I tried a $7,600 desk that lets you get horizontal at work

Jan 14, 2020 · 4 min read

Why you should lie down on the job.



It’s prime cold and flu season, which means many of us are at home re-familiarizing ourselves with the workstation known as the sickbed. This has two adjustable positions: seated, with your back propped up and laptop supported by pillows; or horizontal with thighs raised, laptop cutting into your belly. All while you try to knock out at least an email or two before the DayQuil wears off again.

But what if you could work in a more comfortable bed-like position when you’re well enough to be in the office? And what if there were really, really good ergonomic and creative benefits to doing so? That’s the premise of the Signature Altwork Station, a painstakingly-designed, highly-adjustable steel-frame desk made by a company in Sonoma, California that retails for $7,650. Monitor and laptop not included.

I had the chance to try out the Altwork, in its many programmable configurations, at CES in Las Vegas last week. The tl;dr: Think electronic standing desk meets benign dentist’s chair. And while it wasn’t quite as comfortable as any of the Smart Beds and “zero gravity” massage chairs tested by my colleague Rachel Kraus, the Altwork’s full-on 180-degree position did offer a similarly relaxing sensation of weightlessness, magnetic keyboard-and-mouse setup included.

Freed of the distracting discomfort brought on by endless sitting or standing — the restless legs, the never-straight-enough spine — your brain suddenly finds itself more able to get on with the business of putting its best thoughts on the screen. Once you get over the panicky sensation that the monitor is about to drop on your face, that is.

Altwork CEO Che Voigt set up the Signature Altwork in a suite in a Las Vegas casino near the tech conference. This not only let him avoid the high price tag of actually participating in CES show-floor insanity, a practice followed by an increasing number of small tech companies in 2019. It also allowed him to demonstrate the Signature, the latest upgrade to a cheaper $5,500 version released in late 2016, for true cognoscenti — rather than for “a bunch of random kids who just want to pretend like they’re in space,” Voigt said.

Voigt’s pitch was simple. We’ve designed our workspaces around computers, instead of designing the computers around us. That’s why he started the desk in the position a user would naturally approach it: as a standing desk, swung out from the chair. This seemed its weakest position, however; ss sturdy as the steel structure was overall, the keyboard and mouse tray had rather too much give to it when not over the chair. At least the keyboard and mouse wouldn’t go anywhere, as the Signature offers magnetic attachments for them, so the tray can go perpendicular to the floor with no slipping peripherals.


A few personalized adjustments later — the Signature remembers 4 of your favorite preset positions — and I was in full-on space-nerd mode. (Or the “Focus” position, as Voigt prefers to call it.) The magnetic keyboard and mouse added to that zero-G feel. I typed enough to know what this would translate to in the long run: hours of productivity in comfort so complete it almost seems illegal.

Indeed, Voigt’s main rival isn’t necessarily other high-tech desks — of which there are more than a few — but rather capitalism’s punishing pal, the Protestant work ethic. It just doesn’t look right. We don’t trust it. Workers have spent decades, if not centuries, believing that the measure of success is how much their butts or backs ache. If you ain’t hurting, we think, you ain’t working.

At a magazine where I worked as an editor, I once brought a recliner into my office because I knew I wrote better and faster in such a chair. But the scoffing from colleagues wouldn’t let up, and I soon returned to hunching my spine over a regular desk. That same laughter would likely follow anyone who purchased the Altwork for their office, unless that person happened to be in the C-suite.

Which, given the hefty price tag, seems to be very much the target audience here. Most of the glowing testimonials on Altwork’s site are from business leaders and entrepreneurs. Voigt told me he knew for a fact that some were not mentioning their medical spine conditions as reasons to get the desk in their testimonials: that work ethic at work again.

As for the rest of us working stiffs, the closest we’ll get to the Altwork’s feeling of weightlessness is the free sickbed workstation, like the one I set up after contracting my usual post-CES bug. Enjoy the weightlessness while cold and flu season lasts.

Originally published at https://mashable.com.


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