How to Convert an IKEA Desk to a Standing Desk (It’s Actually Easy)

With so many people working from home and getting extended screen time these days, chances are you would benefit from a standing desk.

I spend a lot of time at my desk, and it’s kind of starting to kill me. Prolonged sitting has been proven to increase blood pressure, cholesterol and the risk of death, not to mention chronic back pain.

So I finally started to look for solutions to help me sit less, stand more, and still get my work done. I figured I probably needed a standing desk, but I had questions.

  • Do you have to buy a new standing desk or can you convert your old one?
  • Are you stuck standing all the time or can you easily switch between sitting and standing?
  • Is it practical to do high-concentration tasks like writing while standing?

I quickly learned that you don’t need a whole new desk.

There are affordable standing desk converters that allow you to easily switch between sitting and standing. This was a simple upgrade for my IKEA desk, and it will work for almost any desk with a big enough surface. Here’s how to make the switch.

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Find a Standing Desk Converter That Fits Your Desk

Look for these things when selecting your standing desk converter.

  • Base Size: Check the width and length of your desk surface, and find something small enough to fit comfortably on top of your desk. Most standard desks should fit a converter just fine. My IKEA ALEX desk surface is just over 51 by 23 inches, and my desk converter fits well with room to spare on the sides.
  • Top Platform Size: Check that your laptop or monitors will fit on the top platform of the converter.
  • Keyboard Platform Size: Make sure there’s enough room for your keyboard and mouse. I noticed some desk converters have smaller keyboard platforms that wouldn’t have worked for me. I need my 10-key.
  • Lift: Make sure the desk converter is easily adjustable from sitting to standing. Mine has a spring/piston like a hatchback car so it lifts up without much effort.
  • Color: I was happy to find a white desk converter. It looks like it’s a part of my IKEA desk, not some weird add-on.

I picked the EleTab standing desk converter, which seems to be sold out at the moment. Here are a few other options to consider.

Black standing desk converter
Woodgrain standing desk
White standing desk converter

Set Up Your Standing Desk Converter

Grab a buddy to help set up your new standing desk. Desk converters tend to be heavy, because they have to have a sturdy base.

The assembly will hopefully be easy. For mine, all I had to do was screw on the keyboard platform. Everything else came ready to go.

Cable organization for a sitting and standing desk

The tricky part is cord placement. You can’t have any cords passing through the piston area under your desk converter. You can route cords out the side or back. Mine came with little clips like these to help hold cords out of the way.

Still, always watch for cords and curious pets when lowering your desk converter. Sometimes my mouse cord gets caught even with the cord clip, since I keep the mouse loose to allow for movement. Just pull it out of the way as needed.

Jane loves my new standing desk and often hangs out above or underneath it. It’s a cool hiding spot. So keep watch for kitties when adjusting your desk height.

Watch out for pets when adjusting a standing desk

Standing Desk Ergonomics

Here are some things to keep in mind when adjusting the height and ergonomics of your standing desk.

Is your keyboard at the right level?

Whether standing or sitting, you want your elbow at a 90-100 degree angle while using your computer. Look for that angle when adjusting the height of your desk, and tweak the height as needed until it feels comfortable.

Adjust the height of your standing desk until you get a 90-100 degree elbow angle

Are your monitors high enough?

The top of your monitors should be at or slightly below eye level. My laptop was actually too low at first, so I ended up adding a 4-inch laptop riser. If you need to raise your laptop, an adjustable riser may help.

Are your feet and back comfortable?

An ergonomic mat is a must, especially if you’re used to a lot of sitting like I was. Standing for hours a day can kill your feet and be painful at first. Having an anti-fatigue mat helps.

How long should you be standing?

Even with a comfortable mat, you still want to be careful when transitioning to the standing desk life. Some people recommend alternating between an hour standing and an hour sitting while you’re getting used to it. You might even want to start with just an hour of standing per day, and gradually move up from there.

Gradually transition to standing at your desk

At first I tried to dive into full-time standing right away. It hurts. And standing completely still all day is not great for your body either. See the warnings in this article.

Wear supportive shoes, try not to lock your knees, and remember to move a little bit. I listen to music to get my feet tapping. Some people also use bumpy ergonomic mats to stay in motion.

Now I usually stand for two hours in the morning while I’m responding to emails and doing other quick tasks. After my morning break I switch to sitting to tackle high-concentration projects like writing.

For now, I do feel like I need to sit to write—it just takes too much focus for me. Then in the afternoon I switch back to standing for medium-concentration projects like graphic design or photo editing.

What about posture?

Your posture is going to be amazing. I noticed right away that it’s so easy to keep my back upright when I’m standing, whereas I always end up slouching when I’m sitting.

These ergonomic products might help you transition to a standing desk.

Ergonomic mat for standing desk
Ergonomic mat for standing desk
Turquoise ergonomic mat for standing desk
Laptop stand
Laptop stand

Keep Moving at Your Desk

Standing and working is more than enough for me to focus on, so I don’t feel ready for a treadmill desk. But if you’re more adventurous, you might like these options to keep you moving.

I’ve tried an under desk elliptical and didn’t like using it at my desk, but I do love it for the couch. The one I have is quiet enough to use while watching movies. It helps for maintaining leg strength when I would otherwise be sedentary.

Under desk elliptical
Ball chair
Treadmill for desk
Desk treadmill

Consider a Chair Cushion

It’s not just your back that can hurt from sitting all day. I debated telling you this, but in January I was in so much pain from sitting that I actually named this new phenomenon blogger’s a$$.

I was sitting for 10 hours a day, working extra hours for my blog in addition to my regular job. Other bloggers do this, too, because we’re all pretty much addicted to our blogs. And all this sitting was causing the area back there to feel permanently bruised. This is what really motivated me to look for a standing desk.

While searching for solutions, I decided to get a Purple seat cushion along with my standing desk converter. Most Bed Bath & Beyond stores have one of these cushions on display for you to test out. Go try one…it’s heavenly.

Sitting/standing desk in the sitting position
This Royal Purple Seat Cushion blends in thanks to its modern gray cover.

If you’re all too familiar with blogger’s a$$ (or accountant’s tax season posterior, or work-from-homer’s rear), you might want to add a comfy seat cushion to your new desk setup.

Of course the best thing you can do is try to spend less time at your desk. Take lots of breaks to walk around, exercise and stretch. In spring and summer I do a lot better because I spend more time gardening. But winter is tough.

If you must be at a desk for long periods, I hope you can at least add a few features like a standing desk converter to make it a little easier on your body.

Get more ideas for your office:


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6 thoughts on “How to Convert an IKEA Desk to a Standing Desk (It’s Actually Easy)”

  1. Valuable post, Tara. I battle Boat Designer’s Butt (and back issues) by getting up early and exercising before work. Seated work is dangerous for the human body in the long term.

    Reply
  2. Great info and ideas for so many people that do work at a desk all day. (I know I, myself, have even been sitting at the computer too much these last couple of weeks due to the recent circumstances and stuff happening with staying home.) I do get up and walk around and stretch to loosen my back..which can give me trouble from time to time. I am glad you found some solutions that have helped you and am sure fellow bloggers and “desk sitters” will appreciate this great information and tips to help!! (By the way…I Love your hair!!!)

    Reply
  3. I’ve been wanting to get a standing desk for a while now, but an actual full standing desk is incredibly expensive, so this is a great option to get the benefit of a standing desk without breaking the bank. I’m going to have to look into getting one of these for my desks as I spend many hours sitting at it every day and it would be nice to have the option to stand and continue to get the work done.

    Reply
    • Yes, I was having that same thought…I didn’t want to pay for a whole new desk and get rid of my desk. I was glad to find this hybrid option to save lots of money and save my back! Blogging and writing takes a real toll…

      Reply

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