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Battling boredom at work

A new survey indicates workers are bored more than 10 hours per week. What can employees do to bid boredom bye-bye, and how can managers keep workers engaged?


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If you’ve ever had a case of the blahs at work, you’re not alone.

According to a new survey from staffing firm OfficeTeam, professionals admit they’re bored in the office an average of 10.5 hours per week. That’s more than a full day a week, or the equivalent of 68 days a year. Senior managers interviewed acknowledged the doldrums do exist but were more optimistic, estimating their staff is likely disinterested only about six hours each week.

That’s not the only disconnect between managers and their employees. Nearly four in 10 senior managers (39%) think staff have too much work on their plates. However, more than a quarter of employees (27%) report that the main reason boredom strikes is because there isn’t enough to do. Others don’t feel challenged by their assignments (19%), say the work is uninteresting (18%), or point to too many or poorly executed meetings (17%).

Regardless of the reasons for boredom at work, it does exist and there are steps both employees and managers can take to mitigate it.

Bursting the boredom bubble

First off, the award, if you can call it that, for the least engaged workers goes to young men. According to the OfficeTeam survey, men and those ages 18–34 are bored the most per week — 12 hours and 14 hours, respectively. These two groups are also most likely to leave their position if bored.

Basking in boredom

Being bored at work can sometimes inspire a special kind of “productivity.” Following are 20 things people report doing at work when they’re bored, as told to staffing firm Robert Half.

  • “Have rubber band battles with co-workers.”
  • “Make grocery lists and cut coupons.”
  • “Learn another language.”
  • “Do crossword puzzles.”
  • “Play ping pong.”
  • “Doodle.”
  • “Make videos.”
  • “Pay bills.”
  • “Watch TV or movies online.”
  • “Work on the book I’m writing.”
  • “Play online games.”
  • “Daydream.”
  • “Act like I'm interested in the work and meetings.”
  • “Clean my desk.”
  • “Ask for more work.”
  • “Look for other jobs.”
  • “Eat snacks.”
  • “Browse the internet.”
  • “Chat with co-workers.”
  • “Check social media.”

Workers can be bored for various reasons, including not having enough work, uninteresting assignments, too many meetings, and not enjoyable interactions with their co-workers, notes Sasha Truckenbrod, branch manager of OfficeTeam in Madison.

“Not feeling challenged by assignments means the projects aren’t encouraging them to think outside the box or put their abilities to the test,” says Truckenbrod. “If the nature of the work isn’t interesting, the employee might not like what they’re doing on a daily basis. Tasks and responsibilities may be too mundane to be enjoyable.”

According to Truckenbrod, while 45% of employees are equally bored throughout the year, another 28% said work is most tedious during winter. At many companies, workloads become lighter around the holidays, which can lead to boredom. As thoughts turn to vacations and family activities during the last few months of the year, work can seem a little less exciting, she notes. “People start thinking about goals and resolutions at the beginning of the year, which can lead to reflections about whether career advancement and progress have been made. The cold weather and days becoming shorter can also contribute to workers’ overall moods.”

Managers may think employees are bored occasionally, but it’s hard for them to track just how often they’re disinterested, Truckenbrod adds. Because those in leadership roles are busier than ever, they may not always have the time to check in on their staff and may assume employees are just as engaged as they are in their work.

Truckenbrod offers the following tips for managers to improve employee engagement:

  • Regularly check in with employees to ensure they’re engaged and happy.
  • Encourage staff to take on new responsibilities and projects, particularly ones that challenge them, help them build new skills, and are in line with their career goals.
  • Actively seek feedback from team members. Maintain an open-door policy and an open mind. Reach out to those who may be uncomfortable voicing their thoughts to ensure their ideas are heard.
  • Offer training programs, mentoring, and tuition assistance so professionals can improve their abilities and advance in their careers.
  • Recognize staff and provide rewards.
  • Remind workers to take regular breaks to recharge.
  • Infuse fun into the workplace whenever possible. This could include celebrating holidays/events, coordinating group activities, occasionally catering lunch, etc.


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