I’m pretty happy with my office chair, but I’d be lying if I said it was perfect. Half the time, I’m leaning too far forward; half the time, I’m slumping. I have to maintain the same position whether I’m on a phone call, or writing a long article, or putting a new gaming mouse to the test. The Altwork Station, a truly bizarre but potentially useful chair-and-desk combination, aims to solve this workplace dilemma.
I sat down and experienced the Altwork Station for myself at a private demo in NYC. After encountering the odd setup at GDC a few months ago, I wanted a little more time with it to see if it was really a viable office solution, or just an expensive gimmick. The full setup, not including a computer, costs $3,900 for a standard preorder and $4,900 for a more colorful “signature” edition. If office managers are going to invest in these things, they’d better have some kind of tangible return on comfort and/or productivity.
What sets the Altwork Station apart from other chair-and-desk combos is that it’s totally adjustable. If you want to sit up straight, even slightly forward, with your desk right in your face, that’s fine. If you want to recline at a full 180-degree angle with your desk just barely brushing your fingertips, that’s also easy to do. The system is mostly electronic, so you can adjust the setup with a push of a button, and there are a ton of mechanical failsafes to make it virtually impossible to hurt either yourself or the furniture.
While it takes only about 30 seconds to take the chair from one extreme conformation to the other, users can also program four presets that set the chair to a particular height and angle. This could be useful if, for example, you want an upright position for heavy writing, a fully horizontal one for media streaming, and two in-between for reading or taking phone calls.
Just about everything is adjustable, too: the angle of the seat, the height of the leg rest, the distance of the desk, the height of the desk, the angle of the desk, the height of the monitor and the angle of the monitor, for starters. The desk can withstand 15.5 pounds worth of stuff, and the chair is cleared for up to 250 pounds worth of person, giving it plenty of flexibility for the everyday office worker. As for mice, keyboards and mousepads, all it takes is a few 3D-printed mounts and a handful of magnets to keep them in place.
Altwork foresees applications beyond simple productivity, however. When I asked about potential gaming applications, Che Voigt, the company’s CEO, told me that it was something the engineers had in mind. While the average gamer is not likely to dish out $4,000 or $5,000 for a fancy seat, the setup may be of interest to game developers, who need to spend hours upon hours both programming and playtesting. (Having the same chair to continue gaming after-hours wouldn’t hurt either, he said.)
Preorders for the stations will continue until Jul. 29, as Altwork intends to start shipping the setups in August or September. As San Francisco is closest to the company’s distrubutors, buyers there can expect their stations first, followed by buyers elsewhere in the United States. (European distribution will hopefully come later, Voigt said.)
I spent some time typing, reading and surfing the Web in various configurations on the Altwork Station, and it was definitely both comfortable and functional. I’m not sure I’m dying to swap my more conventional setup, though, especially at the asking price. Still, I see how the seat could have some benefits for startup companies with a lot of space and long hours to spend in front of computers. Just about every study says we’re killing our backs in standard office chairs, so the Altwork Station’s value could exceed its cost after a few years.