The Work Place

Boredom.  An emotionless feeling.  Boredom can occur in our day to day life styles in different settings.  Boredom can occur in various occupations ranging from factory workers to chief executive officers.  It can be attempted to be relieved through various solutions by both the employee and the employer.  Feeling bored is healthy if felt occasionally and not frequently.  However, sometimes one will not have the motivation to work and will just let the time pass.  Then there is no solution and one should move on and find a new job.


General Workplace Boredom Characteristics

There are many employees who unproductive at work due to being bored.  The Forbes Magazine has an article, Bored in the Office: Is it the New Productivity Killer?  Employees who get bored at work, become disengaged.  This could cost extreme lack of productivity, significant errors, and other catastrophic accidents.  Workplace boredom can affect any employee from low level service workers to well-paid corporate executives.   All bored employees share a few characteristics toward their work.  They have an inability to find meaning in their jobs and there is little variety in their daily tasks.  Employees can also become demotivated and uninspired when they do not have much control over their jobs or do not feel like they contribute by offering ideas or put input for important decisions.  Sometimes employees do not feel like they are not getting enough feedback or positive recognition to feel content with their work.  They also do not feel like they are developing or progressing toward an important end goal.

This article states that boredom is really about not being challenged enough rather than the common association with having nothing to do.  Therefore, the employee may have a lot of work to do, but will not be interested in their work and then start to lose focus and become bored.  Also, it states that if the work is boring, then the work will just become more of a boredom.  Sometimes, even good employess become increasingly frustrated at work due to the tough economy making it risker and more difficult to switch jobs.  Therefore the employees are feeling stuck in the same work place doing the same tasks.

The best way for an employee to overcome boredom is to speak up.  The employee could ask to be challenged more by offering to take over stretch products, discuss advancement paths with the manager, or even try to look for a new working environment that will value employee development and career satisfaction or even to change the scenery.

Although the employee may suffer short term psychological costs such as stress and unhappiness, boredom is more expensive to the employer.  The managers can try to ease the boredom by regularly initiating conversations with their employees, allowing them to feel more engaged and productive.


Formalization and Routinization

A scholarly article suggests that organizations can provoke boredom two ways.  The first would be directly through company rules that reduce the amount and variety of stimulation.  For example, they might have certain procedures that must be followed.  A specific example could be a weekly or even daily meeting or lecture that everyone must attend, and then there would be a follow up assignment.  The second method to provoke boredom would be indirectly by imposing limitations on activities and behavior that are considered unacceptable to the organization.  Some procedures may not allow room for individuality or creativity, generating boredom for the employees.  This article suggests that, the employer should enhance creativity to limit boredom by structuring change between the periods of cognitively challenging work and periods of mindless work.  In this case, routinization would create a positive effect on the employee’s performance and well-being assuming that it exists as a part of a more sophisticated work design.  Workers could also be given more flexibility towards their tasks by choosing when to perform which task and in what order for the tasks to be performed.

If employees have the same routine every day, then they may tend to lose interest in their work.  They may see the same setting every day at work.  Their cherry colored desk with a laptop, pictures of their families, and other work related items.


Personal Journal Entry of Researcher in a Biology Laboratory

June 9, 2012

               Today was the same day as always.  I went to the lab on time but I still did not have any work to do today.  Today was a long, boring day.  Currently, I have bacteria growing on agar plates, but I still have to wait 48 more hours.  Even though I do different things every day, my weekly activities are the same.  Every week I collect dirt from various areas in the city.  I then try to grow bacteria from the dirt on agar plates.  I analyze the bacteria and identify it.  Most times the bacteria does not grow correctly and the experiment must be repeated.  This can become very repetitive by extracting the bacteria from the soil and then pipetting the bacteria into the agar plates.  Then waiting a minimum of 48 hours each time to allow the bacteria to grow.  I have checked the agar plates and the bacteria is growing correctly.   I have already sat and watched the agar plates for an hour.  This is how I attempt to pass time at work.   I am writing in my personal journal at work since I have nothing else to do. 

The next step in my project on how to identify the bacteria samples is getting approved by the laboratory head researcher.  It would be much easier if she got back to me faster.  I understand that she has a lot of work to get done, but without her approving my project, I cannot do anything else but wait.  However, I am still expected to show up to the laboratory every day.  Sometimes I help the high school students with their projects, which are very tedious tasks.  They need help making the agar for the agar plates, using a pipette, analyzing data, and learning how to write in a scientific journal.  The students also have very repetitive tasks, so they don’t really ask questions unless they are new to the lab. 

The lab setting could become livelier if maybe music was played or if there was any other stimulus to capture my attention.  I could also be assigned more tasks to pass time.  I have tried to look for other jobs, but with this current economy, it is harder to find a better workplace.  I also have already learned the lab techniques and became comfortable here, and I do not want to start somewhere new. 

Finally, time to go home and be relieved of this boredom until tomorrow.


Passing Time bored

The employee above looks like he is not interested in his work on his laptop.  He moved his laptop to the side, so it is not directly in front of him.  On his desk there are numerous paper airplanes in various sizes and maybe shapes.  It looks as if he is not at all engaged in his work.  Instead he is focused on making the paper airplanes.  Although he is leaning on his hand and does not look focused.  It seems as if he has also lost interest in his paper airplanes as he stared through his laptop.  Perhaps he is daydreaming about other activities he could be doing instead of working.  Maybe this employee does not have a large attention span or he actually is uninterested in his work.  His desk looks empty of work papers, so maybe he does not have a large workload for the day or any day.  He could attempt to overcome his boredom by taking a walk, talking to another coworker, taking a lunch break, or just clearing his mind for a few minutes.


Ten Ways to Cure Boredom At Work

  1. Commute Smarter

Check traffic routes before leaving to minimize the amount of time spent in your car on your way to work.  Also, creating a playlist to listen to on your way to work that will wake you up before you get started.  Or work from home, to eliminate the commute altogether.

  1. Make your Desk Livelier

Have a sweater just in case it gets cold at the office.  Have pictures of your family and friends to lighten up your mood.  Live plants could also do the trick.  Lighting can also help you stay awake.

  1. Fight Exhaustion

Eat a healthy breakfast with a cup of coffee to start of the day.  Then eat lunch at a reasonable time to become energized.  Light snacks could also help.  Doing quick exercises can also help get your blood moving and wake you up.

  1. Make Meetings Worthwhile

Since some meetings occur daily and are important, you could try to not make it boring by attacking the situation.  You could ask your manager to change the way the meeting is run or having a specific agenda to try to waste less time.  You could even try to go outside and have walking meeting, if less people are involved.

  1. Be an Overachiever

You can take extra notes during meetings to help focus, or think of new ideas for a project.  You could ask your boss for extra work for a project for score bonus points.

  1. Gain New Responsibilities

This would be the unofficial overachiever option, as you can try to change your job description with your boss.  You could try to have tasks that are more interesting to you or projects that will be beneficial to the company with an incentive.  Another option could be to swap tasks with coworkers. You can give up tasks that you would prefer not to work on for more interesting tasks.  This could become a win-win situation.

  1. Learn a New Skill

You can learn new things from new responsibilities.  Or if you are stuck doing a boring task, you can try to learn a new skill that is interesting to you.  An example could be to listen to an education podcast, or learn a new language, or work on a personal project during a break.

  1. Take Breaks on the Internet

Taking a break to read an article on the internet may allow you to regain focus on your work.  As long as you do not waste time browsing the internet, or checking social media, your employer should not mind an occasional break that could be productive.

  1. Brainstorm

Use your boredom to think about new ideas for your task.  You can brainstorm and be creative so you do not feel bored.

  1. Quit

Most of the time you can overcome boredom.  However if it becomes a reoccurring problem every day for months, it could be time for a change and to find a new job.



2 thoughts on “The Work Place”

  1. The hyperlinks fit in well with the post and if keeps its focus on boredom in the workplace. The journal entry of the biology lab worker gives a good idea of how work can be boring. I would like the section on curing boredom in the workplace to be expanded, maybe add a hyperlink to another website.

  2. I enjoy that this post seems to be fairly solution oriented. Not only do you describe the effects of boredom, after defining the type of boredom, you seem to have put a lot of effort into find out how to alleviate this condition. However, all the solutions seem external (and less likely to be possible), considering how internal of a problem boredom is. If the problem is that the worker doesn’t feel they are progressing towards an end-goal that they find valuable, what can they do? (I’m assuming simply taking up more work from the manager isn’t going to help, and keep in mind quitting is not a viable option for most people). Is there something that people can focus on internally, or is it a hopeless situation, where we are doomed to change our immediate work environment every week just for a little more liveliness in our jobs?
    All in all a great post, but I feel like it skirts around something essential in the conversation about boredom and what makes it a very personal, internal problem.

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