Our Recommendations for the Best Office Chairs

If your job involves sitting at a desk for most of your day, you might already know how important a good chair is.  Having a chair that is comfortable and supportive can make it easier to get through a long day with less back and neck pain.  Being more comfortable can also increase your productivity by allowing you to focus more on your work than on any pain or general discomfort.

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You may have seen commercials claiming that “sitting is the new smoking” and “comfort kills careers.”  Don’t believe it.  It is absolutely true that sitting for hours on end can be hard on your body and mind.  Taking a short break from sitting at your desk once an hour or so can be a good way to stretch your muscles, which helps promote healthier circulation in addition to being good for your muscles.  A few minutes away from your workstation can also help clear your head and refocus your energy.  Sitting in an uncomfortable, unsupportive chair is far worse for your productivity than being well supported.  When we’re uncomfortable, our focus drifts away from what we should be doing while we fidget and try to find a reason–any reason–to get away from our desks.  If your office allows standing desks (most of which will easily convert from a standing desk to a more conventional one), it’s certainly something to consider, but unless you want to stand all day, you’ll still need a great chair.  There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a new chair.  We’ll take a look at a few below.

One thing to consider in a chair is the height of the back.  A well-made chair will offer a good degree of support for users of all heights, but most high-backed chairs and even some mid-height versions are uncomfortable for a lot of shorter users.  The curve of the back tends to line up poorly with their own spines, and the added height of the chair back can add to neck strain by making it difficult to to get full neck range of motion.  Taller users, on the other hand, may find that shorter backs are less supportive and less comfortable.

Whether or not a chair should have arms is largely a matter of preference.  Having chair arms at a height that allows for a natural resting position of your arms can help ease back and shoulder strain if you spend a lot of time sitting, but not necessarily always typing or otherwise bent over your desk.  Larger people and shorter people sometimes find arms on a chair to be constricting or otherwise inconvenient.

Generally speaking, lumbar support is one of a chair’s most important factors.  If you need to sit for much of your work day, finding a chair that offers the best lower back support is critical.  The best support might feel odd if you’re not used to it, but you’ll very quickly adjust to a chair that matches the natural curve of your spine and then you’ll wonder how you ever functioned without it.

One feature that can actually all but negate good lumbar support is a seat that is too shallow or, worse yet, too deep.  You need a chair that allows you to sit fully against the back while your feet rest fully on the floor with your knees at a roughly 90-degree angle.  If you have to “scoot up” to rest your feet on the floor, you won’t get any back support at all.  Likewise, if you’re tall enough (or the seat is shallow enough) that your knees are practically bumping into your keyboard tray, your upper body might get decent support, but the awkward lower-body angles could be detrimental.

Comfort features such as great cushioning versus a breathable mesh are strictly a matter of preference and should be secondary to finding the most supportive chair.  Your best bet will be a chair that offers multiple adjustments unless, of course, you have the resources to be professionally fitted for a high-dollar chair.

You can go here for reviews (including comparisons and pros and cons) of several top ergonomic office chair models.

Tips for HR Pros New to the Field

HR is a field that continues to grow and evolve.  Social media and web-based groups have changed the face of HR and likely will continue to do so.  Below, you’ll find a few tips summed up in two simple phrases to help new HR pros get started and maybe serve as a refresher for more seasoned HR vets.

Keep learning

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Don’t ever think that you’ve learned all there is to know.  Schooling, and even past HR experience, can only take you so far.  The continued evolution of technology and social media mean that HR pros will have to keep up.  Recruiting, hiring, and networking are ever-moving and ever-growing, and the best HR pros will be the ones who keep up.

Social media represents a major area that should be seen as critical to HR pros.  Learning how to use social media to recruit new hires and stay connected to current employees is a new facet of business that’s still being developed and tweaked.  Being able to stay on top of social media trends as they apply to your company can set you apart and let your employer know how committed you are to keeping up and finding ways to move ahead.

Understand that while a good resumé and/or solid education are still worth something, most companies have come to realize that the changing landscape of the world of business means that actionable ideas about how to handle today’s issues and the ability to anticipate and plan for tomorrow’s challenges may be more important for HR pros than most others.  In other words, what you can do today and tomorrow may be more important to an employer than what you did yesterday.

Build relationships

Getting to know as many people within your organization as you can and making an honest effort to connect with these people can be invaluable to your career.  If you come to be seen as someone genuine and trustworthy, you’ll put yourself in a position to be helpful in resolving conflicts, which is always a part of HR’s job.  You also will be someone employees feel they can come to with problems and ideas for making the workplace better.  Being able to present your superiors with these problems (and a couple of possible solutions) and ideas (along with implementation strategies) can make you stand out.

Building relationships with the employees in your organization also means understanding that “Human Capital” means people.  Not numbers on a spreadsheet.  People with ideas, concerns, needs, and their own plans for the future.  Employees that feel like someone appreciates their efforts will always be more productive.

Using in-person conferences and similar events along with social media to build a network of peers is another invaluable asset.  More people on your list of contacts means more people with whom to share ideas or to whom you can turn for advice as well as a better chance of having your name “out there” as a viable candidate for job openings that might interest you.

In the end, it might come down to remembering that HR stands for “Human Resources.”  Humans are more than names on a list.  A resource is an asset.  Be an asset for your company that understands that humans, not numbers, really make up the bottom line.

How to Be the Best HR Pro You Can Be

HR can be a tough profession.  You’re responsible for matching your company’s needs and mission with incoming talent, or maybe even trying to find that talent.  You have to find ways to run a tight ship without inciting mutiny, which can be difficult given the many different personalities with which you have to deal.  Below, you’ll find a few tips that can help you find the balance you need to be the glue that holds all the sections of your company’s totem pole together.

Understand the value of relationships

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Obviously, employers expect to see results, but don’t let those results come at the expense of building true relationships with as many people as you can.  If others in your own department as well as other departments feel like you’re truly vested, they’re more likely to trust you and look to you for advice.  Working well with others in your department leads to a more efficient team.  Working well with “the rank and file” makes you more valuable when it comes to conflicts within or between departments and means you might be the one that an employee comes to with a great idea–an idea that you can help to develop and present to management that gets you (and hopefully the originating employee, too) recognition that can further your career.

Relationships with peers outside of your organization are always valuable, too.  It can be helpful to have such folks as sounding boards or as a network of resources in the event you find yourself in need of (or just wanting) a new job.

Surround yourself with the best

When it comes to choosing your own team members, don’t make the mistake of trying to make sure you’re the smartest one in the group.  Instead, do all you can to surround yourself with the best and brightest people you can find, even if these people will be subordinates.  You look a whole light brighter to others when building a strong team is more important to you than outshining others in your own group.

Don’t stop growing

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If you ever decide that you’ve “arrived” and have nothing left to prove and nothing left to learn, you’ll almost certainly find yourself in someone else’s rearview rather than looking at them in yours.  There’s always something new to learn, always a new trend to watch, always a better idea waiting to be discovered.

You also want to learn how to embrace feedback of all kinds from all kinds of people.  You may disagree wholeheartedly with some feedback, but knowing how others perceive you can be valuable.  If you get feedback that’s unclear, don’t walk away until you fully understand what’s meant.  If you get feedback that you feel is unfair, state your case respectfully if you feel you’ve been misunderstood.  If you get positive feedback, don’t let it go to your head.  Asking for honest feedback can not only help you grow, it can be a sign to others that you embrace opportunities to grow, learn, and improve.

Look ahead, not back

While your experience has helped turn you into the HR pro that you are, more companies these days are interested in what you can do for them now and in the future than in what you’ve done in the past.  This may never be more true than right now, given that the advent of social media and an ultra-connected society have given rise to new ways of advertising, recruiting, networking, hiring, and sharing information.  Showing your team, your employer, and the rest of the totem pole that you’re prepared to handle what’s happening now with an eye to the future will mean a great deal more than anything on your resumé.