Working from the comfort of your couch certainly has its benefits, but it isn't exactly easy on your posture. As one chiropractor told us, an ideal work-from-home desk should accommodate both sitting and standing, as well as offer "the most versatility for changes of position to accommodate a variety of body types and postures." A standing-desk converter certainly falls in line with those orders, especially if you don't want to get a whole new desk, and while we've written about lots of ergonomic office furniture — including the best laptop stands, office chairs, and standing desks modifications.
Standing desks can be quite an investment -- upwards of $6,000 for top-tier, adjustable models. Even if you consider everything that goes into switching from your traditional desk, there's no guarantee you're going to love standing, especially all the time.
There are real benefits to standing at your desk rather than sitting down all day, and we've spent plenty of time gaming while standing ourselves. And while research around standing vs. sitting is still evolving, the common wisdom is that you shouldn't be sitting or standing all day: you should be doing both. But adjustable desks that can be used for both sitting and standing are expensive. It feels hard to justify the expense when you could easily use that money to buy a new graphics card or monitor.
The good news is there are a few ways around that expense. For example, changing your desk to let you stand while you work and play doesn't have to cost a bundle. Here are our recommendations for setting up a practical sit-stand desk for work and gaming across a number of budgets. We'll start with our favourite: the option that costs nothing.
Suppose you're not willing or capable of spending thousands of dollars on an adjustable desk. In that case, you might want to consider the idea of a temporary, stand-up conversion for your existing desk.
What are Standing Desk Converters?
Standing desk converters, also known as desktop risers or toppers, are adjustable units that you place on top of your existing desk. They give you the option of standing without getting rid of or moving your current desk. They usually feature a desktop surface with a separate keyboard tray. They are available in a variety of sizes, designs, and budgets. We're big fans of standing desk converters because they are usually the least expensive and easiest option to start standing and something you should consider if you're looking to keep your existing desk.
Finding the right standing desk converter to buy comes down to your height, computing equipment you use, space constraints, and budget. There are many great options out there that improve on old designs, and they are now less expensive than ever.
Frequently Asked Questions About Standing Desk
Summary of the proper way to use a standing desk
- Always adjust your standing desk to your elbows' height.
- Keep your neck tall, and your shoulders relaxed.
- Don't lock your knees while standing.
- Keep your screen at eye level.
- Keep your wrists straight and parallel to the desk surface.
A standing desk converter is a device that rests on top of your desk and raises your workstation up and down so you can sit or stand at work. They are smaller and generally less expensive than full standing desks.
It takes the average person around two weeks to become confident and standing hours on end. So don't be discouraged if you're noticing early fatigue. No pain, no gain.
When you start using your new standing desk, you might experience physical fatigue – a negative factor that outweighs the multiple benefits of a standing desk. Luckily, there are quick and simple ways to combat fatigue and enjoy improved posture, increased productivity, and more burned calories.
Why Get a Converter?
Besides the health benefits of standing, there are many reasons to consider a standing desk converter when shopping for a standing desk solution. Here are the main advantages of getting a converter:
- Price - If budget is your concern, a standing desk converter can be one of the most cost-effective ways to start standing at work. Not only is the unit itself commonly less expensive than a full-standing desk, but you also won't have the extra costs associated with removing, disposing, or donating your current desk. There are also additional cost savings when it comes to shipping. Due to their compact size, they're shipped with normal parcel carriers right to your door.
- Ease or Lack of Assembly - Assembling furniture is rarely enjoyable, and if you're like most of us that don't want to spend time building your desk, a standing desk converter may be best for you. Most of them are ready to go right out of the box, with maybe one or two small tasks like clipping on the keyboard tray. Most converters do not require any tools with assembly.
- Keep Your Current Desk - Keeping your existing desk or furniture is one of the most popular reasons to get a standing desk converter. If you have a desk you love or one with ample storage, it may not be realistic to get rid of it. A converter is a great compliment to any existing desk.
- Portability - A standing desk converter does allow you to change locations. Converters aren't light, but you could move them to another desk, the kitchen counter, or a dining table.
Overall, there are many advantages to getting a standing desk converter as an alternative to a full standing desk unit. However, there are some disadvantages of standing desk converters:
- Desktop Space While Standing – Standing desk converters in their raised position can leave you disconnected from items on your desk you may frequently use. While converters have their own desktop that raises with you, space can be limited. Many manufacturers now offer oversized models with a much larger desktop surface area than converters of the past. If you think this issue may impact your work, consider buying a 36-inch wide model or larger.
- Appearance – Some shoppers choose not to use a standing desk converter due to their looks. Converters are a very mechanical device that leans more towards practicality than aesthetics. Of course, this varies by unit. We're seeing many more sleek designs come onto the market, offering colours other than the ubiquitous black, such as white, grey, and some even offering wood desktop and keyboard tray surfaces.
- Limit of Value for Money – While standing desk converters can be a cost-effective alternative to a full standing desk, there is a limit to when it makes sense. Full-standing desks are getting less expensive, and for around $490, you can buy a quality electric standing desk. Some converters can come close to this range at a price and might cause you to question whether a converter makes sense given the relative prices. We recommend spending less than $300 on a converter to get the range of benefits they offer without losing any value for money on your investment.
- Operation With Heavy Items – If you're used to having multiple heavy monitors or a desktop-based setup, a manually-operated standing desk converter may not be the best solution. Manual standing desk converters are either coil spring or gas-strut operated, and the weight of the equipment on them directly impacts how easy it raises and lowers. A new alternative to consider is an electric standing desk converter. We recommend getting familiar with the weight limit of each product you're considering and how that relates to your own setup.
Ways To Convert
The IKEA hack
Piecing together some affordable odds and ends from IKEA is a very popular and affordable way to convert traditional desks to standing ones.
One of the oldest and affordable conversions originates from Colin Nederkoorn, which he calls the Standesk 2200.
The desk consists of the Lack side table, Viktor shelf, and the Ekby Valter bracket from IKEA, which together cost around $22 before tax. First, assemble the table, bolt the shelf onto the legs using the wall bracket, and sit it on top of your existing desk.
I built something very similar, albeit much larger and more expensive, back in 2012. It worked flawlessly for me for two years until I upgraded to a much more rigid and permanent standing desk.
- At as little as $22, it's one of the most affordable standing desk conversions available.
- It's sturdier than a stack of books, but may still wobble.
- Once assembled, it's very quick and easy to add to or remove from your existing desk.
- The height of the shelf (for your keyboard and mouse) is adjustable, but the height of the side table is fixed. You would need to place textbooks under the legs or shorten the legs with a saw to adjust this.
- It isn't easily disassembled. It may be difficult to store when not in use.
The coffee table method
A different approach to convert to a standing desk is to raise the height of your workspace, not by lifting your computer, but by raising the entire desk. I've seen some very precarious solutions offered by people on the Internet, such as raising the height of a sitting desk by simply resting each of the legs on a car jack. However, considering a kick to any one of the jacks could bring the whole deck down, it isn't a very advisable way to go about things.
However, what you can do is place the entire desk on top of a coffee table with roughly the same dimensions as your desk. This can raise the height of your desk anywhere from one to two feet, which will still require you to raise the monitor's height slightly. But at least it takes care of the hard part: raising the working surface.
Plus, if it doesn't work out or you decide to upgrade to an actual standing desk, later on, you will have a new, albeit probably slightly scratched, coffee table for your living space.
- This option maintains the largest amount of working area by raising the entire desk instead of lifting only the keyboard, mouse, and laptop or monitor.
- It may be difficult to find a short enough coffee table and roughly the same dimensions as your desk.
- This is the most stable of all the DIY solutions.
- This is the most permanent of the options, as it will not be easy to lift your entire desk on or off of the coffee table as you go about your day.
- It would be best if you still had something to raise the monitor a few inches higher, but the keyboard and mouse should be around the correct height.
An adjustable lap desk
Another method of raising your laptop to standing height is to use an adjustable lap desk. It will work much like the IKEA hack method, but you can quickly adjust the height and angle of your workstation. Plus, it packs away quickly.
One drawback to this method is that there is no good way to raise your keyboard and mouse without using textbooks or purchasing another stand for your keyboard and mouse or trackpad.
- An adjustable lap desk is easily packed away and even portable, just in case you want to take it on business trips or to the coffee shop.
- The range of height and angle adjustments is better than other solutions.
- At roughly $35 to $60, it's still more affordable than many commercial standing desk conversion options and far more affordable than a dedicated standing desk.
- You will have to use something else to raise your keyboard and mouse.
- This is probably the least sturdy of all the options.
Make a standing desk with what you have - Free.
One of the best ways to try out the benefits of a standing desk is to make one yourself. That might sound not very easy, but it can be as simple and affordable as you want it to be. It can even cost you absolutely nothing if you're creative (or desperate) enough.
There are three important components to a standing desk for PC gamers: elevating the mouse, keyboard, and monitor(s). Anything else can stay where it is, as long as all the cables still reach. So, if you can find some materials around the house and put them under those things to raise them to your respective standing height, you have built yourself a standing desk. It may not look pretty, but your posture? That'll be looking real nice.
This method is quick, easy, and entirely customizable. You can use bricks, wood, a nest of tables, or perhaps the most versatile solution of all: books. As if Moby Dick wasn't already great enough. You may need to do some swapping back and forth to get everything to the correct height. If you have the books on hand, the whole construction process can take less than half an hour. That's, like, 0.05% of a Moby Dick read. Easy.
There are a few downsides to this method. The process is reversible but fiddly: you won't want to convert between sitting and standing like this on a daily basis. If you don't have the right size books (or other elevating materials), you may find multi-monitor setups aren't quite the same height as one another, and it's not the best-looking solution. But it is cheap, and just about anyone can do it. If you want to see whether you actually like the standing desk experience before shelling out for one of the more expensive solutions below, it's a great place to start. And if you get serious and actually want to build a full desk from scratch, there are tons of tutorials on YouTube to choose from.
Frame-only sit-stand desks - $180 - $400
If converting your existing desk into something that allows you to stand and sit isn't for you, how about repurposing it instead? If you already have a decent-sized desk, you can save yourself a lot of money by buying a sit-stand desk frame and attaching your existing desk surface to it. Unfortunately, a pile of Moby Dicks and functional Transformers can't quite match up.
Since you are technically buying a sit-stand desk without the costly surface, you tend to save some money with this option. There are manual sit-stand desk frames that start at around $180, like the Vivo Manual Stand Up Desk Frame ($180), and much more costly electric options like the Seville Classics Airlift S3 frame ($400).
The entry-level options tend only to rise so far, have thinner and less supportive frames overall. They are almost always manually operated—meaning to lift and lower the desk, and you'll have to flex some muscle on the built-in crank handle. Alternatively, the expensive options will have greater support for different heights, electric motors in the legs and a memory module so you can return to your preferred height at the touch of a button.
Whether you opt for a more affordable option or not, though, the process of building one of these desks is much the same. First, you put the frame together and then use (the usually provided) screws to fasten your old desk's surface to the frame. Before you go this route, make sure your existing desk has removable legs and isn't one big welded piece so that it can be screwed into the new sit-stand base. A simple wooden top is ideal, but any flat surface should do. It would also work if you could find a copy of Moby Dick long and wide enough, about the size of a door.
Whether you opt for one of these pre-packaged solutions or one of the more affordable alternatives, having a sit-stand desk can help alleviate some of the most frustrating negative aspects of being stationary for long periods, whether you're working or playing.