For many workers, the fixed workspace is going away. But for others, many hours can go by while they stare at the big screen. That’s who the new Altwork workstation is for: “high-intensity computer users, which we define as people that spend at least 4 hours a day in front of their personal computer and are required to focus on complex tasks for extended periods of time such as developing software and producing computer automated design work.”
We're not supposed to just take this lying down; the workstation is designed to adapt to a number of different ways of working including standing, sitting and yes, reclining, which the company calls “Focus” mode.
Monitors and trackpads stick to the desktop with magnets, and as you move the chair through its different positions, the distance from the monitor and the keyboard stays the same. Why? Because:
Most experts agree that humans should change positions and move throughout the day. We believe movement throughout the day is important. While there is no formal ergonomic data we know of regarding the Focus (reclined) position our Altwork patented technology provides, many experts believe a large part of the health benefits from standing come from keeping the torso and legs at greater than 135 degrees apart to allow blood flow vs. the 90 degrees that a traditional chairs require.
This is where it gets tricky. While all kinds of research confirms that we should change positions and move, I would have thought that we should do it ourselves instead of having the chair do it for us.
I'm also not sure that it really promotes good work habits. Perhaps it's a bad idea to be concentrating on the screen for four hours straight. I do know that back when I was doing CAD work, the prescription was always that once an hour we should stop, take a break, focus on something else — maybe talk to another human being. I don't think that has changed.
Many people are balking at the $5,900 price tag; I suspect that many employers would find that a bargain if it kept people at their desks and squeezed a bit more out of them. As CEO Che Voight tells Wired:
“We aren’t trying for a general purpose desk. This is designed for people whose job is to operate a computer. We are looking at CAD engineers, financial traders, animators, technical writers,” says Voigt. “I feel like the high-intensity computer user is undervalued. Those are the people who, if their project gets done a little bit sooner, that’s a big deal.”
But what about the oft-asked question: Where do you put your coffee? The company is offering a side table. Another idea might be a version of those CamelBak hydration packs, with a coffee hose that goes right into your mouth. Then you'd never have to stop working even to take a sip.
Then we can all settle in for the long haul.