How Do Electric Standing Desks Work?

Person using an electric sit-stand desk

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Electric standing desks have risen in popularity in recent years as more studies demonstrate the health risks of prolonged sitting. These height-adjustable desks allow you to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day, which can reduce back and neck pain, boost energy, and even increase productivity.

But what’s the mechanism behind these high-tech desks? This is what we will answer in this article.

Key Takeaways

  • Electric standing desks use electric motors to raise and lower the desk height.
  • Pressing buttons on a control panel signals the control system to activate the motors and move the desk up or down.
  • The motors turn gears inside the legs that raise or lower glide plates the desk rests on. This allows smooth and quiet height adjustment.

The Mechanism Behind Electric Standing Desks

A sit-stand desk with additional accessories

Components and What They Do

  • Electric Motors: These are used to power the desk’s vertical movement, meaning they are responsible for raising or lowering the desk. High-quality desks often have motors in each leg for better stability and lifting power.

  • Control Box: This component acts as the desk’s brain, processing signals from the control panel and managing the power distribution to the motors for height adjustment.

  • Height Adjustment Mechanism: This includes the gears and telescoping legs that move in response to the motor’s action, which determines whether the desk is raised or lowered but also the desk’s stability, lifting speed, and noise level during operation. The gears translate the rotational motion of the motors into linear motion, enabling the telescoping legs to extend or retract. 

  • Control Panel: The user interface for adjusting the desk’s height, which can range from simple up and down buttons to more advanced panels with digital displays and memory settings.


  • Smooth, quiet, and effortless height adjustment at the press of a button.
  • Programmable memory presets allow users to save their preferred heights for sitting and standing.

How You Adjust the Height of an Electric Standing Desk

Memory settings on an electric standing desk

Electric standing desks allow you to effortlessly adjust the desk height with the push of a button. An electric motor lifts and lowers the desk frame and work surface to any height needed for sitting or standing.

Adjusting The Desk Height With the Push of a Button

Most electric standing desks come with an electronic keypad or handset controller. This typically features up/down buttons, sometimes labeled with arrow icons, to activate the desk to move up or down.

Simply press and hold the up or down button to raise or lower the desk to your desired height. Releasing the button will stop the desk at that height. 

Memory Presets on Electric Standing Desks

Beyond manual up/down buttons, most electric standing desks allow you to program customizable memory presets. This lets you save preferred heights for one-touch recall. 

How programming memory presets works on a standing desk depends on the model. It usually works like or similar to this:

  1. Start by positioning your standing desk at your desired height. This could be for when you’re sitting or standing. Use the Up and Down arrow buttons which allow you to adjust the desk’s height.
  2. Press the memory button on your control panel until the display blinks, a letter or other special indicator appears, or the desk beeps, signaling that it is in programming mode. The memory button might be labeled as ‘M’ or ‘S’ depending on the model.
  3. Select a number from one to four to assign this height preset to.
  4. Release all buttons after your chosen number appears on the screen. This confirms that the current desk height is successfully programmed.
  5. Repeat this process for different positions, such as when you’re using a chair or when you’re standing up.
  6. To recall a saved position, simply press the assigned number on your control panel and your desk will automatically adjust to that preset height.

Many electric standing desks offer 3-4 memory presets to customize your ideal sitting and standing positions. 

This feature is very beneficial because you have to regularly alternate between sitting and standing. It prevents this alternation process from becoming annoying. And we can confirm that it can be really annoying to have to manually adjust and fine-tune your desk’s height over and over again.


Electric standing desks provide an efficient, customizable, and user-friendly solution to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the workday. The key components of motors, gears, lifting mechanisms, and advanced control systems work together to powerfully and smoothly raise and lower the desk frame and worksurface on demand.

With programmable memory presets, one-touch buttons, and quiet operation, electric standing desks aim to provide exceptional convenience, ergonomics, and performance. Also consider this when thinking about whether a manual or electric standing desk is better for you.