The debate over the health impact of working at a computer continues to rage. Standing desk fans insist that being on their feet is the way to go for health and productivity, but for many of the rest of us, standing up for hours on end looks like an awful lot of hard work. The science isn’t exactly clear-cut, either.
California startup Altwork has what may be the solution with its first product: the Altwork Station. While adjustable sit/stand desks have been done before, the Altwork Station takes things to the next level: it’s an integrated workstation combining seat, desk, and monitor stand, and it’s all electrically controlled to support not just sitting and standing but also a supine position: you lie back with your monitor or monitors above you. The keyboard and mouse stay affixed to your desk through the magical power of magnets.
I recently gave a prototype version of the Station a quick spin and came away intrigued and quite impressed. The flexibility is very compelling. I’m one of those annoying people who likes to pace incessantly while on the phone, so the ability to put the workstation into standing mode at the touch of a button is useful, and the laid back posture is extremely comfortable. It will probably take a little time to get used to—not least because I found myself expecting the keyboard and mouse to fall off the desk, even though they didn’t. I could certainly envisage getting lots of work done like that—and a lot of gaming, too. In standing mode, it’s easy to swing the screen around to show it to other people, making ad hoc deskside presentations and collaboration easy and accessible.
And let’s be honest: lying back with an array of monitors around you (the monitor arm supports up to 35lbs and standard VESA mounts, so triple head is no problem) in a chair that is purpose-built for hardcore computing feels a bit sci-fi. It’s the kind of thing that you’d expect to see in a movie, the sort of awesome setup that the bad guy hacker is using—probably with a keyboard for each hand—to reprogram the laser satellite while simultaneously making a nuclear power station melt down.
The Station has a programmable memory to allow you to define the exact positions that you prefer; if you like to sit bolt upright, you can. Prefer a more semi-recumbent posture, no matter how indecorous? Not a problem. The motors do the work for you, and the position of the chair can be changed and adjusted at the touch of a button.
Altwork is aiming the Station at computer-using professionals—software developers, finance, CAD users, and so on—who have to use computers for extended periods. While the Station is a piece of furniture, CEO Che Voight told us that the company sees it as more of a tool: a productive, functional object that’s purpose-built to help these people do their jobs. We have seen other workstations with a similar kind of concept—the MWE Lab Emperor range is perhaps the best known—but the Station seems to do a better job both in terms of the range of its positioning options and the convenience of getting in and out.
That professional aim carries with it a professional price. The Station is available for early-adopter preorder for $3,900, and it is due to ship in mid-2016. Regular pricing will be $5,900. That’s a lot more than the Ikea Markus I currently sit on, but then again, the Altwork Station does a lot more than the Ikea Markus I currently sit on. It would be a worthy upgrade.