It’s not uncommon to feel bored at work. Most of us fall into a routine where one day blends into the next. Whether you are working from home during this time or not, doing the same thing day after day can be boring after a while.
Studies have shown that boredom is an integral part of our daily lives and that it can actually be good for you. Idle time gives you and your brain a chance to rest. That can help boost productivity, improve problem-solving, encourage altruism, and allows you time to reflect and reexamine your goals or set new ones. It also gives you a chance to simply stop and smell the roses, as the saying goes.
On the other hand, being bored at work is a significant contributor to work-related stress. So it’s essential to pay attention and think about the real reason you are feeling bored. If you’re just having a slow day, there are lots of little tasks you can do to pass the time. But if you are easily bored most of the time, that could be indicative of a bigger problem. Like perhaps this isn’t the right job for you, or you are neglecting your mental health and wellbeing. In this case, ignoring what’s really causing your boredom and doing nothing about it could make things worse. Being bored at work isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. It can help keep us from becoming stagnant or trapped doing something we don’t want to be doing. Your boredom could be that push you need to make a change – no matter how big or small.
10 Productive Things To Do When You’re Bored at Work
1 – Clean-Up & Organize
You probably already use some of your downtimes each day to tidy your workspace. But there’s more to cleaning up and organizing than just wiping down your computer and stacking your paperwork into a neat pile. If you find yourself getting bored at work, try cleaning your workspace. Keeping a clean workspace helps to cut down on the chances of getting sick at work. Decluttering and getting yourself organized helps you do your job better and is beneficial to your overall mental health. So if you find yourself becoming bored, this is a great place to start.
Deep clean your keyboard, mouse, monitor, desk, and other surfaces.
With a few cleaning supplies and some elbow grease, spend time to really make the equipment and space around you shine. Germs, dust, and dirt can get everywhere, and could be making you sick without even realizing it.
Clean up your emails and digital files
Delete the old emails from your inbox. Unsubscribe from the newsletters that you never read anyways. Create or better utilize folders. Run those updates. Clean up your desktop shortcuts, back up your work, and essential files.
Clean up your files and paperwork
Even in a digital age, the paperwork can really start to pile up. Don’t just throw these documents into a filing cabinet where you may never look at them again. Take some time and sort through what you actually need to keep and come up with a filing system that makes it easy to find.
Rethink your set-up.
Is your workspace really set-up most efficiently and ergonomically possible? Research shows that sitting can be just as bad for health as smoking. But standing for long periods can be detrimental to your health, too. No matter what set-up you have at work, take some time to assess your ergonomics and work-flow and improve what you can.
2 – Review Your Employee Paperwork
When you first got hired, your boss likely bombarded you with the various new hire paperwork associated with your job. And chances are good you only skimmed a lot of it intending to take a better look at it once you settled in. Let’s face it, these documents can be uninteresting and can get boring, too. But if you never got around to it, now is a perfect time to. Or, if you have been with this employer for a while, now is the ideal time to review everything to make sure you aren’t missing out.
Read your employee handbook
Your employee handbook should include all of the policies and procedures associated with your job, so you must familiarize yourself with it. It helps to ensure that management and staff members are on the same page, that established systems are being followed, and is a point of reference to use if there is any confusion.
Read your union’s collective bargaining agreement
Most people only turn to their union when something is going wrong, and they need help navigating work-related issues or grievances. But they also ensure your rights are being met when it comes to things like pay, benefits, scheduling, leave policies, health and safety, and harassment and discrimination. Unfortunately, there are managers out there that try to take advantage of their employees. That can happen even when there is a union agreement in place. How can you exercise your rights if you don’t know what they are?
Read your benefits, insurance & retirement options.
If you have benefits and retirement options at work, take full advantage of them! Ask questions if anything is unclear. Get your work finances in order. It’s your money and your future, after all. Research your 401k, RRSP, pension, or retirement plan to make sure you understand it and are maximizing any matching contributions. Are there any stock options or profit-sharing opportunities that you could be investing in? Look into your insurance coverage and make sure it meets your needs. Adjust it if it doesn’t.
Familiarize yourself with everything your benefits cover, as well as the deductibles, co-pays, and other out-of-pocket costs. Most health insurance benefits will cover the basics, including prescriptions, dental and visual, but some include other work perks like gym memberships and massage therapy. You may even discover extra benefits you didn’t know about, like childcare, education allowances, expense reimbursements, and employee discounts.
3 – Research Your Industry
Staying up to date with your industry is a smart way to give yourself a competitive advantage. It also can help you figure out if you want to continue down this career path or if it’s time for you to make a career change and move on to something else.
Watch videos, read articles & listen to podcasts.
There is a lot of content out there to keep you entertained and prevent boredom. You have the internet and the resources available to you through your employer. You can watch training videos provided by your human resource department. Find an inspiring TedTalk or a podcast by an industry leader. Read relevant blogs and websites. Subscribe to newsletters that genuinely interest you. Find like-minded people to follow on social media.
Research your competition
It’s important to know what others in your industry are up to – locally, nationally, and globally. That is one of the best ways to keep on top of marketing trends. It will also tell you what’s happening in the job market.
Research your job description & salary
While you’re scoping out your competitors, head on over to their careers page, the chances are good that they have job roles similar to yours. So how do they compare? Are other companies expecting more education or experience from their employees? Is your salary fair, or should you be negotiating for a raise?
4 – Update your Credentials & Accomplishments
If you are considering applying for another job, your resume and professional profiles need to be up to date. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to keep them updated, even if you are happy with your current situation. You never know when a new, exciting opportunity will present itself.
Update your resume
Try to treat your resume like a living document and not only something you scramble to update when you suddenly need it. It’s a lot easier to keep it polished if you revise it regularly.
List of all of your accomplishments
If you haven’t been tracking your career accomplishments, you should start doing so now. It’s a great resource you can use to demonstrate your value for performance reviews, when negotiating for a raise, or to highlight during your next job search.
Be specific. Stay focused on where you delivered the best results and can assign particular numbers or percentages. Quantifying your accomplishments is probably easier to do when you are at work and have access to the information needed.
Refresh your profiles
Look at the LinkedIn profiles, portfolios, and websites from other people within your field. This can help you spruce up your wording while also learning more about what your peers are doing at their jobs.
5 – Network
Networking is an essential part of every career path. It gives you the chance to learn and share ideas, improve your confidence, and develop professional relationships. Sometimes it’s all about who you know and not what you know. Getting out (or online) to do some networking is a great thing to do when you are bored at work.
Join a committee
Being part of a committee is an excellent way to network, take on more responsibilities, develop professionally, and have your voice heard when it comes to future company decisions. Meeting and working alongside people from other departments means you get to know more about them and what they do, while also giving them the chance to learn more about you and see your work in action. It can give you the chance to utilize other skills and add some variety to your work so that you don’t become bored. It looks good on your resume, too.
Attend networking events
Getting out of the office could be the change of pace you need when work gets boring. Are there any upcoming networking events such as presentations, seminars, and conferences that you could attend? Or professional associations you could join? Mentally stimulating new experiences can help revive your enthusiasm for your profession.
Connect with new people
There are also networking opportunities that aren’t industry-specific where you can connect with new people and further expand your network. That could include young professional groups, chamber of commerce, women’s networking groups, and your college alumni associations. Don’t overlook making connections online, either. You are not limited to only those that are geographically nearby.
Reconnect with existing contacts
Keeping up to date with those already in your network is essential, too. Take some time to update your contacts. While doing so, set reminders in your calendar to connect with certain people throughout the year. If you’re feeling lonely, touch base with anyone you haven’t heard from in a while with a quick email or phone call, or better yet, schedule a coffee or lunch date with them.
6 – Do Your Job, But Better
Be honest. Are you bored, or is this really procrastination? Could you be doing anything more at your job? Are there tasks that you’ve been putting off? Or more responsibilities that you are interested in getting involved in? One of the most productive things to do when you are bored at work is to do your job – but do it better.
Get ahead with your work
Most jobs have busy and slow times of the year. Using the slow time to get ahead with your work is a great way to make that busy time a little more manageable. Think about what you can do now to better set yourself up for your future. Update your materials and resources. Set up your files or documents. Create your own templates or guides.
Take on more responsibilities
People get bored at work because there simply isn’t enough work to do. Some employers do a poor job of keeping their employees engaged, or they are too busy to notice that their staff has a lot of free time. Whether you find it on your own or ask your manager to assign you something to do, consider taking on more responsibilities at work if you’re getting bored. Taking on a new challenge or project not only makes you look good to your boss but also builds your experience and skillset.
Help someone else
Helping someone else is a great way to take on more responsibilities at work without necessarily having to make any significant commitments. You could ask a coworker if they need help with something, volunteer to help with an upcoming project or event, go above and beyond for a client or customer, or become a mentor to a new employee or junior member.
7 – Learn Something New
Most companies welcome the opportunity for you to grow your skills or learn new ones that will help you do your job better and provide some mental stimulation. Professional development funds, tuition assistance, or free access to courses might even be part of your employee benefits. If not, don’t be afraid to ask your manager to help cover the costs, especially if you can clearly justify how it will benefit you and the company. It can’t hurt to ask, right? Either way, there’s plenty of ways to expand your knowledge:
- Take a relevant course or program
- Sign up for a webinar
- Watch a couple of TED Talks
- Listen to lectures
- Learn more about the programs and software you use by testing new things out
- Study what the experts are doing
- Job shadow
- Work with a mentor
- Try teaching someone else
- Solve brain teasers or puzzles
These things may not be on the list for your job description. However, there are necessary transferable skills that are useful in any job, including customer service, communication, and time management. Don’t overlook your personal development, either. Your hobbies can also help relieve boredom and make you happier so that you’re not bored at home, too.
8 – Take a Break
Our brains need distractions from our monotonous, tedious tasks. Daydreaming and allowing our mind to wander can inspire creative ideas and reduce boredom. Taking a break could be just what you need to recharge and get back to work refreshed. On a slow day, take a 15-minute break when you grow bored. Step away from your computer screen and smart-phone. Get up from your desk, stretch, go out, and get some fresh air. Or just sit, practice some mindfulness and meditate or do nothing when your work starts getting boring.
Taking breaks throughout your day is good for you. Don’t work through them! If you start feeling a little burnt out or have a lot going on outside of work, use some (or all) of your vacation time. You could take a couple of days to catch up with the rest of your life, or take a couple of weeks and get away from it all. If things are more serious, you might consider taking a leave of absence. You may have paid short term leave through your employer or insurance or qualify for sick leave. Unfortunately, not many employers offer paid leaves, so this may not be a feasible option.
9 – Plan Your Future
It can be easy to let the monotony of our day jobs get the better of us. You may think that you’re no longer passionate about your work because you find it boring and that quitting and finding a new job is the only solution. It is an option, of course, but’s it’s not your only one. Everything happens for a reason, if you are not feeling fulfilled in your current career its time to figure out what’s next.
Figure out what’s next
You can’t plan your future if you don’t know what direction you’re going. But how do you figure out what you should be doing with your life? We are more productive at work when we feel valued, and our talents are getting utilized. If you don’t feel this way, you probably feel bored with your job instead.
Do you want to overcome this boredom and grow or advance within your role? Are there any opportunities for an internal promotion? Or is it time for you to move on? Outside of work, what do you want next? Are you hoping to start a family or buy a house soon? Your life goals matter, too, and will influence what steps you take with your career.
Define your career goals
Your short term and long term career goals act as a roadmap towards a successful future. It’s essential to define them, but you also need to develop and follow a strategy to achieve them. Doing so helps to keep you motivated and engaged, focused on your priorities, and makes sure you are following the right steps to achieve your goals. If you’ve previously set career goals, check-in on your progress to see if you are still on track. Check to see if they align with your values and what’s important to you.
Set new, challenging goals for yourself
Bored workers often feel unchallenged, disengaged, and depressed. If your work becomes too easy or too repetitive, you are not going to feel so fulfilled or interested in it anymore. Setting new, challenging goals for yourself is one way to make things more fun and exciting. So get out of your comfort zone and start moving towards whatever it is you want to accomplish.
10 – Find a New Job
Being bored at work is one of the top reasons people quit. We feel underutilized and capable of doing more. Or our interests and priorities change, so the job is no longer right for us. It’s okay if you decide the best way to deal with a job you find boring is to find work elsewhere. It might be tempting to look and apply for other jobs while at work if you’re seriously bored, but it’s risky and not recommended. Doing so could cost you your current job.
But there are a lot of other things already mentioned that you can safely do that supports your job search, such as researching your industry, updating your credentials, networking, and learning something new. It might also be tempting to quit right away, but this too is risky and not recommended. Finding a new job takes time. You don’t want to be stuck accepting a new tedious task out of desperation where you’ll just be bored again. Take the time to find something better where you can have a meaningful and rewarding career. Everyone becomes bored at work from time to time. Choosing how to cope when your job becomes boring is up to you.
This article originally appeared on Your Money Geek and has been republished with permission.
Images courtesy of unsplash
Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the “person” in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and more. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations – including a free library of career & job search resources.