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Tips for Performance Management — Combating Boredom
Some call it the silent killer; it creeps around the office zapping energy and motivation from even the best employees. It's boredom, and if you don't think that it is a problem for your organization, then you might want to think again. Boredom is a common side effect of our modern workplace and it's an increasingly rampant productivity killer. This is our topic for today's blog in the series on performance management.
Boredom Is on the Rise and May Cause Poor Performance
Boredom is an unpleasant transient state, characterized by "disinterest," "disengagement," and an inability to concentrate on the task at hand. Factors that increase boredom include:
Boredom is increasingly a problem due to several factors, such as the education level of the general workforce and the presence of technology in the workplace, which increasingly performs more tasks for the employees. When people are bored, they are less capable of sustaining attention and are more likely to allow their minds to drift off of the task.
Boredom is not limited to anyone. It can affect all employees from entry-level roles to upper management. The major cause is often cited as repetitiveness, which causes employees to feel a lack of meaning in their work and offers too little variety.
Two Types of Boredom
There are two kinds of boredom that are a concern for organizations: chronic boredom and the mid-afternoon slump. UK psychologist Dr. Sandi Mann conducted a survey that assessed the levels of boredom in office workers. She found that one quarter of participants were suffering from chronic boredom. Chronic boredom is ongoing boredom in which employees are disengaged and lose their drive and motivation to perform in their jobs.
Another survey revealed that 50 percent of employees felt bored between those long afternoon hours of 1:30pm-3:30pm - a time when our bodies can be feeling fatigued from lunch.
When asked how they coped with boredom, 85 percent of respondents did things throughout the day that were not related to the job. Many coping strategies consisted of personal activities, such as:
Bored Employees Make Mistakes
People who are bored are less vigilant, which can lead to more mistakes. For example, one study showed that boredom relates to cognitive failures, including failures in memory, distractibility, and making blunders (e.g., dropping things, saying something that you later realize may be insulting to others, etc.).
Some People Are Actually More Prone to Be Bored
People who are "boredom-prone" are even more likely to demonstrate lack of vigilance, and studies suggest that people who are boredom-prone may have higher absenteeism than those who are not. Overall, the longer an employee stays with the organization, the more likely they are to experience boredom.
Boredom impacts job satisfaction and commitment, which are associated with job performance. Employers can attempt to mitigate job boredom by adapting jobs to increase engagement factors, such as autonomy and skill variety.
Studies show that male employees may be particularly likely to experience job boredom. And a recent study of healthcare workers suggested that the boredom-prone employees were more likely to be rated lower on job performance by their supervisors. They were also most likely to believe that their skills were underutilized in their current position.
Strategies to Combat Boredom
Job Rotation Decreases Likelihood of Job Boredom
Many businesses assign employees tasks systematically to accomplish some goal, such as increasing productivity or efficiency. Often this results in the same employees completing the same job tasks repeatedly, and over time this can lead to job boredom.
One way to counter these effects is to use job rotation. This involves periodically assigning employees to new job roles or tasks. Studies suggest that job rotation reduces boredom and increases job satisfaction. Have a look at our recent blog post on work roles and job rotation for more details and ideas concerning how to implement it at your workplace.
Multi-Skill Training Increases Productivity
Training employees in more job-related skills so that they can then perform a number of different tasks can be a great way to shake off boredom. Increasing different skills will assist in maintaining employees' interest and keeping them actively engaged in the organization and their job.
Boredom can be the result of not having enough tasks to keep occupied during the day. Maintaining an open and regular line of communication is important to ensure employees know what they should be doing and that their workload is sufficient for the day.
Healthy Foods Are Great for Office Slumps
When boredom hits, more and more employees are turning to unhealthy eating habits. Eating chocolate and drinking coffee are common ways to reduce boredom, especially in the mid-afternoon. Providing healthy foods and drinks may stop employees from turning to the unhealthy high-sugar fixes, which only provides a short burst of energy. Healthy foods give nourishment and energy that lasts longer and keeps employees focused.
A Breath of Fresh Air
Finally, fresh air is also another great boredom killer. A short walk in the fresh air and some sunlight can do wonders to improving performance. Studies show that sitting for long stretches of time in front of a computer screen is damaging to our vision and our bodies. Encourage employees to go outside and walk around during their breaks.
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