“I fear the boredom that comes with not learning and not taking chances.”
– Robert Fulghum
Boredom is a natural feeling that can strike employees without warning. According to research, employees say they are bored at work for at least 10.5 hours per week! In a 2016 Udemy study, it was found that 43% of workers admitted to being bored at work.
There are plenty of reasons why employees get bored at the workplace – there isn’t enough work, they aren’t feeling sufficiently challenged, the work is too monotonous, or they don’t like interacting with their colleagues.
Unfortunately, none of them will ever approach their managers and accept that they are bored!
However, you can definitely heed the warning signs. Boredom needs to be tackled, to prevent your employees from becoming disengaged and quitting the organisation. According to the Udemy study mentioned above, bored workers are twice as likely to quit their job in the next six months.
Thus, it’s proved that you cannot ignore boredom. So, how do they nip the evil in the bud? The first step would be to identify the signs of boredom!
Ways to Identify a Bored Employee
Employees don’t declare that they are bored because they don’t want to come across as being negative, lazy or disruptive. Most will get on with it, until a point where they can’t ignore it. It may be too late to get them back past that point! So, keep your eyes peeled for the following signs…
1. Noticeable Changes in Their Daily Routine
Boredom is a serious productivity killer. A decrease in productivity or a lack of concentration is an early sign that something is wrong. Do take a close look for any change in their routine – late arrivals, early departures, unexpected holidays, increased irritability. Anything out of the ordinary could signal the start of disengagement.
2. Negativity and Resentment
Bored employees can become increasingly negative or snarky. They also tend to dislike other employees that are receiving challenging tasks, doing well, and receiving accolades.
Are they always on Facebook or Instagram, or constantly distracted at work? This could be a sign of boredom.
If they prefer to work alone and avoid meetings or working in a team, it could mean something is not right. Or if they rush through projects and do tasks just for the sake of completing them, it could mean they are not interested.
Sometimes, it’s good to ask your team randomly if they are bored. Look straight into their eyes, and notice their body language when they answer. Since no employee is going to be upfront of their boredom, the goal here is to discover it before they acknowledge it.
Your employees may not say they are bored. Statements like “I am clueless, confused or I don’t know what to do next” could be a sign that they are indeed bored.
Causes of Boredom at Workplace
Several factors contribute to employee boredom, with each generation and segment of employees having their own triggers for disenchantment towards work. Here are the most common causes:
1. Lack Of Learning Opportunities
Learning and development initiatives help the employee to expand their knowledge base and hone their skills.
According to a survey, four in five employees feel that learning new skills at work makes them more engaged.
When you invest in an employee’s training and education, it demonstrates that you value your employee’s future and role in the company. Learning and education opportunities should not just involve on-the-job training, but also future-oriented development like coaching, mentoring, etc. which hold more value.
2. No Challenging Tasks
If an employee is doing work that’s become second nature to him/her, chances are that boredom will creep in eventually. If an employee feels that his/her strengths aren’t being utilised optimally, he/she may start looking for greener pastures.
About 44% of employees claim that they are bored because their work is unchallenging and doesn’t make use of their education.
3. They Don’t Have Enough Work
There are different generations of workers in an organisation. A task that takes a few hours for a baby boomer to complete can take less time for millennials who are well-versed with technology. The important thing is creating the right balance of work and delegating challenging tasks to the employee so that they don’t feel like they have not contributed anything.
4. They Have Too Much Work
On the other hand, having too much work creates too much pressure for the employee. Employees who work too hard may feel drained out and unable to give their best to every task assigned to them.
They may run out of gas and eventually get bored with the work.
5. Repetitive Work and Monotonous Tasks
Monotony can creep into any role. Doing the same work every day, without knowing its significance to the business of a company, can cause an employee to lose interest.
Even seemingly fun activities and initiatives like CSR, casual Fridays, team outings can get repetitive and lose their entertainment value.
5. Social Media Distractions
Our brains get over-stimulated as we flit across different social networks, looking for interesting information. As a result, employees can tend to lose focus on the task at hand. Depending on your company’s device and internet usage policy, using social media during work time can hamper productivity and lead to disengagement.
A study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine discovered that,
“Highly idealised representations of peers on social media elicit feelings of envy and the distorted belief that others lead happier, more successful lives”.
This can lead to the employee feeling disconnected from his/her work.
6. They Don’t Like The Work
Often, there is a mismatch between the skills of an employee and particular job role. Hence, most employees end up doing the work they don’t like or were not trained for. Another reason could be that they don’t find their projects or tasks interesting.
How to Combat Employee Boredom?
Avoiding boredom at work is a shared responsibility wherein the bigger onus lies with the employer. Companies need to recognise the signs of employee boredom and take the right measures to tackle them. Here are ways you can implement in your workplace to keep your employees happy and engaged:
1. Conquer Boredom with Creativity
You don’t have to lose your employees to stagnation because of routine tasks that drain them out. Instead, inject creativity into those tasks and educate employees about the purpose behind them so that they can understand the greater cause.
For example, handling tasks like cold calling don’t necessarily need to follow the standard template. Give your employees the freedom to experiment and pursue creative ways to generate leads.
The freedom to experiment with their work will help employees more in control, and get their creative juices flowing.
2.Challenge Them With More Responsibilities
Boredom usually ensues from the lack of challenges. You are probably not making the most of your employees’ abilities. Rectify this by giving them more challenging initiatives, realistic targets, new projects, an opportunity to be a mentor to a new employee, etc.
You have to make sure you don’t go overboard too – you might end up overwhelming the employee! The idea is to find a new project or some new responsibilities the employee is capable of taking on, based on his/her qualifications and management skills.
3. Discover The Employee’s Goals
Have a one-on-one with the employee to understand if they are really bored and find out what you can do to make things better for them. What are they really interested in achieving? Ask, and you can support them to accomplish their goals. If the employee desires to learn a new skill, help them with training and learning opportunities.
4. Break Up The Monotony
Even fun tasks seem to be boring when done repetitively. So, shake things up and include new activities or initiatives to add more variety.
Keep offsite fun activities, devoid of presentations where they can simply destress and enjoy themselves.
This will help your staff feel refreshed and revitalised. If you have highly repetitive roles, you can try job rotation so that everybody gets a turn at doing something different and learns new skills in the process.
5. Leverage the Power of Gamification
Use the fundamentals of game thinking and game mechanics to engage your employees better. Apply gamification to business processes of recruiting, training, onboarding, and more to create more excitement.
For example, LinkedIn worked with Flipkart to organise their very first Recruiting Hackathon. They created a challenging team project to chase and fill critically hard open positions in record time. They scored about 226 candidates in less than five hours.
Likewise, you can use gamification to reward teams/individuals with points or prizes when they meet their target or have a fun competition between teams.
6. Enhance Your Work Environment
Is a lackluster work environment the reason why your employees are not engaged? The ambiance and physical layout of the office can go a long way in keeping your employees happy. A lively and colourful workplace can boost your employee’s mood and help them stay focused for longer.
7. Get Them Involved
Get your employees’ opinions in making some ‘bigger picture’ decisions for your company and get them involved in the process. You would be surprised to hear new and creative ideas that might just work. And, in turn, your employees will feel like they have contributed well.
Communicate with them and welcome their comments in the decision-making process to empower your employees.
8. Let Them Pick Their Own Project
To make your employees feel empowered, you can have them pick their own projects or work on some new projects. Chances are that they will pick something they really like and are interested to work on.
Let them exercise their passion – this way, they will not be coerced into working for a project they don’t like. If the employee is unsure, give them some time to think about it and get back to you.
9. Balance Social Media Use
Banning social media and surfing the Internet altogether may not be a good thing to do. You can still allow your employees to engage in casual surfing to help them take a break. This can constitute limiting the internet usage hours to some designated time of the day.
10. Share the Load
Split up monotonous and menial tasks across the team so that such work is done equally by all. Also, don’t let them get into the habit of over-working and draining themselves. Encourage smart work as opposed to hard work to get things done.
11. Automate the Boring Tasks
There is always scope to automate the boring tasks so that your employee’s efforts are divested to something more fruitful. It might take a little time to identify and set up the processes. But in the long run, it will be well worth the effort when your employees are engaged with doing more important things than mundane tasks.
12. Create Collaborative Opportunities
If one employee is bored, chances are that a few others are bored too. So, have them work together and think outside the box. This can set the wheel running and reinvigorate their love for work by gaining different insights. A collaborative work environment can lead to more creative ideas and make work exciting.
Get Beyond Boredom
Boredom can be contagious and creep in when you least expect it. So, watch out for the signs of boredom, expect the unexpected, and make an effort to dispel boredom before it is too late.
Don’t simply shrug it off. Empower your employees to flex their creative muscles and work their way out of boredom. ‘Happy Employees’ are ‘Engaged Employees’, who are sure to stay with you for a long time.