6 Things to Do the Next Time You’re Bored at Work

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Use the time to advance your career says Brandi Britton

It happens to everyone at some point in their work lives. Every clock you look at seems to be slow, or time itself is malfunctioning. When it feels like an hour should’ve passed by, it’s only been 10 minutes. Nothing is pressing at the moment, and you’re flat-out bored.

Well, you’re in good company. According to a recent OfficeTeam survey, workers said they’re bored for an average of 10.5 hours per week. That’s the equivalent of 68 days a year!

What’s making office workers nod off from boredom? According to our survey, more than one-quarter of senior managers (28 percent) think the main reason is because employees don’t feel challenged by assignments. In general, nearly four in 10 executives (39 percent) believe staff have too much work to do in their jobs.

Killing time

If the average worker is bored for more than 10 hours a week, what exactly are they doing? Here are some of the ways survey respondents said they keep themselves occupied — little of which is relevant to their job:

  • Having rubber band battles with coworkers
  • Making grocery lists and cutting coupons
  • Learning another language
  • Doing crossword puzzles
  • Playing ping pong
  • Doodling
  • Making videos
  • Paying bills
  • Watching TV or movies online
  • Writing a book
  • Daydreaming
  • Playing online games

How to stay plugged in

Goofing off, watching cat videos or writing the next great American novel may help pass the time until 5pm, but they won’t do you any favors in terms of advancing your career — especially if your supervisor catches you in the act. Here are some ideas for what to do the next time you’re twiddling your thumbs at work:

  1. Tame those papers. Many of us have a mountain of letters, magazines and mystery folders next to our workspace. Whenever you have free time, whittle down that stack. Then adopt the one-touch rule so you’re not constantly shuffling papers from one pile to another.
  2. Ask for more work. Surprisingly, 39 percent of senior managers polled for the study think staff generally have too much work to do in their jobs. If that’s not the case for you and you run out of things to do, speak up. Employers appreciate and reward staff who demonstrate motivation and drive.
  3. Request more challenging assignments. If it’s the nature of the work rather than the amount that’s making you yawn, brainstorm ways to beef up your role. Have an eye for design? Let your boss know you’d be happy to revamp their PowerPoint deck for an upcoming presentation. Those who are interested in all things social media could volunteer to take charge of the company’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.
  4. Maximize meetings. Not all meetings are necessary, and some are downright dull. To make the most of the boring ones when you’re not taking minutes, take notes anyway. Close your laptop and put away the phone so you won’t get distracted, and write down the main points and your questions — using good old-fashioned pen and paper —so you’ll be ready to give your input.
  5. Invest in professional development. Self-improvement is a great way to pass the time and take your administrative career to the senior level. Ask your manager’s blessing to enroll in a business writing course, learn a relevant second language or work toward a Microsoft Office certification. Assure them you’ll study only when the office isn’t busy.
  6. Help a neighbor. While you’re zoning out from boredom, a colleague with a different busy season may be working frantically to get mailings out the door. So the next time you run out of your own work to do, see who could benefit from an extra pair of hands. Unsolicited acts of helping create goodwill, strengthen work friendships and burnish your reputation.

No job is thrilling 100 percent of the time, and we all need down periods during the day to relax and recharge. But when you find yourself with a completed to-do list, don’t automatically reach for your phone to pass the time. Instead, keep yourself busy with pursuits that will lift up — not drag down — your career.

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About Author

Brandi Britton

Brandi Britton is District President for Office Team (www.officeteam.com), the world’s largest specialised staffing firm for office professionals. OfficeTeam has more than 300 locations worldwide, which place tens of thousands of highly skilled candidates each year into positions ranging from executive and personal assistant to receptionist and customer service specialist. Brandi is a frequent speaker on employment issues and has been interviewed by the media on workplace topics.

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