Chronic workplace boredom is a growing problem that is rarely taken seriously. It can affecting everyone from the high-earners to the support staff and often goes unacknowledged until it is too late and has had an adverse effect on work performance and relationships.
It falls upon management to keep otherwise capable employees motivated and interested in their roles within the business, but managing boredom in the workplace can come as a challenge. The very words can sound like an insult as it is easy to view an employee’s boredom as a reflection of your management and leadership. In addition, most people will try to appear busy and interested in their work, as failing to do so could result in extra jobs to do or no job at all. It is therefore important for managers to recognise the signs and deal with workplace boredom even if employees are unwilling to come forward. If ignored, it can detract from a culture of success and cause damage. It should therefore be easy to see why managing workplace boredom is a crucial responsibility for every manager.
A reason to sue
An employee in a French company has provided an urgent aide-memoire for employers. The Frenchman is suing his former employer for "bore out" (boredom's equivalent of burnout) which he says turned him into a "professional zombie". Frederic Desnard wants to be heavily compensated (350,000 euros to be exact) for being "killed professionally through boredom" by his 80,000 euro salary job as an executive in a perfume business. He subsequently turned to guidance from a counsellor who treated him for stress.
Workplace boredom is a significant source of stress for many people. Stress management training courses are readily available, however there is nothing equivalent for workplace boredom. This has resulted in many employers being unaware that parts of their workforce are yawning their way through the day. The French case, although some may view it as a little bit ridiculous, may be of some significance to the modern day working environment as it could encourage businesses to take boredom more seriously, just as they have come to recognise the damaging effects of stress.
What employers can do
Meetings are a regular occurrence in most businesses of having meetings, which a lot of people find boring. Although they are integral to any business, meetings can be counter-productive if employees are not paying attention due to boredom. It is therefore important to streamline meetings with a view to making them less frequent, shorter and much more focused. By narrowing the issues discussed in meetings, clearer and more achievable goals can be set and employees will feel less overwhelmed and more motivated. Having fewer participants involved and discouraging telephone meetings in preference of face to face meetings can result in employees being more engaged and interactive with each other.
Workplace boredom typically happens when people lose their passion for their work, become trapped in numbing non-productive routines, or lack sufficient challenge; it rarely has anything to do with not having anything to do. Many employees fear having to admit they’re bored to their boss. The word boredom is usually equated with lacking things to do. Therefore, a common solution is to delegate more duties. The mindset for many managers is to keep employees so busy that they don’t have time to feel bored. This can be detrimental to the employee, as it discourages them from producing their best work, and detrimental to the company, as it robs it from benefiting from the employee’s full input. The solution is to provide opportunities that are self-motivating and intellectually challenging.
Some of the most common ways of achieving a fully motivated workforce are: improving working environments, creating ‘special’ days that are fun or entertaining, offering more training opportunities and, most importantly, providing more recognition. If employees are regularly being reminded of how important their role is and that they are a valuable member of the team, they are more likely to feel motivated in their work and continue to fully contribute to the business.
Creating a workplace culture that encourages intrinsic motivation and requires intellectual challenge will always produce the best results for the employee, manager, and the business. By applying these simple steps, your company will be well on its way to eliminating workplace boredom and its damaging effects.