In recent times, it appears that workplaces have never been busier. As a leader, you might be struggling to keep up with the extensive list of tasks to accomplish each day and under the assumption that your employees feel the same. Perhaps you feel exhausted, burnt out or even overwhelmed. It may come as a surprise, but your team member could have a stronger feeling that they are battling each day.

Employee boredom is increasingly becoming an issue as workers struggle to find the spark for their roles and find excitement in the daily grind. Leaders may be assuming that employees are way too busy to be bored, but it appears that some workers are stuck in a rut and have lost the passion and discretionary effort necessary for success.

What are the warning signs?

When boredom sets in, it can be too late to turn the ship around. Many employees would not have the confidence to tell their leader that they are bored as they don't want to appear lazy, incompetent, or negative. Ideally, an employee would proactively seek out the leader for a solutions-focused discussion, but it is more likely that the leader will need to watch for warning signs.

Some common warning signs include:

  • negative verbal or non-verbal communication;
  • increased mistakes;
  • decrease in productivity;
  • withdrawal of input in team meetings;
  • easily distracted by personal things and electronics;
  • clock watching;
  • arriving and leaving on time; and
  • a lack of interest in future plans.

These symptoms are common with boredom, but they can also be a signal for itchy feet or a poor work ethic so it is important to do some reflection.

  • What is going on at work that might be contributing?
  • Is the employee stuck completing the same monotonous task?
  • Is there any variance in the role?
  • When was the last time they were challenged?
  • How long since you have asked what is not working in their role?

10 tips to keep boredom at bay

1. Get serious about flexibility

Monotony and the same routine are key ingredients to boredom. Talk to your team members about what would work best for them. Hybrid working may just be the change of pace your employees are looking for or maybe they would enjoy moving from the morning shift to the afternoon production team? Rejuvenating the routine is key to minimising boredom.

2. Create new challenges

Even talented employees can become bored when they are not presented with enough challenges. When workers have challenges that stretch their current skill set, it can be engaging and reignite the fire within. Reflect on a core business need that might need a new perspective and invite employees to accept the challenge.

3. Is it time for automation?

Sometimes tasks are completed because it has always been that way. Is it really a good use of time and salary to have the office manager manually printing and filing? What technology could be introduced to remove or minimise monotonous tasks?

4. Introduce rewards

Most employees enjoy a task that leads to reward. Whilst movie tickets won’t make stocktake more enjoyable, it may be enough to motivate the team to get through the task. Adding different motivational tools or competitions can spike interest and create some fun.

5. Invest in training

Investing in training sends a clear message that the employee is valuable and that the manager is interested in supporting employee development and career progression. The opportunity to participate in learning a new skill can generate new work passions and break up the routine.

6. Share the love with the boring stuff!

Commonly, employees in the lower level roles tend to get the stuff no one else wants to do. Whilst it doesn’t make sense for the senior leader to do filing, there are usually ways to spread the boring tasks across more than one position.

7. Ask the employee to jump in the driver’s seat

Why not ask employees what they are interested in? As a leader, it is tempting to hand out the projects based on what you think is the best fit, but employees will be more motivated to achieve in a task that they have chosen. Perhaps the admin officer has a great idea to cut travel costs or the customer service representative may have a marketing idea worth pursuing.

8. Consider your environment and introduce some fun

Of course work needs to be completed and the customers won’t serve themselves, but what could be done to introduce some fun into the daily routine? Perhaps start by assessing the environment. Is it clean and an appealing place to work or are they boxes piled up in every corner? Could you introduce some lunch clubs based on shared interests? Is there a way to build comradery through work task?

9. Don’t be a stranger

Out of sight does not mean out of mind. The new world of work means that you wont necessarily see the employee spending more time zoning out than in; so it is imperative that you touch base regularly to check in. Don’t be afraid to ask what is not working in the current role. Simply asking: “Tell me what is frustrating you in your current role?”, is enough to start the conversation.

10. Don’t forget to involve your team in the big picture

Some leaders underestimate the knowledge and insight of frontline workers. These employees have box office seats to the key issues facing the organisation, but often they are overlooked. Ensure all workers know the goals and invite them to contribute their ideas.

Self-motivation is key

At the end of the day, each employee has a responsibility to motivate themselves for the job that they are paid to do. In a climate where employees want empowerment and the ability to choose flexibility, it is reasonable that they are also having transparent conversations with leaders about role aspects that derail motivation.

Ultimately, even a high paid surgeon has elements of their job that ranks high on the boredom scale, so it stands to reason that boring tasks are not reserved purely for entry level positions. Busting boredom at work must be a partnership approach when the employee has the courage to speak up, and the leader has the appetite to listen.

Further information

Ai Group has experienced HR consultants who can partner with your business to devise effective workplace strategies that engage employees. For assistance with your workplace matters, Members of Ai Group can contact us or call our Workplace Advice Line on 1300 55 66 77 for further information.

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Georgina Pacor

Georgina is Senior Content Writer and HR Specialist – Publications at Ai Group. She is an accomplished Human Resource professional with over 20 years of generalist and leadership experience in a broad range of industries including financial services, tourism, travel, government and agriculture. She has successfully advised and partnered with senior leaders to implement people and performance initiatives that align to business strategy. Georgina is committed to utilising her experience to create resources that educate and engage and is passionate about supporting members to optimise an inclusive workforce culture that drives performance.