Bored at work

Q: Generally, I really enjoy my work but there are days and weeks when I am completely bored.  What can I do? (RM, email).

A: RM, many workplace surveys recognise that boredom is simply part of our daily lives, writes Petrina Mitchell, Talent Coach & HR Consultant.  

Petrina Mitchell, Career Coach

In 2018, Psychology Today magazine outlined that between 30 and 90 per cent of adults experience boredom at some stage in their day. A year earlier, leading recruiting company, Robert Half, published a workplace survey identifying that employees say they are bored for 10.5 hours of their week, whereas managers think employees are bored for just six hours per week.   

Employees are bored most during the winter months, and it is more prevalent among mid-career professionals.  

To manage boredom, employees use time-filling tasks such as tidying up files and folders, checking out social media, snacking, over-focussing on emails and taking longer than normal to complete tasks.   A lack of energy is of often associated with boredom.

It can emerge from a shortage of challenging assignments, insufficient workloads, poor workplace relationships, repetitive tasks and so on.  Many employers and HR teams use employee engagement strategies to help staff manage boredom.

Here are some strategies you can use.    Identify why and when boredom arises for you.  Consider how you can design plans to overcome the reasons.   Set monthly challenges to keep you focused on enhancing your career.

Develop a new workplace skill each month.  Identify training programmes to benefit your career and discuss these with your manager.  Seek their support e.g. financially, time off or flexibility.

Evaluate what you do and its purpose.  Carrying out meaningful work increases our level of engagement. Know your customer and understand the impact of your work on others e.g. your internal or overseas colleagues and clients.  

Engaging with your customers directly might enable you to better understand the meaning of your work and thereby give you a fresh understanding of the importance of high standards in what you do.

When we are bored, we have a greater tendency to feel sorry for ourselves.  Refocus your attention on others, and ask the big question of “what can I do or create that would have a greater impact on them?”    

In this way, you may think of creative solutions to support them, and relieve you of your boredom.

Review your sleep pattern. Studies show that if you are not consistently getting 7-9 hours’ sleep, it can impact on your decision-making and creativity. It may also adversely affect your attentiveness at work.

Ensure you are getting sufficient exercise and fresh air every day.  Schedule at least a ten-minute walk into your work calendar and enlist a colleague(s) for company and to keep you accountable.

Create a new career plan with meaningful goals.  Challenge yourself to think big and to be creative and brave.  Look within your current employment for opportunities, including lateral moves, new projects, temporary assignments and promotions.  

RM, you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.  Boredom can be viewed as a warning sign that you have become stagnant and provide you with the desire to review and implement career changes.