Standing Desk Buyer's Guide: Electric vs. Crank

22 January 2019

If you're looking to add a standing desk to your office, you may be overwhelmed by the amount of options among traditional desks, converters, and even set-ups that allow for treadmills and stationary bikes. While you may not be able to decide on all your desired features immediately, one place to start is deciding between electric and hand crank (manual) adjustment. We've compiled a handy comparison guide to help you evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of each mode of operation and decide which is right for your budget and office environment.

Electric Standing Desks

Let's look at the positive first – check out the most important advantages of an electric standing desk:

Pro: Adjust with a button. If you're busy taking customer calls all day - or otherwise have your hands full - you may appreciate the ease of automatic adjustment. Effortlessly and quickly raise and lower the desk with the simple touch of a button. Press and hold until the desk reaches your desired level…it couldn't get much easier!

Additionally, because it's so simple to raise and lower the desk, you'll be more likely to switch between sitting and standing often and give your body the movement and variety it craves.

Pro: Higher weight capacity. Some professions require a more complicated technology set-up than others. Stockbrokers and radiologists, as a couple of examples, frequently use multiple monitors. The power from the motor of an electric standing desk means an easier time lifting those heavy computers and monitors.

Pro: Programmable presets. Many electric standing desks offer programmable preset levels that remember your exact preferred desk height – whether for sitting, standing, or under-desk cycling. When you're ready to switch, just press the button for the next position.

Pro: Automatic reminders. Some electric height adjustable desks include a reminder system that notifies you at certain intervals when it's time to sit and stand during the day, rather than trying to remember on your own. If you're concerned you might not remember to switch your position regularly, an electric desk could be your personal reminder system.

As with most major purchase decisions, there are negatives to consider as well – here are some common cons of electric height adjustable desks:

Con: Slightly more expensive. Generally, electric standing desks will have a slightly higher starting cost than crank desks. (However, FlexiSpot does have budget-friendly products starting at $299!)

Con: No adjusting if the power goes out. If there is a power outage, the desk will be stuck in its current position until power is restored.

Con: More mechanical components. The more complicated a machine is, the more opportunity there is for problems. In electric standing desks, these could include electronic failure or motor issues - so be sure to read reviews to vouch for the quality of the furniture you're researching.

Con: A bit of noise while adjusting. While the level of sound can vary by brand and style, the movement of the motor will be louder than a manual crank desk - though quality brands will keep noise to a minimum.

Bottom line: If you need to put a lot of weight on your desktop (especially with multiple monitors), or you want the helpful assistance of programmable presets, easy adjustment is essential and an electric standing desk is likely your best bet.

Crank Standing Desks

Manual or crank-operated standing desks offer their own advantages:

Pro: Relatively inexpensive. Due to its simplicity, crank-operated standing desks start at a lower price point than their electric counterparts. If you're on a budget - perhaps starting a business or investing in new desks for an entire office - crank desks may be a great place to start.

Pro: Flexibility in placement. Some modern offices have adopted flexible seating, where each worker isn't necessarily sitting in the same place permanently. Because it doesn't need power, a crank-operated standing desk has the advantage of mobility and flexibility – no need to rearrange your workspace to be within reach of an outlet.

Pro: Fewer mechanical problems. Crank standing desks have fewer mechanical components and therefore fewer chances of a problem compared to electric.

Pro: Quiet. In some offices, you could hear a pin drop. Insurance actuaries are just some of the many professionals who do complicated, solitary work. With a crank instead of a motor, there's no need to worry about disturbing your coworkers every time you raise and lower the desk. With no motor involved, a crank desk will fit right into a quiet office.

Pro: Works without power. Should you live in a region prone to power outages, this could be key consideration. If you do have a power outage, you're not stuck in one position – assuming your computer battery is charged, you can comfortably keep working away!

Lastly, take a look at some potential downsides of crank standing desks:

Con: Slower adjustment. Because it's adjusted manually, a crank desk will take a bit more time to adjust – and with no automatic programming option, you'll have to check your level each time or perhaps count your cranks.

Con: Lower weight capacity. The heavier the weight placed on a crank desk, the harder it is to adjust, and too much weight may damage the wheel gear due to strain.

Bottom line: If you have a simple set-up and cost is your top priority - and you're confident you'll have the memory and motivation to adjust your desk on your own - a crank-operated desk may be the right solution for you.

The benefit of having so many standing desk options means that while there's not one perfect workstation for everyone, there's one that's perfect for you! And whichever you choose, you'll be doing your spine a favor by exercising your sit/stand options throughout the work day.