Can Standing Desks Help with ADHD?

A modern sit-stand desk

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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects over 6 million children and about 8.7 million adults in the U.S. alone. Characterized by inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness, ADHD poses challenges for kids in school and adults in the workplace. Sitting still and focusing during long classes or workdays can be extremely difficult.

Could something as simple as a standing desk help?

This question has piqued interest among parents, teachers and employers seeking better ways to support people with ADHD. Emerging research suggests standing desks may improve focus and task performance by allowing more movement.

Let’s review the current evidence on whether standing desks can benefit those with ADHD. By the end, you’ll have a clearer picture of this promising intervention.

Understanding ADHD and Workplace Challenges

Many symptoms of ADHD directly impact workplace performance, making it difficult for adults with the disorder to thrive in a traditional office setting. Common struggles include:

Time management – Adults with ADHD often have trouble meeting deadlines, arriving on time, and accurately estimating how long tasks will take to complete. They may struggle with procrastination and prioritizing which tasks are most urgent or important.

Organization – Keeping workspaces tidy, properly filing paperwork, and managing multiple projects can all pose issues for employees with ADHD. They may have difficulty creating systems to keep track of documents or tasks.

Distractibility – Individuals with ADHD are prone to getting sidetracked by noises, conversations, their own thoughts, or other stimuli. Staying focused on one task for an extended time can be extremely challenging.

Impulsiveness – Employees with ADHD may interrupt others frequently, overshare personal information, or make comments without considering potential consequences. Controlling emotional outbursts can also be difficult.

Boredom – Adults with ADHD often lose motivation quickly during routine, repetitive paperwork. They may avoid tasks that are boring to them, even if the work is important.

These ADHD-related struggles can strain relationships with coworkers, supervisors, and clients. Issues with organization, timeliness, and communication can also lead to poor performance reviews or disciplinary actions at work.

Adults with ADHD face higher rates of being fired, quitting jobs impulsively, and switching between temporary positions. The result is often underemployment, financial hardship, and low self-esteem. Without proper treatment and accommodations, symptoms may worsen due to the stress of ongoing work difficulties.

The Effect of Standing Desks on ADHD

A height-adjustable standing desk

What Studies Show

A study by the East Tennessee State University examined the effect of standing desks on task engagement among students with ADHD. 

The study found mixed results. For one student, the standing desk led to a significant increase in academically engaged time in the classroom. However, the second student experienced only a mild improvement.

Academically engaged time refers to the amount of instructional time that students spend actively focused on and participating in learning tasks. This includes activities like listening attentively to a lecture, actively discussing content, writing assignments, solving math problems, etc. The more academically engaged time students have, the more opportunity they have to comprehend and practice the material. Tracking academically engaged time is one way educators measure the effectiveness of curriculum and teaching methods.

Additionally, both students and teachers provided positive feedback on using the standing desks. They were receptive to continuing their use in the future.

More research is still required to clarify the exact effects of standing desks on different types of ADHD symptoms. However, this initial study provides evidence that they can increase engaged time on work for some people with attention deficits. Replicating this research with larger samples is an important next step.

Insights From a Person With ADHD

To understand the real-world impact of standing desks, we spoke to one of our colleagues who has ADHD. Our colleague decided to start using a standing desk at work due to difficulties staying focused during long meetings and getting easily distracted by coworkers stopping by his desk.

But within a few weeks of using the standing desk, our colleague noticed significant improvements:

  • He felt calmer, less restless and had an easier time focusing during projects. Having the freedom to stand and move a bit while working was very helpful. 

  • His productivity rose by about 50%. Our colleague credits improved concentration from the standing desk for helping him power through tasks without getting sidetracked.

  • He was less tempted to stop working to do something else. The standing desk seemed to help him maintain momentum.

  • Overall, he felt more in control of his ADHD symptoms. He could channel his energy into productive work rather than fidgeting and losing focus.

Conclusion: Do Standing Desks Help with ADHD?

The current research indicates standing desks may provide benefits for some people with ADHD. Studies show standing desks can reduce hyperactivity and restlessness while improving focus, attention span, class engagement, and reading comprehension.

However, more research is still needed on the exact effects for people with ADHD in the workplace. 

While not a cure-all solution, incorporating a standing desk could significantly help employees with ADHD manage distractions. It allows an outlet for extra energy while accommodating the brain’s need for movement and stimulation to focus.

Overall, the initial evidence and people’s reports suggest standing desks have the potential to assist with managing ADHD behaviors. The effect of a standing desk on ADHD varies from person to person but most people report at least mild improvements.


Are standing desks suitable for people with ADHD?

Initial research indicates standing desks may help reduce hyperactivity and restlessness while improving focus and task performance in those with ADHD. Both studies and firsthand accounts are quite promising, though more research is still needed.

How could a standing desk help employees with ADHD?

Standing desks allow an outlet for excess energy and fidgeting. The flexibility to stand, shift positions, pace, and move during work caters to the ADHD brain’s need for motion to focus. This can extend attention spans and boost workplace productivity.

What jobs work well for adults with ADHD?

Jobs involving flexibility, creativity, collaboration, and variety tend to suit those with ADHD. Careers in trades, arts, athletics, IT, law enforcement, and entrepreneurship often play to ADHD strengths while providing enough stimulation.

Is ADHD considered a disability?

Yes, ADHD is legally considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This protects employees from discrimination and provides reasonable accommodations like standing desks, flexible schedules, quiet workspaces and assistive technology.

Can standing desks reduce back pain?

Yes, they can. They allow you to maintain good posture and alternate between sitting and standing, which can significantly contribute to the reduction of back pain. This is just one of the many benefits of a standing desk for those spending a lot of time sitting.