electric vs manual sit stand desks

If your lifestyle reflects that of 50-70% of office workers and you spend six or more hours daily slumped over your desk, you already understand your sedentary lifestyle is of little benefit. It is uncomfortable sitting for that long and results in pain from backache, stiff neck and locked hips; not to mention setting yourself up for more serious health problems relating to the 'sitting disease'; high blood pressure, heart disease and even cancer. Do you remember to get up and move around every 20 minutes? Surely the smarter option is to vary your position in the office using an adjustable standing desk.

Here are the standing desk pros and cons of these three variations, helping you decide which best suits your needs.

Electric vs. Manual Standing Desks

In an ideal world, an electric adjustable sit-stand desk is the way to go, right? It even sounds cooler than a hand-crank manual desk. And it does have some advantages if you are time-poor (also called impatient!); it takes seconds to go from sitting to standing. This also requires a lot less effort than manually winding up from sit to stand. All this comes at a price.

The more budget-friendly adjustable manual sit-stand desk, takes a little more time and effort to adjust, but allows you to feel more in control, and adjusting a hand crank standing desk is actually pretty satisfying!

Last in the frame, are standing desk converters. Falling outside the whole electric vs manual standing desk discussion, they still fulfil customers' needs and provide that initial push towards a healthier work life. They sit on the users' existing desk surface and are adjusted by hand, with the option of tidying it away in moments, converting your home office back into your dining room.

sit stand desk with monitor and chair

Electric Standing Desks

Electric desks adjust with a motor. Press a button until the electric standing desk reaches the required height. Top-of-the-range height adjustable desks can even be pre-programmed. Press the button, go off and make a coffee. You go from sitting to standing without so much as breaking a sweat.

Pros of Electric Standing Desks

Quick Adjustments

It's a breeze to go from sitting to standing with electric sit stand desks. Electric desks adjust height levels at about an inch per second. For most users to go from sit to stand takes a mere 10-15 seconds. Much quicker than a hand cranked standing desk.

Carries More Weight

With its generous weight capacity, the electric standing desk allows more kit on your desktop. Starting at around 200 pound lift capacity, some go as high as 500 pounds, so products like the Desky Dual Custom Melamine Sit Stand Desk, offering dual motors, provides a lifting capacity capable of handling even the heaviest of monitor and CPU setups without compromising on speed or stability. 

Easy to Operate

Pressing a button requires a lot less effort than manually adjusting your desk to the optimum ergonomic sit and stand height with a hand crank. This hands-free option means you can work uninterrupted as the motor does its thing. Great if you're on the phone or finishing off that cuppa.

Desky Dual Sit Stand Desk

Large Desk Sizes

Powerful motors and their smooth functionality means a desktop of any size. The question is, do you want a desk which dominates the room? Probably not. But at least you give yourself the option of increasing the size of your desktop at a later date - you can always switch in a larger desktop on your existing electric frame. Let us also mention in the electric vs manual standing desk debate, that hand crank standing desks have a lower weight capacity. So if you need something custom-made or want a huge set up, you will want an electric model.

Cons of Electric Standing Desks

May Not Suit Your Budget

A big reason potential users hold off investing in electric sit stand desks is cost. Even budget mid-range models start at $500 and can be as much as $2000. And if the whole sit-stand philosophy is new to you, that's a hefty amount to lay out for something you find might not suit.

Needs a Constant Power Supply

You need electricity for your height adjustable desk. Electric desks must be placed near a socket and cannot be moved wherever you want; a major con if you are new to working at home and trying out different positions before finally deciding where you work best. If you experience regular power cuts, you may find your desk height stuck at one level until power is restored.

More Parts to Go Wrong

Increased moving parts and electronics are another potential problem with electric desk options. Parts break down or wear out. When you're paying top dollar for your electric standing desk, you don't want to have to pay for repairs within a few years of use.

That's why a manufacturer's warranty is so important when it comes to electric desks. Desky provide a 10-year warranty on the Dual electric standing desk. If you're deciding between a cheaper desk with a year's warranty vs. a pricier desk that's guaranteed to last you a decade, we think the decade-long warranty is a safer bet when your standing desk's motor will be running multiple times a day over the next decade.

The Noise of the Motor

Electric standing desks motors make a noise. This may be a downside but in a busy office is barely noticeable. Some people might give you looks for disturbing them but it is more likely envy that fuels their irritation.

Manual Standing Desks

Height adjustable hand crank standing desks have a handle to take you from standing height to sitting.

hand crank standing desk

Pros of Manual Standing Desks

The Price Tag

The hand crank standing desk has many of the options of electric standing desks with the benefit of lower cost. And there is no need to compromise on quality either.

Requires No Electricity

Power outage issues will not put you out of action with hand crank standing desks. You are not tethered to one place since you do not need electricity to adjust height settings and the hand crank gives you more exact control, going from sitting to standing position; an electric desk may only allow pre-programmed height levels.

The Manually Adjustable Air Lift Sit Stand Desk from Desky offers the best of both worlds; all the lifting power of an electric standing desk, with a pneumatic air cylinder worked by a lever, generating enough pressure to smoothly raise the desk in seconds. No need for electricity yet all the benefits of a sit stand desk from wherever you work.

More Reliable

Not a lot can go wrong with a manual standing desk. These are some of the most reliable desks out there, many of them working faultlessly for 10 plus years. The fact that it has no motor or electronics to break down speaks for itself.

Desky air lift sit and stand desk


Cons of Manual Standing Desks

Slower Height Adjustment

The time and effort required to take crank desks from sit to stand is a drawback. A user would typically need many turns of the handle and some physical effort to achieve the 10 to 15 inch difference between sitting and standing.

Lower Weight Capacity

For a conventionally shaped desktop, a manual sit stand is not going to have the same lifting capacity as an electric standing desk. And less lifting capacity means more turns of the handle, more effort and more time needed to go from sitting to standing.

Uneven Loading

A crank desk requires equipment to be spread out evenly to balance the load across both columns, otherwise turning the handle requires more physical effort and the columns may rise at different speeds, tilting the top, leading to instability, potentially damaging the mechanism and causing your equipment to fall off the desk.

Desk Converters

Standing desk converters are a portable product, positioned on the top of your existing desk or attached to it, allowing you to move from sitting to standing in seconds and also giving you greater freedom to set up a stand up desk wherever you need it. These are handy if you have a compact desk space available

Pros of Desk Converters

Least Expensive

Some of the most popular models range from $100 to $400; an excellent choice for an entry-level user.

Keep Your Existing Desk

If space is limited and you need to frequently tidy away your work space or your employer will not let you swap your desk, this is the perfect compromise.

Virtually No Assembly

Most come ready-assembled. Simply unbox, put in position, adjust the height and you are good to go.

standing desk converter

Cons of Desk Converters

Limited Working Space

This can be tricky if you work on both paper and computer. There is very little extra space and it can be difficult to find the perfect height for both typing and writing.

Tend to Be Heavy

Although these are often described as more portable than typical standing desks, you will not be commuting with this anytime soon. The heavy metal base make them pretty difficult to transport easily once you get them on your desk.

Limited Height Adjustment

Most will not adjust low enough for short people, who will need a tall chair or a footrest to get their hands into an ergonomic typing and sitting position. And because it sits atop your existing desk, the sitting height is always above your normal writing height which could bother you over time, causing discomfort and ergonomic issues.

Small but Bulky

They take up a lot of space which can be an issue in your home office or if you work in an area with limited space.

Electric, Manual or Converter: Which to Pick?

Manual standing desks are great for people who want a budget-friendly sit-to-stand option, don’t mind physically adjusting the desk and don’t move from seated to standing very often.

If you are a mover; changing position every hour, then, you’ll thank yourself for investing in an electric standing desk after moving it 8 times in one day.

If you just want to give sit stand desks a go then a converter is a great entry-level option. If the practice suits you, upgrade at a later date. If you're still unsure - we've done up a review of our whole range to help you pick the best standing desk australia has to offer!

Figured out what type of desk you need? See Desky's range of ergonomic furniture and get your new desk shipped to you anywhere in Australia!

Desky Logo
WRITTEN BY Desky Work better. Be more productive.