What to do when bored at work: in the pre-COVID times, it was easy. You could start a random conversation at the watercooler or brew a cup of coffee and gossip with colleagues in the office kitchen. In the remote setup, however, the luxury of face-to-face contact might be a challenge. So, how do you answer the question of what to do when you're bored at work in your home office?
Let's consider five productive things to do when bored at work. They'll totally shake you out of your procrastination rut and put you in a better mood.
Why you feel bored at work
To fight boredom at work, you first need to realize the root cause. So, when work feels tedious and dull, it might be the result of some of these common causes:
Lack of professional development, career opportunities, or rewards
This is one of the most widespread reasons for boredom at work, stress, and eventual burnout. People are reward-driven creatures. Once we accomplish a goal, we want a prize, peer recognition, or some other type of motivation. The absence of a reward, or, even worse, the absence of an environment that fosters ambition, can eventually lead to boredom and depression.
In a perfect world, every workplace would provide professional development opportunities, and every employee's career ambitions would be aligned with their company's business goals. In the real world, this is often not the case. Waiting for direction, guidance, or opportunities from your team leader or HR manager might be in vain. Besides, HR managers rarely advise employees on what to do when they're bored at work.
But you don’t have to be passive. You can make your own future by learning new things and pursuing new opportunities. Give some thought to a desirable career move like changing a job, getting a flexible schedule, or a transfer to a new department – and discuss options with your team leader!
Lack of challenges
You might have experienced this: at first, work seems fascinating, but as you advance in your career, learn your responsibilities, and become competent at your required tasks, your interest gradually declines. On the one hand, it's normal, and helpful, to get used to your work, so you are not in a constant state of uncertainty and stress. On the other hand, your work should always have a healthy level of challenges and achievements to keep your skills fresh and your interest engaged.
While these 2 reasons are considered to be the most common ones, of course, there are many more causes of feeling bored at work out there, so to effectively address the issue, it’s wise to have the whole picture of them.
How to fight boredom at work
Boredom can be associated with procrastination. Do you want to break the vicious cycle? Learn about some productive things to do when bored at work and turn your weaknesses into strengths.
1. Take microlearning courses
To fulfill your professional development goals, you don't need to invest in long-term training and certifications. Start with small steps, like microlearning courses you can take during your coffee break or in a moment of boredom. Brick by brick, you'll be able to build new competencies, advance in your career, gain new interest in life, and fight boredom at work.
2. Automate routine tasks
If some tasks seem too tedious, why not come up with an automation solution? Next time you're bored of doing a repetitive job over and over again, research applications that can help you automate the tasks or at least complete them faster. As a bonus, you'll quickly overcome boredom at work, and you’ll be doing something useful that you can share with your colleagues to improve their workplace experience as well.
Let's consider an example. You need to find reliable data sources and research new information to write an article. Many writers get writer's block at this stage. Instead of procrastinating, you can set up RSS newsfeeds and subscribe to helpful newsletters that bring the relevant data to your inbox daily. Instead of avoiding your task, you have already made a good start that will encourage you to take the next step.
3. Switch to another activity
Even if your work involves lots of decision-making and finding creative technological solutions, it can still occasionally end up being monotonous or dull. But if your job is generally satisfying, don't let an occasional bout of boredom make you rush to quit your job – you can fix the issue instead.
One way to overcome boredom at work is to periodically switch activities to help you maintain a high level of motivation. For example, work out a little bit in between work meetings, engage in one of your hobbies for 10-15 minutes, drink a glass of water, or prepare a meal. Keep your breaks consistent and short so work doesn't become a filler between your daily chores and leisure. Instead, you want your micro-breaks to keep you fresh and focused on both your break activities and your work responsibilities.
4. Take breaks
If you feel exhausted from your personal and job routines, give yourself the opportunity to get some rest. This might mean an extra day off during the week or an entire vacation. Taking breaks is essential. Also, make sure you have small breaks during the day to break up your work routine into discrete, manageable blocks.
5. Go the extra mile
One of the ways to combat a stultifying routine at work is working on a task that is beyond your current responsibilities and perhaps your current skill set, and is truly exciting for you. Once you've completed the job assigned to you and find you still have some time, spend it researching a challenging problem, creating the list of improvements for your current project, or arranging digital assets shared with your team in a more structured and convenient manner. This might be the first step towards more exciting tasks in your future.
While harmful consequences of boredom may seem obvious, are there any positive aspects of boredom? Psychologists suggest that boredom allows people to reflect and get to know themselves better and can encourage creativity. Also, like disgust, boredom can help you avoid things that aren't suitable for you. Boredom can act as a warning signal that a particular situation is harmful to your well-being. But keep in mind that timely prevention is better than finding costly ways to cure boredom at work after it takes hold.