PrincePerelson & Associates

5 Strategies to Address Workplace Boredom

“I’m bored.”

It is unlikely that you will hear these two words from your employees, even though it is likely true for some of them. In a 2016 study published by Udemy, 43% of employees reported feeling bored. Why don’t employees vocalize their feelings about their job? In many cases, employees hesitate to speak freely because they fear the fallout of their honesty. Will their employer think they are lazy, unproductive, whiny, or perhaps even unnecessary? Will they put their employment at risk?

The Udemy study further concluded that bored employees are twice as likely to vacate their current position within the next six months. Attrition is costly for employers who suddenly need to fill vacancies and train them for their new roles. Hiring an employment staffing firm can be helpful. However, losing a key employee at the wrong time can cause project delays and customer contract losses.

Thus, employers must learn to identify boredom in their employees and adopt practices that will help eliminate it among their workforce.

Spotting Boredom

A cursory walk around the cubicles in the office may catch a few employees by surprise, perhaps even off task, but differentiating between a bored employee and a lazy or tired employee requires a higher level of observation. The key characteristics of bored employees fall into the following categories:

  • Body Language – An individual engaged in their work assumes a posture that reflects that engagement. Sitting up or sitting forward in their chair while working as opposed to slumping or leaning back can indicate their interest in what they are doing. Likewise, hiding repetitive yawns may reflect their feelings about their job.
  • Rookie Mistakes – Is your seasoned bookkeeper making simple errors that are out of character? Doing subpar work may mean your employee is not entirely focusing on their responsibilities. Boredom or distraction is keeping them from paying attention to the details.
  • Change in Demeanor – Some might think that having less work would make people happier, but the opposite is true. Bored employees often exhibit a negative attitude towards their work and may talk down to coworkers. A change in attitude should be a red flag for employers.
  • New Routine – Most employees who enjoy their work allow enough time in the office to complete tasks. They may arrive early to prepare for a meeting one day and stay late to wrap up emails the next. While not required to do so, they keep a schedule that allows them to complete their work. Bored employees are more likely to work as little as they must, arriving on time or slightly late and clocking out as soon as is acceptable. Putting in their time allows them to fly under the radar and remain employed even though they prefer not to be there.

Eliminating Boredom

Removing mundane tasks from your business may not be feasible. However, changing the way you approach these tasks can make them more palatable and keep your employees engaged in their work rather than scrolling through their social media feeds.

1. Delegate

Every job entails tasks that can be repetitive, tedious, or unenjoyable. While these tasks are essential to success in business, employees should share the responsibility for these tasks. Even though model employees may accept every assignment, they probably don’t enjoy them. Avoid overburdening willing workers by delegating the less desirable tasks to many different people.

2. Automate

Technology in the form of software and machinery can perform a multitude of tasks. It may require an investment on your part to acquire the tools and train your staff to use them. However, the investment is well worth it if it improves morale. It will also free up employees to perform more critical tasks that cannot be automated, increasing your return on investment.

3. Challenge

Employees working on tasks that are too easy may feel underutilized and become bored. Strive to offer employees the opportunity to learn and grow by presenting them with more challenging work. Ideally, these assignments should give them a chance to expand their skills. When it makes sense, let them select a project to work on. If the project is exciting, they are more likely to be vested in doing their best work to see it through.

4. Connect

With so many remote employees, it is easy to feel disconnected from coworkers. Likewise, it can be challenging for managers to keep in contact with employees and their needs. Connecting regularly with employees and asking them how they feel about their job is vital to keeping them engaged. A frank conversation about work may be your only opportunity to determine if their work is exciting and challenging or mundane and tedious. Don’t shy away from asking probing questions to get candid answers.

5. Motivate

When the job itself lacks excitement, you can help employees find the motivation to stay engaged in their work. Gamification is a popular way to make reaching project milestones more fun and exciting. The rewards can be simple, as it is often more about the journey to the finish line. Sincere praise and encouragement along the way lets employees know their contributions are valuable and appreciated. Recognition can be a powerful motivator.

Your employees are one of the single most valuable assets to your organization. Taking steps to ensure they find their work challenging, fulfilling, and rewarding protects your investment. With a fully engaged workforce, you have the full capabilities of every employee working towards the success of your organization.