By this point you have probably already come to the conclusion that sitting all day is bad for you. After additional research, possibly reading our post, “Top 4 Reasons Standing Only Desks are Bad for Your Health,” a motorized standing desk might be the best fit. Unfortunately, like many things, this type of desk will have its own set of problems to deal with. Today we will be going over the 9 most common problems we’ve experienced over the last decade with motorized standing desks. With this knowledge in hand, we hope to make it easier for you to make a better buying decision.
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After 12 months of testing 20+ electric standing desks the results are in!
1. Motorized Desks Are Expensive
The most common questions and concerns our customers have about this type of standing desk are related to the cost. Because of the technology added to the desk, the cost will typically be greater than a comparable sitting desk. While the sticker price might shock you, it’s important to note that you get what you pay for. Opting for the cheapest standing desk might get you standing sooner; however, issues with cheap standing desks are more likely to occur within the first 12 months.
Buying Tips: It’s important to look at the brand and how long they have been producing a product. Most of the motorized sit to stand desks are actually being produced by other companies. While longer warranties are important and should be considered during your purchase, a manufacturer’s track record can tell you a lot about the products durability. Find out who the actual manufacturer is and research them in greater detail. Motorized standing desks have been around a long time and the manufacturers of the best components are located in Europe. Only within the last five to six years have the Chinese manufacturers begun to produce the motors, gears, and other electronics found in most motorized desks. We highly recommend brands that are utilizing components from companies, such as Linak, Oelschläger Metalltechnik (OMT), LogicData, and Ketterer. These companies have proven to be leaders in the field since the inception of the motorized standing desk category.
2. Motorized Desks Can Be Loud
It seems inevitable that motorized standing desks will have some noise associated with their use. This only becomes greater as the capacity of the desk is increased. Two motors working at full capacity will likely have the highest decibel ratings. If the standing desk is being operated in a quiet environment, this noise could even become a distraction. The noise that is created by the motors isn’t the only sound you might hear. Our original VertDesk v1 used electronics from a Chinese manufacturer named TiMotion. This company produces some of the least dependable electronics available on the market, resulting in a control box making a buzzing sound that was very noticeable in quiet spaces. The launch of the VertDesk v2 eliminated the use of cheap Chinese electronics.
Buying Tips: When selecting your new standing desk you may want to consider the amount of sound it makes while in operation. Most brands will offer decibel ratings for their desk, which may or may not be accurate. Regardless of those ratings most electric standing desks will operate between 45-60 DB, while the average conversation is had around 60 DB. If the desk will be used in an office with constant conversation and phone calls, the operational sound of these desks will likely go unnoticed. If they are being used in a space such as a library, this noise should be something to consider. Additional sound from legs rubbing while the desk is in motion and control boxes buzzing while sitting idle are things to consider as well. Asking these questions prior to purchase and searching them out in reviews will allow you to avoid buyer’s remorse.
3. Electronic Failures
Electronics failing have seemingly become a regular occurrence in our daily lives. It’s an unfortunate situation, since they typically fail at the worst possible time. We are so connected nowadays that no matter when it happens it’s bad timing. This isn’t really any different for electronic standing desks. When it happens, it most likely means you are left with a desk at an awkward height. Desks with multiple motors can even leave you with a desk that is crooked and unusable.
Buying Tips: The benefits of an electric standing desk will typically outweigh the negatives. With that in mind, over the course of ownership of a motorized standing desk, you will encounter an electronic hiccup. Many of the well-known brands of desks will be cycle tested for a minimum of 5000-10000 movements up/down without failure. Purchasing desks that have passed these tests will ensure a much more enjoyable standing experience for years to come. Consideration of how replacements are included with your desks warranty are important as well. While desks with only a single motor may have slightly less load capacity, the likelihood of ending up with an uneven desk is significantly lower. Single motor units will often have all external electronics, making replacements much more accessible and cost effective post warranty.
4. When Overloaded Can Slow Down and Burn Out
If you have spent an extensive time researching, you will notice that the weight capacity of motorized standing desks can vary greatly. This is something that can cause confusion; often times leading customers to believe that the highest weight rating is the best. It’s important to note that most users do not require more than 150-200 lbs. lifting capacity, including the weight of the desk top. For those that do require additional capacity, be cautious as many Chinese electronics do not offer overload protection. This means that you could be unknowingly overloading and reducing the life span of your desk. Once a desk has started to exceed its recommended capacity the performance will be greatly reduced. This includes stability of the desk, specifically desks without true cross supports between the legs. The overall speed of adjustment will also be significantly reduced, oftentimes operating at less than 30% of its advertised speed.
Buying Tips: If your desk will be exceeding 150 lbs. including the desk top, it’s important to consider electronics that include overload protection. Purchasing a desk that suggests a capacity over 300 lbs.,that is extremely slow or unstable when fully loaded, eliminates the benefits of motorized standing desk. Pay close attention to the speed that brands advertise for certain weight capacities. You will notice once loaded past 200-225 lbs. that speeds are reduced up to 70% on some models. If brands do not advertise different speeds with certain weight thresholds ask what they are. All desks, no matter their brand, will slow as the weight is increased; however, better desks will only lose a small percentage of their speed performance.
5. Limited Adjustment Range
The overall range of adjustment for motorized desks can vary significantly. Some of the cheapest standing desks will only offer a maximum height of 42”, which limits the ergonomic effectiveness for users over 5’8”. Similarly, other cheap desks offer a higher maximum range, reducing the lowest setting. The average sitting desk height is between 29”-30”; unfortunately, this is too tall for many users under 5’5”.
Buying Tips: It’s important to consider both the minimum and maximum height for your motorized adjustable desk. Bad posture can result from desks that do not offer adequate range of motion. With that said, selecting desks that offer max height adjustments over 50” can be excessive for the majority of the population. The recommended height for a user 6’6” is 48” and using a desk that is set too high can create additional posture issues. To create a true ergonomic workstation, we highly recommend considering the addition of a monitor arm or keyboard tray to provide the proper separation from where you use the keyboard/mouse and view your monitor. The correct use of dual ergonomics will create a much healthier working environment and greatly reduce musculoskeletal disorders from bad posture.
6. Multiple Cycles Up/Down Will Cause Overheating
Something that is not advertised by most of the standing desk brands is a duty cycle function. These electronics will include an automatic shut off when a desk is over cycled up and down. This will most likely not be an issue for users, since adjustments between sitting and standing are only performed every 20-90 minutes; however, showing off your brand new electric standing desk could leave you stranded if you decide to get a little too button happy.
Buying Tips: Before you end up looking silly in front of your colleagues, check your user manual for your desks duty cycle rating. An example would be our VertDesk v3 product: it offers a duty cycle of 2 minutes on/18 minutes off. This would mean that after 2 minutes of continuous usage up or down, the desk requires approximately 18 minutes of rest. These are put in place to prevent users from overusing the electronics and shortening their life span.
7. Require Electricity
While this probably seems obvious, the electric component of desks can become a problem if you live in a location that oftentimes loses power during storms or like to move the desk around frequently. Some manufacturers are now offering battery packs with their desks; however, this will reduce the load capacity and cause the desk to operate slower than when plugged into an outlet.
Buying Tips: If the requirement of power is a deal breaker it might be a good idea to look at alternative adjustable standing desks. While crank and counterbalance standing desks offer less capacity, they will provide better flexibility to those with power issues.
8. Power Outages Require Resets
In continuation of the electricity requirement problem, the loss of electricity can result in a mandatory reset for the majority of the motorized standing desks. Many of our customers over the years have called wondering why their desk will only lower very slowly, very concerned that it will never go back up. Because the reset requires the desk to be lowered to its absolute lowest position, this can cause issues for people with items like file cabinets underneath their desks. It can be impossible to perform if you have permanent built-ins underneath the desk.
Buying Tips: Understanding the reset process for your new standing desk is key to getting your desk to function normally again. Because all electric standing desks that use a control box (CPU) require a hard reset at the bottom, there is no real way to avoid this. If you will be creating built-ins for custom furniture, utilizing a brand that manufactures their columns (legs) will allow you to create a minimum height specific to your needs. Ultimately we recommend keeping your desk plugged into a constant power source, specifically avoiding outlets that are operated by light switches.
9. Motorized Desks Require Assembly
Depending on the brand, the amount of assembly can vary. Some brands will come with the feet and desk top supports attached to the legs, while others will require assembly. Two leg desks with a single motor are driven by a single hex rod that drives each leg. This will require attaching the motor to the leg, then running the hex rod into each leg. The amount of time required will vary depending on your skill level, size of desk and quantity of parts. On average, most standing desks will require 30-120 minutes to assemble. Some of the very large units that include three or four legs will require more time and additional help.
Buying Tips: Do as much research as possible pre-purchase so that you are comfortable with the assembly required before the desk arrives. Many of the brands will offer in-depth videos, detailed PDF instructions and staff that are available over the phone or through video chat. If the assembly process still seems overwhelming, most areas will have local assembly companies available at a cost to help We recommend doing a quick search on websites like yelp or thumbtack to find a reputable company. Using smaller companies or handy-man type installers will provide these services for much less money than the large national organizations.
After highlighting the 9 most common problems customers experience you may realize this type of desk isn’t the right fit for you; however, the upside to motorized standing desks have made them one of the most popular options today. Their ease of adjustment from sitting to standing and ability to carry all of the items on your desk are why we personally use them at BTOD. Doing the proper research before buying your next powered standing desk will ensure you have a great experience while transitioning to a healthier work environment. For more information on motorized standing desks please visit btod.com or contact sales at 866-733-0698 option 1.