I was recently invited to talk on Share Radio’s “Shop Floor” programme – click here to have a quick listen.
The topic was “boredom in the workplace;” specifically referring to some of the “most boring jobs in the world” and whether there is anything that can (or should) be done to improve them.
So that really got me thinking…
How can we, as employers, spot boredom in the workplace? Is the onus on us to do something about it? And if so, what on earth can we do?
Let’s take a look…
The Warning Signs
In most cases, your employee probably won’t walk up to you and say ‘I’m bored – HELP!’
Why? Because they won’t want to come across negative, lazy and/or disruptive.
Most will suck it up, get on with it and when it all gets a bit too much – look for something new.
That’s why it’s so important to look out for the warning signs…
- Getting distracted easily.
- Slumped, negative body language.
- Tiredness (yawning constantly might just give the game away…)
- Silly mistakes (due to repetition).
- Getting in to and leaving work bang on the dot.
Unfortunately, these could all point to other issues too (such as laziness), so do use your common sense; is it likely that they’re simply bored? Are their tasks repetitive and monotonous? Could they be challenged more?
Once you have identified the bored employee, the onus is on YOU, as the manager to make sure your employees are engaged, happy and challenged.
If you don’t then employees will leave, become unproductive and even disruptive or they’ll burn out.
So what can you do? Let’s have a look…
1. Share the load.
Make sure you’re spreading the boring tasks evenly across your team – so it’s fair.
And remember, just because someone doesn’t moan about a task, doesn’t mean they enjoy it! Some employees will prefer to grin and bear the boredom, than look negative.
Is it fair to dump all the bad jobs on these people, just because they don’t throw a tantrum?
You need to tackle this, head on.
If you suspect that someone in your team is bored, just ask them straight…
- Are you bored?
- Are we not challenging you enough?
- What can we do to help you?
What managers tend to forget is that the answer is often right in front of them; your employees, who are on the front line every day, are bound to have some great ideas on how to improve things.
If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.
3. Give them more responsibility.
In many cases, boredom essentially comes down to lack of a challenge; if your employee is bored then you’re probably not getting the most out of them.
So what can you do?
Start giving them more responsibility! Set more difficult challenges, increase their target, offer them different tasks, jobs and even new projects.
NB: Obviously, always keep them in the loop to make sure you’re not overdoing it and putting too much on their shoulders.
4. Let them pick a project.
Why not give your employee the opportunity to propose a new project to you?
Chances are they’ll pick something they’re interested in, something innovative, impressive and useful to the company and something you may not have even thought about yourself.
- Perhaps your marketing executive has an idea for a new campaign?
- Maybe your support worker has a great idea for a new activity in the community?
Most passionate employees will have some ideas of things they’d really love to spend time on – and if not immediately, give them some time to think about it.
5. Involve your team.
Another great idea is to get your team involved in some of the bigger-picture decisions for your business.
Communicate what’s happening and welcome their ideas and comments; this will give them something bigger to focus on and help them to feel valued and respected.
You never know; whilst doing that mind-numbingly boring job, they may just come up with a doozy of an idea!
6. Automate the boring tasks.
Almost everything can be automated these days!
So are there any boring tasks that you could take off your employees’ hands?
7. Break up the routine.
Even “fun” tasks are monotonous when you have to do them over and over again, for hours and hours on end.
You should encourage your employees to shake things up and include more variety in their day; perhaps they could spend the morning on one thing and afternoon on another.
Or if (like in a factory) you have a variety of different, highly repetitive roles, get an hourly staff rotation going so no one spends too long on one thing and everyone gets multi-skilled in the process.
Whatever it is, breaking up the routine even just a little bit could help your staff to feel a little more refreshed and revitalised.
8. Give them a break.
Let your employees take regular breaks!
Even if it’s just 5 minutes to go and grab themselves a brew or have a chat, it’ll give them a chance to refresh and get that second wind.
Often, the best ideas come to us when we’re not even looking for them.
9. Reward staff.
Human beings love to set and reach personal goals; it’s just dead satisfying.
But we also love to be rewarded! You can re-motivate an employee by giving them something to strive towards and to look forward to.
And rewards don’t have to be expensive. You’d be surprised how fulfilling a thank you email, chocolate bar or even just an office announcement can be.
10. Enhance your environment.
The very way your office is decorated can make a real difference to your employees.
If your walls are dull, dark and dreary, your staff will soak it up and feel bored and unmotivated.
On the other hand, bright colours will boost energy and keep your staff focussed and productive for longer. Think blues, greens, yellows and reds.
Click here to find out more about how office environment can impact your employee engagement.
11. Embrace gamification.
“Gamification is the application of game dynamics, game psychology and game mechanics to non-game situations.” Gamification Nation
You can use gamification to directly improve your business processes or to encourage things like health and wellbeing.
So, for example, you can reward individuals/ teams with points and prizes when they reach a certain target or you could set up a pedometer challenge to see which team walks the furthest in a week.
Click here to check out gamification and how it can help to improve your business.
12. Encourage fun!
Is your workplace just boring? There’s your problem.
Happy, entertained employees are more engaged, more productive, more hard-working, more loyal and are far more likely to impress your clients.
Let your staff enjoy life, encourage people to build relationships and above all else, have some fun!
Your business will flourish.
Obviously, there are boring aspects to (pretty much) every job; we can’t all love everything, all the time, so to a certain extent, it’s up to your employee to motivate themselves and make things more interesting.
But, on the other hand, as employers, we should be careful not to simply shrug it off. Boredom can be a real issue, it is avoidable and it could seriously damage your business in the long run.
Recruiter Pro Tip
If one of your employees is bored, you should really consider the rest of the team too.
Is it a company-wide problem? Perhaps you’re all just a bit too strict? Or formal? Maybe no one has bonded properly? Do you need to work on your company culture?
Here are some ideas on how to inject a bit of fun into your office…
- Competitions, sweep-stakes and games.
- Say “thank you” with treats like ice-cream, cake or chocolate.
- Organise a quirky social event.
- Dress down/ beer Fridays.
It’s the simple things in life that make people happy – click here for more ideas.
If you’d like more advice on employee engagement, company culture and staff retention then please feel free to click here and subscribe to this blog post!
Good luck.- Anthony Hughes