The Altwork station has been the source of a lot of conversation over the last few months. Created to “redefine how your computer and workstation work with you”, the objective of the reclining desk is to support employees in comfort, health and productivity during their working day.
After 5 years of hard work and engineering, the chair which promises to change the future of ergonomic working has arrived and Kensington managed to spend half an hour talking to the team behind this latest development.
We talked about comparison to the standing desk – which dominated ergonomic conversation at the beginning of 2015 – and their predictions for the future of the workplace.
What was the defining reason for the creation of the Altwork station?
As a group of serial entrepreneurs, the Altwork team has a history of success building companies that solved complex mechanical engineering challenges. After two of our co-founders suffered back injuries in successive years, the core group of our team began experimenting with prototypes of the Altwork Station. Once we realized that there could be significant benefits to workplace performance, personal comfort, and long-term health – we started down the long road of productizing the early prototypes (which we highlight in our product video at www.altwork.com).
Until now, what was your biggest frustration with current workstations?
The biggest frustration that we had, was that the human body had evolved over thousands of years, but over the past few decades high intensity computer users have forced their bodies to conform to the physical limitations of computing devices. That’s frustrating, because that’s not how your body wants to work – many other things have evolved to meet the needs of humanity in the realm of computing, like smart phones, light weight laptops…yet we still bend our bodies to the yoke of simple tables and chairs…that’s our inspiration.
How do you feel it compares to the standing desk that has been causing so much hype this year?
We feel the Altwork Station compares favorably to standing desks, because we believe that movement throughout the day increases productivity and health for people. There are four essential productivity positions that most high intensity computer users need to work within during their day: sit, stand, collaborate, and focus (where the user is in a reclined position, and their computer moves in concert with their body). The traditional sit-stand desks can be limited when it comes to collaboration, and they do not offer the capacity to recline in a focus position, which we believe is key for people to be successful with complex computing tasks for extended periods of time.
If you had to estimate, what percentage of employers would you say prioritised ergonomic health and safety over employee productivity? Is this likely to change?
Productivity and health for employees are very connected issues from our perspective. There is clearly a growing movement with ergonomic health that has led to the adoption of many ergonomic innovations from keyboard trays, to monitor arms, and sit-stand desks. It seems reasonable to assume that happy people are more productive, and comfortable people can be more creative. We believe this is a fascinating area for further empirical study.
What do you think a workstation/office space will be like in 10 years?
Without speculating on the impact of how specific new technological innovations will impact high intensity computer users, the trends we see are the continuing evolution of the open office, the growing use of hot office spaces, and additional use of collaboration tools for remote employees. For some of our core users in the software development space, it’s interesting to theorize about how pair-programming may impact the use of workstations like Altwork…but time (and as always, user testing) will tell.
Which piece of technology could you not do without?
The find my iPhone app!
If you could use only one social network, which would it be?
LinkedIn for work, Facebook for friends, Twitter for news (how’s that for a non answer!)
What do you predict as the next product on the ergonomic horizon?
Picking a specific ‘next’ product is tough. Wearable computing is really interesting, as well as the apps that wearable computing is exposing to people. As more data becomes available about workplace performance based on how people interact with their computers (potentially through wearables), that offers the promise to inform the development of new products that can help make people happier, healthier, and more productive. From the Altwork perspective, what’s awesome about our product is that we make your computer move with you, instead of you conforming your body to the limitations of your computer. We have working theories on some of these issues that we plan to empirically test and incorporate in our product – it’s a tremendously exciting time for both ergonomics, and workplace performance.
Would you be keen to test out the station in your own office and amongst your employees? Join in the conversation over on LinkedIn.