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Are Your Employees Bored at Work? 5 Ways You Can Help
By: Emily May on Mar 9, 2022 5:00:00 AM
Boredom at work, nicknamed boreout (a play off the term burnout), can happen to even the best employee. While there are countless articles claiming 50 things employees can do to help themselves beat boredom at work, sometimes what they really need is the support of their leader.
If you’re in a leadership position and fear an employee is either grappling with boredom at work, or at risk of becoming bored, then this is the article for you.
Spoiler Alert: Employees Are Bored at Work and These Stats Confirm It
A number of studies have been done to determine the presence of boredom in the workplace, as well as the causes and consequences of it. Below we’ve highlighted some of the most relevant and eye-opening statistics to give you an idea of what you’re dealing with when it comes to boredom at work.
- It is currently estimated that between 43% and 53% of the workforce is bored right now. - Forbes
- Employees report feeling bored for at least 10.5 hours per week; in other words, employees spent over 25% of a 40-hour workweek feeling bored at work. - RobertHalf
- The top four reasons for feeling bored at work include not having enough to do (27%), not feeling challenged by their assignments (19%), not being interested in their work (18%), and finally, attending too many or poorly executed meetings (17%). - RobertHalf
- 35% of employees report that they search for new roles while at work due to the boredom they feel in their job. - CV Library’s Candidate Behaviour Barometer
- According to a 2021 study, the consequences of being bored at work include depression, high rates of stress and anxiety, as well as physical ailments, like insomnia to headaches. - BBC
10 Signs Your Employee Is Bored at Work
As a people leader, you need to be able to spot a bored employee, just as you would a burned-out employee. If you don’t and boredom goes unchecked, you may begin facing bigger problems like demotivation and turnover.
Fortunately, regular one-on-one meetings are the perfect opportunity to get a pulse check on your employees. Everything from their level of engagement to their body language to what is left unsaid can give you invaluable insight into where they are at and if action needs to be taken.
The following list contains common signs of boredom at work which should give you an idea of what to look out for. Of course, you should always follow up and ask probing questions during your one-on-one meeting to confirm if they are in fact bored at work, or if something else is going on.
- They’re distracted or zoned out more than what’s normal or expected
- They slack or goof off at inappropriate times
- The quality of their work isn’t what it normally is
- They do the bare minimum and are just “checking boxes”
- They’re easily stressed out
- They’re more anxious than usual
- They’re restless and suffering from a shortened attention span
- They complain or have a negative attitude that is out of character
- Their ability to self-motivate is unusually low
It should also be noted that passing moments of boredom at work is normal and have even been scientifically proven to be a precursor for creative thinking. Rather, it is prolonged periods of boredom that you need to be on the lookout for, as that is when the risk of disengagement surges, and problems like a lack of attention, missed opportunities, and preventable mistakes occur.
5 Ways Leaders Can Help Employees Who Are Bored at Work
While there are obviously actions your employees can take to prevent or cure their boredom at work, as their direct leader, there are things you can (and should!) do to help the cause. As Lotta Harju, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at EM Lyon Business School in France, notes, “Preventing boreout in employees can boil down to ‘plain old good leadership,’ whereby leaders take time to communicate to workers why what they’re doing is valued and valuable.”
In that spirit, here are six ways you can help employees who have shown signs of boredom or who you fear are teetering on the edge of it.
Offer Development Opportunities
In LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report, 70% of managers agreed that their direct reports who spend more time learning have higher employee satisfaction scores. Not to mention, employee development has been linked to higher retention, increased morale, improved productivity, and lower absenteeism. This is to say that if you want keep your employees from becoming detrimentally bored at work, offer them development opportunities, such as enrollment in a course or one-on-one coaching.
Give Employees More Autonomy
Autonomy, which refers to the independence and discretion an individual has in regards to how, when, and where they work, is another great way to stave off boredom. That’s because it has been found to boost motivation, proactive behavior, creativity, enthusiasm, and commitment.
Granted, you should first determine if your employee can in fact handle more autonomy. Ask yourself:
- Do I trust their judgment? Do they ask the right questions before taking action? Do they seek feedback or input?
- Do they have a solid track record? Can I count on them?
- Are they highly accountable?
- Do they respect the boundaries you set?
- Do they ask for help?
Assign Stretch Assignments
Much like giving an employee more autonomy, you need to determine an employee’s readiness and openness before giving them a stretch assignment. If you conclude that they are, you want to give them an assignment that “simultaneously offers them a chance to develop new skills while helping the organization solve a real business problem.” These assignments are an ideal boredom buster as they get an employee out of their comfort zone and challenge them to think and act differently than they typically would.
Actively Discuss Professional Goals
One way to avert employee boredom is to feed their sense of purpose, make their work feel valuable, and show care and interest in their professional goals. One way you can do this is by following the 10:10:10 template for one-on-ones. During the first 10 minutes, you build rapport. In the second, you review projects and answer questions. In the third and final 10 minutes, you discuss their professional goals and provide support to make those goals a reality. If follow this formula week after week, it will not only keep the bigger picture top of mind, but it will also motivate them to push forward even when their work seems mundane.
Praise and Encourage Initiative
When an employee takes initiative and gets personally invested in a task or project, they’re less likely to fall into the traps associated with boredom. As a leader, you should praise and encourage this type of behavior anytime you see it. You want your employees to know that you value, appreciate, and even reward initiative so that they’re more likely to repeat the behavior time and time again.
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