If you and/or your employees spend a significant amount of time sitting at your desks working on computers, you may be shortening your lives.

Sounds scary, doesn’t it? According to a recent  New York Times article, your chair is your enemy.

It doesn’t matter if you go running every morning, or you’re a regular at the gym. If you spend most of the rest of the day sitting — in your car, your office chair, on your sofa at home — you are putting yourself at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death. In other words, irrespective of whether you exercise vigorously, sitting for long periods is bad for you.

So what do you do? You’ve got a desk job, you have to sit all day, right?


According to a recent article in Men’s Health magazine, stand up desks are the way to go.

“Standing more is the single healthiest change most desk jockeys can make,” says Mark Benden, Ph.D., an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at Texas A&M’s health science center.

Stand up desks are becoming more and more common in workplaces, and workers who use them report fewer overall aches and pains. The good news is that you don’t have to break the bank to make the transition from sitting to standing at work.

Here at Palo Alto Software, almost half of our team has raised their desks. Methods range from  a “McGyver” style cobbling together of various common office items to raised fixed counter tops to adjustable height desks that  are easy to raise and lower, depending on your needs.

So how do you know which is the best solution for you? Let’s look at some pros and cons.

The McGyver

Sean at his McGyver work station


  • It’s cheap. Just grab boxes and other things you have around the office and get your setup where you want it.
  • It’s fast. There’s not much work involved, no waiting for anything to arrive in the mail. You probably don’t even have to leave the office.
  • It’s temporary. It’s easy to undo you move spaces (plus, all your boxes for packing are handy!) or decide you want to go back to a sitting desk.


  • It’s not pretty. See photo for evidence.
  • It’s not very flexible. You may want to sit sometimes and stand others, maybe switching multiple times a day. Having to stash all the boxes and crates that you’ve set up to prop your hardware isn’t very convenient.
  • It can be unstable. When you stack things on top of other things, they have a tendency to topple. Exercise care!

The fixed raised counter

Desi works at her raised counter


  • It’s easy. If you already use cubicle walls and fixed counters, raising them takes just a few minutes.
  • The entire work surface is raised. So your coffee cup is on the same level as your mouse. Very important!
  • It sure looks better than the McGyver.


  • You need a raised chair. These can be expensive, but you’ll want to sit at least sometimes. Sitting way below your desk won’t do you much good, so you need a chair that is the right height for the raised desk.
  • One size doesn’t fit all. If you share work spaces, you can end up with a desk that’s perfect for one person and simply unacceptable for another. And if employees move around, you’ll be raising/lower desks to suit them.

Adjustable height desks

Me at a co-worker’s adjustable desk


  • They’re adjustable. As the name implies, you can easily raise or lower these desks, depending on whether you feel like sitting or standing.
  • Anyone can work at any space. Again – adjustable means you can make the desk the perfect height for any employee.
  • They’re portable. If you move your work space, you move your desk-adjuster.
  • They look cool. Way nicer than the McGyver and even slicker than the raised counter, adjustable height desks tell the world that you’ve committed to an ergonomically friendly lifestyle.


  • They’re not cheap. A basic set-up can cost as much as a raised chair, so you’re not necessarily saving money.
  • They might not work for every hardware arrangement. Or rather, you could end up needing additional accessories (at additional cost) to get everything situated just right. Think huge monitors, multiple monitors, or extra stabilization.

Other considerations

When you transition from standing to sitting, you should do it in increments. Stand for 15 minutes, then sit for a half hour (or more) and slowly ramp up to more standing than sitting.Even if you fully commit to the standing desk, you’ll need to figure out the best stand-to-sit ratio for you, so be prepared to experiment.

When you start, consider using a McGyver set-up at first to be sure standing is right for you before committing to something more costly. Setting up and taking apart a few boxes and props might be annoying, but it’s better than spending money on a setup that you can’t work with.

Look at your feet. What you wear on them can make or break your experience at a standing desk. If you wear high heels or dress shoes, you’ll probably discover pretty quickly they’re not made for standing in for long periods. If your stylish shoes aren’t great for standing, just kick ’em off or keep a pair of cross trainers around to wear for the standing portions of your day.

Finally, make sure you stand on a fatigue-reducing mat of some kind, which can reduce leg and lower back discomfort associated with prolonged standing.

Have you already transitioned to a stand-up desk? What’s your desk look like now? What do you think the pros and cons of raised desks are?