Opinion: Skip the Black Friday Mess by Shopping Online

We all know Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving, long-held to be one of the best times to get great deals) is almost upon us. I’ve always had a bit of a problem with this tradition, though, and it boils down to one statement: “PEOPLE ARE FREAKING CRAZY.”

You might remember the Wal-Mart worker who was trampled to death during a Black Friday “doorbuster” rush. Maybe you chuckled over people physically fighting each other over the last Xbox 360. All in all, it seems our deal-hunting culture sometimes trumps our common sense.

So here’s an idea: why not stay home? Find yourself a nice cozy computer and cuddle up with some every-day great deals from your favorite office supply company. All of the major office big-box stores are going to try to tempt you with dubious deals to get you in the store on a chilly November morning. Either you camp out in the cold to save a couple bucks on pens, or heaven forbid show up late to find all the good stuff cleaned out, and resign to pay their overinflated prices on regular goods so you don’t feel like you “wasted a trip.” I say SKIP IT.

How does reliable service, huge inventory, and free shipping on orders over $75 sound? It just so happens I know some guys…

More Office Depot Chair Recalls

According to attorneyatlaw.com, Raynor Marketing is voluntarily recalling the Quantum Realspace PRO™ 9000 Series Mid-Back Multifunction Mesh Chair and Multifunction Mesh Chair with Headrest, both manufactured in China and sold exclusively at Office Depot.

Importer Raynor Marketing has received 33 reports of the seatbacks on the chairs coming loose and detaching, including 14 involving bumps, bruises, and other injuries, the CPSC said.

The falls occurred when bolts holding the seatback to the chair frame came loose and came off, officials said.

Quantum Realspace PRO™ 9000 Series Mid-Back Multifunction Mesh Chairs with SKU # 510830 and the Quantum Realspace PRO™ 9000 Series Mesh Chair with Headrest carrying SKU # 690690 are included in today’s recall. The Realspace PRO™ Mesh Guest Chair is not involved in this recall, the CPSC said.

The chairs sold for about $300 without headrest and $350 with headrest. If you own one of the two chairs seen below, check the SKU and contact Raynor to receive a repair kit. The contact information, as well as the full details of the recall, can be found in the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s official release. As with the last recall, I am not trying to use this as a jab at the big office companies; just getting the word out. They’ll give me plenty to jab at them with later.

Big Box News: OfficeMax Recalls Chairs After Injuries

The Sun Sentinel is one of many news organizations to report that OfficeMax has been forced to issue a recall for Chinese-made Task Chairs sold between 2003 and 2008, due to over 35 reports of premature breakage and over 15 injuries.

Consumers are advised to stop using the chairs immediately and contact their local OfficeMax for further instructions.

In a shocking twist for this blog, I’m not going to blame OfficeMax for anything. The CEO of OfficeMax isn’t doing personal factory tours of their Chinese chair-making plants, and no one could have seen this coming.

They’re cooperating with investigations and are offering refunds or discounts to those affected by the recall. I’m not going to use this to take a jab at the “big guys”, I just want everyone to know what’s up so no one else gets hurt.

And of course, if you find yourself in need of a chair that DOESN’T fall apart on you, I have a few recommendations.  And wouldn’t you know it? I know just where to get them.

Video: The Disappearing Dining Table Office

Always cool to see innovative office tricks making the mainstream news.

The CBS Early Show had a segment today featuring interior designer Kristan Cunningham, who shared some innovative tricks for turning one of the most-seen but least-used areas of your home, the dining room table, into a go-to disappearing home office.

The video is the star of the show here, but some excerpts from the accompanying article set the tone:

  • Fax Machine:
    The multifunction printer/fax/copier/phone ID can be covered with a bottomless basket that is simply lifted off when you need it. It rests on a serving table which can be used to store linens and also office supplies.
  • The Hutch:
    The hutch has part of the glass front covered with frosted contact paper, leaving the top part clear to display dishes and serving ware. Behind the glass door are files, books and all the desk top supplies. The desk supplies are on a tray and blotter and simply lifted out an put on the dining table. Cunningham suggests putting a desk blotter under it to protect the wood.

Click the link and check the video clips for more on this cool project.

Working from Home: What to Ask Your Broadband Provider

IT-director.com has an interesting piece from David Heyes, COO of TFM Networks, about some of the less-often-considered aspects of working from home. Namely: is it as simple as plugging your employees into a broadband connection and letting them go?

In the article, Heyes covers five key points you may not have thought of, and that your broadband provider might not like you to think of. Since these points imply something a little more involved than the plug-and-play aspect of working from home that a lot of companies (that want to sell you a “business broadband package”), it’s important to take a look before you dive in:

1. Service: What happens if the broadband connection fails?
2. Performance: What about speed, bandwidth and prioritizing key applications over your network?
3. Security: How important is this to you, including data protection?
4. Health & Safety: What are the regulations for home workers?
5. Maintenance and Procurement: Who provides the home office supplies and equipment?

All in all, the article is a decent breakdown of letting employees work from home. I personally had never considered, for example, how a from-home employee would still be covered by a business’s insurance plan, and how they might have to conduct site visits to make sure someone’s home office was up to spec.

Basically, this is an interesting read for anyone looking to pitch the idea of working from home, or any employers looking to expand into that area. As much as we’d like it to be as simple as throwing together a desk, a chair, a filing cabinet, some computers and a broadband connection, the reality is a little more complicated.

Space-saving: The Office Desk Under The Stairs

Our good friends over at Lifehacker are showcasing a pretty impressive setup with one of their user’s home offices. Lacking space, one of their readers decided to use the opening under the large metal staircase leading up to his terrace as the ideal location for a compact workspace. Looks like a simple table desk, a standard metal filing cabinet, and his computer and knick-knacks on top of the desk, and it’s ready to go. Oh, and a pretty nice-looking chair as well.

All in all, an innovative approach to the all-too-common problem of not having enough space to suit your needs. If you’ve got a similarly compact home office setup you’d like to share, by all means forward it on to me at chase@ontimesupplies.

How-To: Select a new Office Chair

After writing my article on ordering a replacement caster for my office chair, I realized that when all was said and done I would have rather ordered a replacement CHAIR for my office chair. This thing came from a big-box store as a stopgap measure to replace a nice leather chair I had inherited but eventually fell apart. What was supposed to last me a few weeks has turned into a few years, and today when I leaned back and a screw fell out of the bottom of the chair, I knew it was time to go shopping.

That’s when I realized I know nothing about office chairs. I mean, sure, I know you sit in them and they keep you off the floor and they’re a handy place to hang your coat, but other than that I had no idea what went into selecting one. I tended to just walk into the store and sit on things until I found one I liked and wasn’t too expensive. I decided to educate myself on the subject a little more and I’m here to pass my findings on to you.

Three options that all came up during a search for “office chairs.”
I think I notice some differences.

I figured my first step should be to call around to some leading manufacturers of chairs and find out what they recommend. The best info I got came from Hon, one of the top names in office furniture and all around swell folks. Between a helpful customer service call and a free .PDF they sent me called “how to buy office furniture”, I’ve compiled a list of their recommendations.

Operate within your budget. As much as I hate to be a stickler for price, this is one piece of advice I can agree with. While your chair budget should be high for a personal chair (the price is worth the comfort if you’re going to be sitting in it all day, every day), you still need to set one. The sheer amount of different chairs will stagger you if you go shopping by features before setting a price point. So narrow it down to a healthy price range, and then start looking at options.

Consider your Position. After you’ve decided on a price point, consider how often the chair is going to be used, and in what context. The amount of use a chair will see should definitely determine its type, and the Hon buying guide has some tips for this scenario:

1. Employees who sit six to eight hours a day performing multiple tasks should have high-performance task chairs with ergonomic controls that let the user adjust the chair to suit his or her body size and work style. Many chairs now use passive ergonomic adjustments that maintain a comfortable configuration as the user moves. (More on ergonomics later.)

2. People who use computers should have adjustable armrests to maintain a comfortable position at the keyboard. The chair’s tilt feature should allow users to look at the computer screen at a comfortable angle no matter how much they lean forward or back.

3. Executives may not need all the performance features as they spend less time sitting down, but may require leather or more high-tech materials to project a strong, professional image.

They go on to mention that a chair should have a solid warranty on parts and fabric, and to keep in mind that something like a waiting room chair or conference room chair should be treated differently than a “work chair”, since those are meant to be sat in by many people for short amounts of time, not one person for long durations. On that note:

Think ergonomically. You’re going to be sitting in this chair for a long time, so you need to know that you can adjust it to fit your ergonomic needs. In case you didn’t know, ergonomics is the study of suiting the work environment to fit the worker, in order to maximize human potential. It is often used as a stand-in for “comfort” when talking about the workplace. I plan on doing a whole post on ergonomics at some point, so for now we’ll take it to mean adjusting your chair to maximize comfort, reduce stress, and generate a comfortable work environment.

To begin, make sure your chair has all the adjustment options you think you might need. The Hon rep told me one of the reasons to start with price is that any chair that’s worth buying is going to have enough of these options that anyone will be able to customize it to fit their needs. After seeing some of their options charts, I believe it:

Okay. Up, down, back, forward. I can dig it. That’s what chairs should do, right? Seems pretty cut-and-dry…oh, wait. What’s that?

For a more detailed explanation of all these features,
check out the Chair Buying guide at On Time Supplies.

This is science at work, people. There’s a reason why ergonomics is big business, and why it’s important to take care of yourself by using the wealth of options available to you. Bad posture and poor ergonomics can lead to repetitive stress injury, chronic back pain, eyestrain and more. By making sure your chair has even a fraction of these adjustment options, you’re well on your way to customizing your workspace in a way that fits you.

A great resource I found is Ergotron, which has an ergonomic calculator  that tells me that I’ve got my desk set up all wrong. A couple of small tweaks and I can feel it working already, though I’m nowhere near perfection. Hopefully my new chair, whatever it ends up being, will help fix all that.

In conclusion, let’s sum up by saying there are three things to consider when buying a chair: comfort, quality, and price, and they all inter-relate while you are shopping. Set a price point that’s within your budget, and look for a high-quality chair from a reliable dealer that has features that allow you to adjust it to fit your comfort. Any retailer worth their salt should offer a buying guide for the chairs they sell, and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call them (or the chair manufacturer) with any questions. We’re all here to help.

Office Exercises Can Ease Your Body & Mind

Working in a cubicle or office all day, looking at the same computer screen and maintaining nearly the same position all day long, can get taxing on the body and make work uncomfortable and distract you from getting important tasks done. So why put up with it?

Here are some easy exercises that can help your body and mind.

The “Executive Stretch” – I bet many people do this exercise occasionally without even realizing the benefits of it.  Sitting in your chair, clasp your hands together behind your head, and press your elbows back so that you squeeze your shoulder blades together.  Repeat this 3 times, and do this several times a day to prevent your back from seizing up and to maintain your oh-so-important comfort level.

As we all know, staring at a computer screen for lengthy amounts of time can be taxing on the eyes and make your tired and unable to acutely focus.  So do the easy Focusing Technique by simply focusing on an object 20 feet away for several seconds, and slowly look around at other surrounding objects.  Doing this will make looking at your computer screen more bearable and will make you more productive.

Again, sitting still and staring at a computer screen may not be anyone’s first choice for what to do on a lazy Saturday, but alas, it’s Tuesday around 3 pm, and your neck is starting to kill you.  Try out the Neck Glide – sitting upright and staring ahead, just rock your neck back as far as you can, then glide it forward.  Repeat this 3 times, and repeat the exercise when your neck needs a breather.

Then there is the Arm Massage – While sitting at your desk, place one arm down flat on the desk, and with your other arm apply pressure with your thumb from your wrist up to your elbow, and back again.  Do this 3 times for each arm, and you’ll get some blood flowing again.

Tired of sitting down?  Well, just stand on up for this next one, known as Reverse the Curve. Place your hands palm down on your lower back, and looking forward, rock your upper body back over where your hands are to stretch your back and hips.  Make sure you hold the position when you are leaned back for 5-10 seconds.  Do this exercise 3 to 5 times in repetition, and throughout the day as needed.

Finally, there is one more simple exercise – the Leg Extension. Sitting down, stretch one leg out in front of you, and point your toes during the ceiling to stretch your leg and lower back.  Hold your foot in this position for about 5 seconds, then relax it.  Do this 3-5 times per leg and sitting down at your desk trying to get that last project out of the door will be a much more enjoyable experience.

These exercises may sound trivial, but they are helpful to your body and certainly your attitude while at work, increasing productivity while not having to suffer through neck cramps and other bodily aches that can impede you.  Besides, taking a few minutes to do some of these give you a good little break from working so hard!

Painful Wrists or Fingers From Your Computer?

Working all day on a computer can get tiring, and not just to your eyes from looking at the screen. I should know, as I go to Georgia Tech, which some might label as one of the geekiest colleges. I will say that being an Institute of Technology, there is a lot of computer and other technology use in everyday school work. Whether in writing papers or lab reports, doing research, conducting Physics II lab experiments taking electronic measurement of data using a computer… you know what, I’ll just stop there to save the rest of you from boredom.

But seriously, I use a computer a lot. A lot, in fact, for non-curricular activities as well. From writing on a political blog, to writing on a personal blog, to writing on this blog (I only write for 3, I swear!), and scouring the Internet daily for news tidbits that interest me, as well as the latest in the perennial college humor that can be found online, I use my laptop more than I’d care to admit sometimes.

The point of all this is, being at a computer doesn’t have to be tiring if you don’t want it to be. As previously written about here, there are exercises you can do to maintain sanity. But beyond getting up and doing some of these, wouldn’t it be great if you could avoid those inevitable aching wrists?

That’s why more and more people, both at college and in the office, are turning to ergonomic keyboards as well as keyboard wrist pads. They may not sound like the most savvy tool to have, but believe me when I buy my first workstation computer (I’m in college, a laptop is essential right now!) I won’t be getting a keyboard without a gel pad. These pads can also help deter Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, which many office workers can get if they don’t work smart. Some people even buy a “natural” keyboard, with the keys curved in a manner that some find to be more natural to their hand motions.

And to be frank, when I do have the luxury of using a keyboard on a gel pad, it just feels good! Instead of my wrists resting on the edge of a plastic keyboard, or a wooden desk, they get to rest comfortably while I type. If you’re the type of person who sits at a computer and types a great deal, this is a solid investment in making your day at the office (or in the library writing a paper) a little more comfortable.

Five Ways to Reduce Office Stress

Stress is one of the leading killers and causes of illness in our society, and most of it is due to the working environment. Executives and those in authority seem to suffer from this stress most acutely, as the pressures of meeting deadlines, pleasing the boss, making the bottom line make sense, and the responsibility inherent in employing others can get to the most calm of individuals.


In this article, we will take a look at five things you can do to relieve some of that stress that has been accumulating over the years. Each day brings its own challenges, but it is up to you to find ways to deal with those challenges without letting them make you miserable, or even sick. Without further ado, here are some techniques you can put to work right now to start melting the stress away.


#1. Get Your Office Clean


It is amazing how much stress can build up just by being surrounded by clutter and confusion. If this rings true for you, it might be time to take a full scale, dedicated day to clean up your office and get things organized. ACCO folders are a great way to get your papers in order and clean up the confusion that you might have regarding your own filing system. A lot of stress can be manufactured by not being able to find what you need when you need it. If you have a quality filing system with parameters that make sense, this stress can be eliminated. Even if you can’t afford a full day spent reorganizing and cleaning your office, make it a point to do one thing per day that will get you on the right track. Change your filing system, rearrange the furniture, etc. It might even be worth it to stay after hours to do this, as the benefits will outlast this temporary inconvenience.


#2. Do Stress Relieving Exercises


About a half hour before you go home each day, take the time to get rid of the stress that has built up since that morning. An easy way to do this is by practicing a few proven stress relief techniques. The worst thing you can do is go home with all of that stress intact. Then it begins to affect your family life and your free time. These techniques do not have to be anything outrageous or complicated, just some light meditation and stretching should do the trick nicely. Roll your shoulders, close your eyes, and visualize the boulder of stress and responsibility falling off of your back. Then, when it is time to go home and leave work behind, you can do just that.


#3. Start on Tomorrow’s Work


If you have the time (and most people find that they do), a great way to relieve stress is to get some of the next day’s work done today. You will come in the next morning and not be overwhelmed with the amount of work you have to get done. We know, we know, it’s a trick–if you do this every day, then nothing has really changed in terms of your daily workload. Still, you will perceive it differently. Plus, there will always be that day when you just do not feel motivated. On that day, you will be glad you have less work, and you can skip out on doing any of the next day’s tasks.


#4. Aromatherapy


Many men scoff at the healing powers of aromatherapy, but it might be worth a try. Pick some candles or scents that you enjoy, and light them up in your office. See if it doesn’t make a little difference in the way you perceive the day. Anything you can use to let yourself feel calmer is a good thing.


#5. Remember To Laugh


Finally, the key to a happy workplace is laughter. Even if you have to force yourself to laugh a little throughout the day, it will do your mood and your stress relief some good. If you don’t find much laughter in interacting with your coworkers, find a funny website and visit it at least a couple of times a day to get a laugh. This can do wonders for your spirit and it may just give you the extra help you need in finishing out the work day.