Workspace Design Show

26 – 27 February 2025 | Business Design Centre, London

The Desk that Changed the Office: LINAK’s Story of Sit-Stand Desk Technology

From catching the industry by surprise in the 1990s to igniting a global trend, here is how we helped change the office landscape. LINAK was the first to market with its revolutionary electric adjustable sit-stand desk concept: Today, more than 10 million electric desk systems later, they still lead the industry, constantly setting new benchmarks for innovation, quality and design. Where we lead, others follow. Explore how – and why LINAK and sit-stand desks are so closely linked.

Many design trends have changed the office environment over the years, but few have positively affected the individual user in a workspace quite like the electric sit-stand desk. Although standing desks have been around for centuries, the technology behind the electric sit-stand desk has only been around for a little over two decades. Other types of manual height-adjustable options like pin, crank, gas and pneumatic have existed for decades, but nothing compares to the convenience of pushing a button to achieve better ergonomics, health, and well-being while working at your desk.

So where did the technology inside these desks start? In the early 1990s, LINAK® was a growing electric linear actuator company and while expanding globally, we were also growing business areas outside of medical applications. Entrepreneurs at the time came to us looking for better ways to improve ergonomics and working comfort in niche areas such as workstations for architects, engineers, photographers, and special needs applications for kitchens and bathrooms.

“The development of a complete height-adjustable desk system didn’t come from this vision of a big opportunity for LINAK, it came from us wanting to have a solution that made it easier for our customers to build workstations,” says John Frost, Division President & Executive Vice President at LINAK. “There were two needs we wanted to address: Make it easier and make it more affordable.”

To do this, we would need to develop a new product specifically for desks, and utilise our experience, technology, and capabilities from existing product lines. With actuators running in parallel for hospital beds, numerous types of glide pads for medical applications, and a history of innovating first, LINAK was up for the challenge.

“We gave the task to six engineers, three mechanical and three electrical, and before you knew it, we were presented with a promising concept of a two-leg electrically height-adjustable system,” says Frost. “The real innovation in this new product would be in the relationship between the motor, spindle, and guidance systems to control the near perfect frictional tolerances throughout the leg movement. While the design aesthetic was very important, the technology inside the leg was what truly mattered.”

Catching the industry by surprise

In late 1998, LINAK caught the industry by surprise and launched our first ever complete electrically height-adjustable system for desks. The system included a desk panel switch to easily adjust height, an advanced control box for smooth desk movement, and a revolutionary “electric leg” for desks called DESKLIFT™ 1 (DL1).

Everything we take for granted today in a height-adjustable desk was totally ground-breaking in 1998: Building lifting systems with motors and spindles into desk columns; achieving smooth, quiet vertical lifting – and then putting all this into a simple streamlined package were genuinely innovative breakthroughs.

After the launch, the focus was to help customers make the transition to the new solution.

LINAK did not anticipate how successfully this technology would be adopted, especially in Northern Europe. The demand grew rapidly as electrically height-adjustable desk systems spread outside of industrial workstations to office desks.

Inadvertently kicking off a global trend!

By the early 2000s, sit-stand desks had become the norm in Scandinavia and were rapidly gaining ground throughout the rest of Northern Europe. The trend for electrically height-adjustable desks did not really gain traction in North America until the late 2000s, when the media coined the phrase “sitting is the new smoking”. After that, uptake dramatically increased.

Many furniture manufacturers joined LINAK in communicating the benefits of height-adjustable technology to improve ergonomics in the workplace. By working to find a solution for our customers, we had unknowingly helped ignite a global trend – improving the lives of office workers through ergonomic solutions.

The DL1 was state-of-the-art 25 years ago and an updated version is still part of our product range. In today’s market, innovative new LINAK products, like the Desk Panels DPI and DPG1C, continue to win awards for product design, while other products are awarded for customer design – including Best in Innovation at NeoCon and Best of NeoCon Gold Award for Desk2Device USB charger.

As working styles change, so will furniture design and functionality. Being deeply rooted in “the will to change“ provides LINAK with a unique drive to adapt and address known and unknown challenges. But the experience of innovating so many firsts is what motivates us to continue to take adjustable furniture design to the next level.

With more than 10 million electric adjustable desk systems sold since 1998, it is true to say that LINAK has succeeded in changing the office landscape for the better – by improving the lives of office workers around the world.