desk upward.

Your desk’s weight will decrease until it reaches your preferred height. Pneumatic desks work quickly and silently, plus they have longevity because they lack electronics.

Two general types of pneumatic standing desks are single and double-gas cylinder models.

Double-cylinder pneumatic desks are connected at the legs for a more stable and balanced adjustment.

Hydraulic Standing Desk Mechanisms

Hydraulic standing desks stray from the path of their pneumatic cousins. Instead of relying on gas cylinders or pistons, they use pressurized fluid, often oil.

The downside is that hydraulic desks are typically slower than their electric counterparts and may leak oil when damaged.

Manual Standing Desk Mechanisms

This is the simplest standing desk mechanism because it lacks a motor or electric parts. It’s a simple tabletop with a hand crank that lets you adjust the desk’s height manually.

Because of the simplicity of their operation and construction, manual standing desks are typically the most affordable option, save for standing desk converters.

Unfortunately, they’re the slowest-moving option and require the most physical exertion to raise or lower.

Counterbalance Standing Desk Mechanisms

Counterbalance desks sound complex, but they’re fairly simple. Pneumatic standing desks are an excellent example of them.

They operate using either gas or springs. As their name implies, the weight of your desktop is counterbalanced by appropriately calibrated springs or gas cylinders.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Standing Desk Mechanism

Here are the details to consider before picking up a new adjustable-height desk.

Weight Capacity

This extends to both your tabletop and standing desk legs. Note that some standing desk mechanisms have different weight capacities.

Let’s take a pneumatic desk, for instance. These desks can comfortably support 30-50 lbs. of equipment without issue.

Check out L-shaped standing desks if you keep many heavy items around your office. These desks typically have more legs for a greater carrying capacity.

Speed and Noise

The perfect home office should be quiet and efficient, an environment you can be productive. To match this, your sit-stand desk should be quick and quiet as it rises or falls to different heights.

Pneumatic desks are relatively quiet since they operate with gas. They’re also quick to adjust, but they’ll lose internal pressure over time.

This also applies to electric height-adjustable desks. An electric desk with a stronger motor will generate more noise during operation than a similar pneumatic desk.


The main selling point of adjustable standing desks is their adjustability, so you’d better ensure you get a desk that’s the perfect height for you!

Your desk height should be comfortable, whether you sit or stand. Try finding a model with a height range of 22.6″- 48.7.”

This should be comfortable for most people and makes the desk more versatile in a shared workspace. It’ll allow for greater stability if you’re not regularly adjusting your desk.


Depending on their complexity, adjustable desks can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

Electric desks can range from $500 to $2500, but those are fully-kitted models. If budget is a concern, stick to a manual desk or a converter.


As mentioned earlier, various standing desks operate with different mechanisms. These parts are useful for height adjustment, but not everyone is capable of fixing their electric standing desks.

If your desk has any electronic components, avoid bringing drinks to the table. Any spills can considerably shorten your desk’s working life and require repairs.

Avoid fidgeting with your desk’s mechanisms, and remember to stay within the weight limit so your table is not overloaded.

Benefits of Using a Standing Desk Mechanism

The following sections should make comparing between standing and regular desks easier. Let’s start with the benefits.

Health Benefits

A big draw for standing desks is the potential health improvements it offers.

With a manual or pneumatic standing desk, you can cause these issues to cease. Standing more will engage more of your muscles and can improve your posture.

You can also enhance comfort with a standing desk mat for your home office space!

Increased Productivity

Manual, pneumatic, and electric desks all share this vital benefit: boosting productivity. Swapping between sitting and standing positions is an excellent way to stimulate the body.

It’s also easier to fidget by shifting your weight when standing, which can help you focus.

Customization Options

The main benefit of an adjustable standing desk is being able to customize it to the perfect height.

You no longer have to work in one position and can choose any position according to your personal preference.

Handy users can also install shelving under their desktops for more office functionality. Just ensure you don’t drill through a motor during installation!


Wood tabletops may not seem too green, but some high-quality standing desks feature bamboo tabletops.

Pneumatic standing desks can also help lower your electricity consumption since they’re gas cylinder-operated and don’t use energy when rising or lifting.

Potential Drawbacks and Health Risks of Standing Desk Mechanisms

Apart from the issues mentioned below, you may find yourself troubleshooting standing desk issues, especially if your current desk is getting long in the tooth.

Limited Leg Space

Though some desk models offer more legroom, you won’t have much legroom with a regular standing desk.

Fortunately, many desks have mechanisms to adjust their height for a more comfortable working experience. Make sure to care for your motor and don’t exceed your desk’s weight limit.

Prolonged Standing Issues

While standing desks are generally better for your health, forcing yourself to stand for long periods can lead to a few issues.

If you stand too long, you’ll increase your risk of developing varicose veins. Break up periods of standing with brief sitting breaks, then get up again.

Incompatibility with Existing Desks

If you have an existing desk you’d like to convert into a manual or pneumatic desk, you’re better off getting a desk riser or retrofitting the thing entirely.

Because of the parts involved, regular desks can’t easily be gutted and cobbled into standing desks unless you have the know-how and tool expertise.

Maintenance Requirements

As helpful as they may be, your adjustable desk will eventually give out, and maintenance may be complex or overly cumbersome.

This can be an issue, especially if you’re unfamiliar with how your electric desk’s motor and other parts function. Keep your instruction manual closed in case you need repairs.

Standing Desk Mechanism for ADHD

Adults or students with ADHD may have trouble focusing, but a suitable desk may be able to increase their engagement and help with productivity.

Benefits for ADHD

  • Extra Movement – Some workers with ADHD have seemingly excess energy. The added option of standing can help them burn through this energy while remaining productive.
  • Improved Focus – Concentrating on standing can improve your focus, whether you have ADHD or not.
  • May Prevent Inattentiveness – Shifting and improving your posture at work might result in improved communication and information retention.

Choosing the Right Mechanism

Unfortunately, this isn’t as simple as picking out a comfortable desk. The best standing desk will boil down to your preference.

Try different types of standing desks to get a better feeling of what works for you.

DIY and Custom Standing Desk Solutions

You can make your own or convert a sitting desk for handy types who don’t want to overspend on a table.

Converting an Existing Desk

Let’s say your current desk’s height is perfect, but you’d like to give it a more excellent height range. You don’t need to get a whole new setup.

Look into standing desk converters or elevators (sometimes called risers) instead for a cheaper alternative.

You can also test what your desk will look like by grabbing a few sturdy boxes and propping up your work equipment. Take care, as this isn’t very stable!

Building a Custom Standing Desk

If you want to customize your workspace and frame and add other features like cable brackets, you can build your manual (or electric) standing desk.

It’s the same general idea for electric standing desks; just add a dual or single motor and a set of linear actuators to ensure the desk rises properly.

Choosing the Right Hardware and Components

Constructing a manual desk is relatively simpler since you don’t need many electronic parts, but you’ll need a longer checklist for an electric standing desk.

Ensure you have a power supply and a dual or single motor to raise and lower your desk’s height.

If you’re handy with tech and willing to splurge, you can also get a control pad to make a programmable standing desk.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about how standing desk mechanisms work here.

What Is the Best Standing Desk Mechanism for Me?

Choosing an appropriate height adjustment mechanism will depend on your budget, preferred desk height, and the desk’s adjustment speed.

An electric standing desk is convenient if, for example, you’re constantly adjusting your desk’s position because it adjusts quickly.

Pneumatic desks offer the same benefit but don’t run on electric power, so they can be moved freely around your workspace as needed.

How Do I Maintain My Standing Desk Mechanism?

The best way to maintain your desk’s mechanism is not to overload it. Hopefully, you’ve accounted for its max weight capacity and resisted the temptation to rest on it.

If you’re tired at work, sitting down instead of leaning on your desk is best.

Otherwise, maintenance is relatively standard: don’t spill liquids near the motor, and regularly clean your desk. Avoid keeping drinks on your desktop.

Are Manual Standing Desks Better Than Electric Ones?

Manual standing desks are the way to go if you only need a simple computer desk. However, this doesn’t necessarily make them better than electric standing desks.

An electric standing desk may have a higher weight capacity than a manual one and are easier to adjust. However, their price may be off-putting.

Despite being slower and requiring more effort to adjust, a manual desk lacks a motor to power it, so it’s more mobile, especially if you’re rearranging your workspace.

How Can I Make My Own Standing Desk Mechanism?

If your desktop in your office feels a little low, you might fancy building your desk mechanism to achieve your tabletop’s desired height.

Building your desk can be as simple as attaching the legs, tabletop, and motor. But if you want to build it from scratch, ensure you have access to power tools.

Are There Any Health Risks Associated With Using a Standing Desk Mechanism?

If you stand in place for too long with your electric standing desk, you risk muscle fatigue, especially in your legs.

Start with shorter periods of standing interspersed with sitting, and increase the time as your body adjusts.

You may also experience swelling as blood pools in your lower legs. Otherwise, the increased energy expenditure and effort to stay upright are worth it for your health.


Whether your standing desk is gas-, crank-, or button-operated, it’ll benefit you to understand how this helpful piece of furniture works.

Your height-adjustable desk may give out eventually, and familiarizing yourself with its mechanisms can help you identify what’s wrong faster. Consider how often you adjust your workspace and whether you need more rotation speed or a tabletop with a greater weight tolerance.