Are You Bored at Work?

BlogHer Original Post

Have you ever been bored out of your mind on the job?  If so you know it can be incredibly stressful. Even more so than a fast-paced, high demanding workplace.  So why does the stress of boredom get swept under the rug?

You would think that in a time where jobs are scarce and the attitude “I’m just grateful to have a job, any job” is prevalent that boredom would be the least of our worries.  Yet, apparently, boredom is spreading.

In the recent CNN article Is Workplace Boredom the New Stress?

Boredom is an unlikely new frontier in workplace research. Commonly associated with goofing off, taking absurdly long lunch-breaks, and playing internet games on the sly, new studies suggest it's something that affects high-performing employees as well as those in menial jobs.

Being bored is not just for the burned out or bottom 10% anymore.  I can remember back in one job early in my corporate career. I was so bored (like bored out of my skull bored) that I literally used to sit and hit the ENTER key on the mainframe simply to watch the system clock tick off minutes. I am not kidding or exaggerating here.

The problem with boredom is that it is as stressful as stress, but  no one wants to admit they are bored because they are afraid they might lose their jobs and employers don’t want to admit that working there is bor-ing.

boredom is the new workplace stress

Credit Image: Dyanna Hyde via Flickr

The impact of all this is bad for the employee and bad for the employer.  The tragically bored need to cope and often the coping is destructive.  Employees resent being stuck in a situation that they don’t like so one way they lash out is be taking their resentment out on the company responsible for their boredom. The CNN articles goes on to say:

A study on the link between counterproductive work behavior and boredom by researchers at Montclair State University and University of South Florida identifies six ways bored employees might harm their organizations: by abusing others, by "production deviance" (purposely failing at tasks), sabotage, withdrawal, theft and horseplay. Of these, the most common is withdrawal (absence, lateness, taking long breaks) says the University of South Florida's Paul Spector.

According to the University of Central Lancashire that conducted the study, boredom drives office workers to chocolate and drink. OK I can get with the idea that people are prone to less than healthy coping mechanisms  whether it’s chocolate, coffee, alcohol, or compulsive eating.  But what really cracked me up (literally I had to read this 3 times to be sure) was their proposed solution:

"Encouraging healthier ways of coping could include education or providing healthy snacks and drinks in canteens"

This is the best they could come up with?  I don’t know about you but education about the effects of boredom isn’t likely to create a quantum shift in how anyone feels.  More importantly, what kind of cocktails are you putting in my canteen (hint-hint, wink-wink)?

All sarcasm aside, there are some practical things you can do if you find yourself bored.  So put down the snacks and canteen, and consider some of these.

Psychology Today gets at the heart of the boredom problem:

We can begin with the experimental psychologist's best friend, the laboratory rat. The biggest cause of boredom is easily identified. It concerns how work is measured - in units of time, rather than in units of production, or accomplishment.
When hungry rats are required to wait around for a fixed time until they can press a lever for food, they become fairly lethargic. It is a bit like an hourly worker waiting until 5:00 o'clock to punch their time card and go home. They can get quite bored for much of the day and experience some slight animation as the hour of deliverance approaches.

Repeat after me…”I am not a lab rat. I am not a lab rat.”

While the self-employed can dictate a focus on results versus just putting in time, for office workers it can be much more problematic.

Anyone with a job is literally a wage slave of course. The real bugbear is how to get around this inconvenient fact.

The article goes on to offer some worthwhile solutions to mitigating boredom with purposeful solutions.

Glassdoor.com offers 5 tips for banishing the boredom at work. These can really help you recapture some sense of purpose and engagement with your work no matter what is happening.

No matter whether you are busy and bored or simply don’t have enough to do, life’s too short to go through it bored. While nonstop stimulation isn’t the answer (despite what our culture tries to tell us)…excuse me while I send a quick tweet… ok, where was I?  See what I mean? Definitely NOT the answer.  Being fully engaged in your life, however, IS the answer and it’s up to you to find your purpose within the things you do.

Have you ever been bored stiff at a job? Tell your stories in the comments… I just KNOW there are some good ones out there.


Paula Gregorowicz is a life and business strategist who helps women that want to live their true calling by building a successful service based business without the all the self-doubt, struggle, and overwhelm.

Download the Free Report: Your Own Uniqueness: The Path to Purpose, Prosperity, and Playfulness at http://www.thepaulagcompany.com.

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