Which is a Better Workstation: Standing Desks or Kneeling Chairs?

Whether at home or on-site, good office or workplace setup is linked to a positive impact on morale and productivity.  

In a survey on workplace wellness trends, 87% of the respondents preferred to be offered "healthier workspace benefits, with options ranging from wellness rooms, company fitness benefits, sit-stands, healthy lunch options and ergonomic seating."

This article focuses on the heart of any workplace – the workstation - and compares the two latest trends on this concept. 

The Kneeling Chair

The modern kneeling chair was first introduced in 1979 by Hans Christian Mengshoel and Peter Opsvik. The aim of the kneeling chair is to lessen lower back pressure by distributing the weight between the buttocks and the shins.  Its novelty propelled its popularity in the early 80s, which coincided with the boom of the business services industry at that time. 

The Standing Desk

There are claims that the great Leonardo da Vinci used the standing desk as early as the 15th century. The standing desk's genius lies in the simplicity of its design: it allows you to stand while working. This design encourages more blood circulation and physical activity while at work.  Aside from (allegedly) Da Vinci, many famous individuals such as Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill, and even Apple CEO Tim Cook are known advocates of the standing desk.  

So, which is better?

To answer this question, let us consider these factors in choosing an office equipment that better works for you and helps you boost performance and productivity. 


First, a little science lesson. According to the International Ergonomics Association, ergonomics is the “science of work.” An ergonomic solution provides both efficiency and comfort in a work environment. Ergonomics isn’t just some theoretical discipline, but with real-world implications.

Based on the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries review of  ergonomics case studies, ergonomics positively impacts productivity, work quality, engagement, and overall cost-savings efforts. 

Implementing ergonomics can transform any workspace into a place of comfort.  An ergonomically designed workspace can allow you to alternate from sitting to standing.  Designated areas for brainstorming, informal meetings or quiet zones can help improve concentration.  The kneeling chair or the standing desk also offers ergonomic solutions to the workforce. 

Simply put, the kneeling chair is a chair with shin support with no backrest.  Instead, its seat is downward-sloping, and its lower support has a set of shin cushions.  This design is the main difference between a kneeling chair and a traditional chair, where the body looks like an "h" and the hip is perpendicular to the chair. In using kneeling chairs, your pelvis is tilted forward, aiding your spine in adopting its proper alignment. It can also help strengthen your back and core muscles since it engages your abdominal muscles and your back without a backrest to support your sitting position. With a more open and angled position, the kneeling chair reduces pressure points and makes ergonomic sitting possible. 

Standing desks offer various options to personalize the work experience. There are fixed-height desks that follow your standing height.  Adjustable standing desks allow upward and downward movement so you can sit or stand anytime you like.  Some standing desks have levers or cranks that can be manually adjusted.  Most of the newer iterations like the Electric Starter Desk with Easy Up-Down Controls by AnthroDesk are electric and powered by a motor that quietly lifts the desk to any height you want.   

Wellness Benefits

With improved awareness of the health advantages of exercise and movement, wellness in the workplace has also become popular.  

In the 2018 Employee Benefits Survey from the Society for Human Resource Management, 44% of organizations that increased benefits offerings in the last year of the study allocated more budget for wellness benefits.  The same report showed that the inclusion of providing or subsidizing a standing desk as part of an employee's wellness benefits has more than doubled from 20% in 2014 to 53% in 2018.  This trend is also observed in industry giants like Google, Facebook, & Apple, utilizing standing desks in their workspaces. 

There are no similar trends reported for kneeling chairs where movement is more limited.  The weight distribution in the kneeling chair is achieved by dividing the pressure between the buttocks and the shins.  However, this restricts movement since your legs are constantly placed in the shin support of the kneeling chair.  

Standing desks offer more flexibility and movement.  Since the standing desk itself adjusts to your preferred height and angle, you have more freedom to stay active while working. 

Wellness benefits are not only physical but also cognitive.  According to a Harvard study, “improved concentration, a sharper memory, faster learning, prolonged mental stamina, enhanced creativity and lower stress” are some of the expected results when regular exercise and movement are incorporated into one’s routine. 

Weight Management

Why does this matter in choosing a workstation?  According to a study done by the International Journal of Workplace Health Management, weight management initiatives in the office could positively impact the quality of life and work performance.  

Body weight is greatly affected by calories.  Our daily calorie intake provides the energy needed to function and sustain life.  However, excessive calorie intake can result in weight gain. 

Burning calories through exercise and movement are recommended to balance calorie intake and weight management.  

You can burn 60 to 130 calories an hour while sitting.  On the other hand, standing can burn 100 to 200 calories per hour. 

 A kneeling chair allows your weight to be distributed to your shins for extra support.  It also works your core muscles and helps tone abdominal and thigh muscles. One must still be cautious, though, as prolonged hours of sitting have been associated with back, neck and shoulder pain. 

A standing desk, on the other hand, provides more opportunities to burn calories while working.  The use of a standing desk can also reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, cancer and lordosis or the inward curvature of the spine. 

Sit or Stand : Choose Your Stance

Both kneeling desks and standing desks have vital features that may suit your workplace preference and style.  Kneeling chairs encourage ergonomic sitting with its shin support and forward chair tilt. However, there is restricted movement and possible back, neck and shoulder pain with prolonged hours of sitting.  The use of standing desks is a popular choice in big companies that recognize the positive impact of office or workspace designs on business organizations.  Standing desks also allow more mobility and activity while working, which are beneficial to both physical and cognitive wellness of the workforce. Based on the relevant research and studies on ergonomics, wellness, and weight management, standing desks seem to offer more advantages to help with both workplace performance and personal health.