To sit or not to sit? The great sit/stand debate

Jo Horbury
to sit or not to sit

To sit or not to sit that is the question. Well at least that seems to be one of the biggest questions influencing office furniture design in the market at the moment and something we have predicted to be a key trend that will dominate the industry throughout 2015. But, is the height adjustable ‘sit-stand’ desk a trend that is here to stay? Or, is it only here until it is superseded by the next office gizmo? Building Interiors are here to analyse the benefits and to make the conclusion. But it doesn’t stop there, with multiple lifting mechanisms available, which one is the best? And which one is the best for you? We are here to clear the air.

Key research into sitting and sedentary behaviour has revealed that sitting for prolonged periods of time can be substantially detrimental to your health. The results are so damning that a Mayo Clinic endocrinologist Dr. James Levine said “The chair is out to kill us”. Sustained sitting is linked to the slowdown of the metabolism affecting fat removal, blood sugar regulation and blood pressure, so what are the key facts:

  • 37% greater chance of death for women who spend more than six hours of the day sitting found by research conducted by the American Cancer Research Association.
  • 18% greater chance of death for men who spend more than six hours of the day sitting found by research conducted by the American Cancer Research Association.
  • 112% increase in risk of diabetes
  • 147% increase in cardiovascular events
  • 90% increase in death caused by cardiovascular events
  • 49% increase in death from any cause

The results are considerable that our culture of sitting is bad for our health so do ‘sit/stand’ height adjustable desks target the issue?

Benefits of Sit/Stand desks?

In a study undertaken by the CDC, known as the Take-a-Stand project, sit/stand desks were shown to reduce upper back and neck pain and to improve mood but there are numerous other identifiable benefits that have appeared from implementing sit/stand desks into the workplace, such as:

  • Improving productivity
  • Reducing risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes
  • Improving mood
  • Improving alertness
  • Improving alertness
  • Reduces muscle tension and fatigue
  • Means a healthy and energised workforce

Verdict: Sit/stand desks are an excellent way to reduce the issues associated with prolonged sitting and are a good way to increase employee moods and productivity. Thus they are definitely destined to become an office staple.

So, which one is better? Crank, gas-lift or electric lifting mechanism?


Crank height-adjustable desks use a right-angled lever to alter the height of the workstation and are an established, robust and cost-effective form of sit/stand desk. However, due to the manual effort required to adjust the height, these desks are outdated and unsuitable where constant adjustment is required and also unsuitable in narrow spaces. These form of desks also struggle to maintain level when weight discrepancy.



  • Simple and straightforward to adjust height
  • Robust and reliable
  • No complicated parts
  • Vast range of shapes and sizes
  • Split levels available
  • Cost efficient – less expensive than gas or electric models.


  • Slow speed of adjustment
  • Difficult to adjust with heavy loaded desks
  • Adjusters are unsuitable in small, tight spaces
  • Moving is difficult due to weight
  • Struggle with weight discrepancy


Gas-lift height adjustable desks offer an instant sit/stand solution that have advantages over both crank and electric sit/stand desks as they do not require an electrical power socket, are more eco-friendly and are silent during adjustment which are attributes associated with electric and do not require the manual effort associated with a crank mechanism. However, gas-lift desks have to be stringently regulated to deal with differing weight as they can be capable of collapsing.


  • Speed of height adjustment
  • Do not require a power socket – ideal for hotdesking
  • More eco-friendly than electric
  • Silent when adjusting


  • Have to be regulated for weight
  • Restricted by height


Electric height-adjustable desks are the most common sit/stand desks on the market and the type that we recommend the most. Electric desks are easily adjustable by the touch of a button with memory positions pre-set in some models and have a weight limit that is above normal requirements. Electric height-adjustable desks offer complete simplicity of use and are the most reliable form of sit/stand desk. The downside of electric desks is that they are more expensive than other models, however, they are the best solution to the problem.


  • Simplicity of use with push button controls
  • Quick speed of adjustment
  • Pre-set memory positions
  • Power consumption is low
  • Higher weight limit


  • Most expensive option
  • Electrical power sockets required close to the desk


Weighing up all the pros and cons of each of the main alternative forms of height adjustable desk available on the market, we believe that for the reliability, simplicity and weight capabilities that electric sit/stand desks are the best type to consider when looking at alternatives to traditional desks in the office.