Are You Bored at Work? Steps to Become “Un-bored”


Recent research has found that a majority of employees in the U.S. report being bored at work.  And this appears to be a significantly more frequent issue for millennials, who report being bored at twice the rate of other workers.

A key question is to ask (and hopefully, answer):  What causes boredom?

  1. Is boredom dictated by the situation? Obviously not, because we have all observed (or been involved in) a situation where one person who is present is totally enthralled with what is going on while another person is so bored that they become impatient, agitated and irritable for having to be there.
  2. Can a person choose not to be bored? Probably – for a while, at least. You can try to be actively engaged in the event but, for a variety of reasons, you may eventually become bored (while others remain engaged.)
  3. What are some factors that can contribute to being bored at work?  There are two sets of factors: the employee’s part and the workplace’s part.

Boredom: The Employee’s Part

Boredom experienced by an employee is at least partially their responsibility and there are things they can do to make themselves “less bored”. (In actuality, a more successful goal will be to become more actively engaged in the activity than trying to become less bored; it is difficult to become less passive.)

One factor that makes a person more susceptible to becoming bored is being physically tired.  When we are tired, our mind doesn’t work as well and we have a harder time processing information (and staying mentally engaged.)  So making sure you get enough rest can be helpful.

Probably the more common (and important) employee factor is one’s attitude and approach to the task.  Coming to the situation with a belief that “this is going to be BORING” will probably lead to that experience.  However, if you approach the task or event with a desire to learn and be actively engaged, your experience will probably be more positive.  Coming with the attitude “What can I learn from this experience?”  can be extremely helpful.

Boredom: The Workplace’s Part

A lot has been written about toxic workplaces; but, in actuality, boring workplaces (or jobs) are probably more prevalent than totally negative, unhealthy work environments.  In fact, the opposite of a vibrant, healthy workplace is likely to be dull and unexciting – think of a gray, lifeless, low energy workplace.

Environmental and situational factors clearly contribute to the level of boredom experienced.  (Let’s face it – some people are more interesting to listen to than others!)  Here are some common circumstances that create a boring experience:

  • Non-interesting information.
  • No sensory stimulation — visually, auditorily, kinesthetically (an extremely “plain” setting or environment.)
  • A sense that your presence doesn’t matter.
  • The information or task has no or little relevance to your life.
  • You don’t understand the information presented (or what is going on during an event.)
  • The amount of information given is overwhelming.
  • You are expected to stay focused for extremely long periods of time.
  • Information presented is purely factual and has no emotional component.
  • The information or task is repetitive, non-engaging and requires very little from you.
  • You have no idea of why you are doing what you’re doing or how what you are doing is related to the ‘big picture’.

Besides the physical components of the environment, boredom at work essentially is an extreme example of disengagement – being “present” physically but not really “being there” mentally or emotionally.

If You Are Bored, What Should You Do?

Typically, it is best to start with yourself.

  1. Are you not giving work a real chance because you go in tired most days? If so, develop a plan to correct this.
  2. Do you need to work on your attitude and expectations? Expecting life to be dull will typically lead to self-fulfilling expectations. Ask yourself: what can I learn through this process (about myself, about others, about technology, about our industry, about our clients or vendors)?

But also evaluate your workplace.

  • Is my work truly uninteresting? (Would almost anyone be bored doing what I do?)
  • Are there some changes I can make to the environment to make it more lively and engaging? (Even changes in the physical environment can make a difference.)
  • Do I need to start thinking about pursuing some other alternatives?

Whatever answers you find, make sure you do yourself (and probably those around you) a favor.  Don’t settle for a non-interesting daily life where you are disengaged, sort of going through life in a stupor.  Make some choices that will help you truly experience life in the fullness it can offer.

Dr. Paul White is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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