Man bored at work. (Photo credit: Getty Royalty Free)
By Rachel Montanez
People tend to come to me because they want to manage their career burnout or boredom. In my private practice, I’ve worked with as many women as I have men. In fact, studies show that men are generally more bored than women. Boredom on the job can be a temporary feeling or something that won’t go away until you make a job or industry change. It’s a common feeling in the workplace, and it can be defined as a lack of interest or difficulty concentrating. Boredom most often occurs with mid-career professionals, individuals that are underemployed (their skill set is at a higher level than the job role) or those that have recently had a significant shift in work and life values; like new parents. Focusing on being productive isn’t always easy when you’re feeling uninspired or under-challenged. Don’t feel like you’re alone with your feelings of boredom.
A Robert Half blog shared an interesting study showing the following:
- Employees are bored 10.5 hours of the work week
- Managers think employers are bored 6 hours a week
- Employees are most often bored in the winter
When we’re bored at work, we typically clean up emails and our desk, take longer to complete tasks, snack or spend time on social media, or at least, those are some of the things I’ve done and seen others do. Such tasks are time fillers, and they don’t necessarily deal with boredom beyond the time that it takes to complete the ‘filler’ task. Going through something negative, like the loss of a job, career burnout or career boredom, can bring about opportunities for growth.
Here are my five steps to handle boredom at work:
Get enough sleep
Arianna Huffington believes that we should be listing our sleep habits on our résumés. Her sleep wish list noted in the book, The Sleep Revolution, is pretty amazing. I suspect we’ll soon be including aspects of lifestyle screening in recruiting practices. Personality assessments are common in the recruitment process, and our lifestyle can impact our personality. Think of how you feel after nights of poor sleep. If you can’t seem to think outside of the box, then it may be due to not consistently getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night. A 1999 study proved that just one day of poor rest affects decision making and innovative thinking. A lack of energy often comes with being bored, and sleep gives us emotional, mental, and physical strength.
Improve your emotional intelligence (EQ)
People who lack self-awareness are more prone to boredom. Leading emotional intelligence expert Dr. Travis Bradberry’s research shows that 90% of top performers are also high in EQ and just 20% of bottom performers are high in EQ. According to Bradberry, EQ consists of personal competence, which is made up of self-awareness and self-management skills, and social competence, defined as social awareness and relationship management. When you’re bored at work, it can be easy to blame the job. Thoughts like ‘this job is boring’ and ‘my director isn’t utilizing my skills’ are commonplace. Depending on the cause of your boredom, developing your emotional awareness will help you be more assertive and motivated to implement changes so you’re not relying on senior leadership to fix things.
Set yourself a 30-day challenge
Try splitting the challenge up into areas like relationships, job tasks, career development and learning. Doing something new every day will be fulfilling. Examples of tasks could include:
- Think of three new goals relating to an area of improvement
- Find out how your job role is done in another company or area of the U.S. and apply best practices in your role
- Join an internal team or committee that aligns with your areas of interests
Change your physical environment
There’s one experience that stands out to me of a client working in a building that she didn’t really like. Her experience made me realize that environmental aesthetics can contribute to work values. Perhaps, you need a change of scenery. Our environment can change our mood. Try sprinkling colors like red, orange, yellow or green in your office space as they evoke feelings of happiness.
Revisit the meaning of what you do
Do you feel like you sometimes forget about the impact of your work? Try to meet the people who directly benefit from your work like customers, clients or colleagues. Doing so can energize you. You can also think about the benefits your work provides and why those benefits align with your values. Engagement goes up when we spend time doing meaningful work.
Creating a career plan that looks at each of these steps along with your personal and professional goals can help you handle boredom and burnout in the best way. Boredom isn’t a bad thing, if it leads to actions that aren’t time fillers.