Author Topic: Boredom at Work  (Read 6077 times)

windawake

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Boredom at Work
« on: February 20, 2014, 04:54:35 PM »
Now that the project I've been working on for the last couple months is wrapping up, I'm realizing that my job might not be all that busy. At my interview I made it very clear that I really like to be engaged and productive at work. I told them how I've never had a job that's kept me busy enough and want to feel like I'm really making meaningful contributions. I stressed this a lot because it's very important to me. It seemed to strike a chord with them because they offered me the job the next day and were very amenable to salary negotiations.

However, now that I'm almost 3 months in, I am definitely not busy. There was a recent period of busywork, but it wasn't the kind of intellectually stimulating, problem solving work I was hoping for. I was told by the director of the department and my boss that things would pick up after this recent project and it would become more engaging. However, my boss and I have discussed what's coming up for the next couple of months and while it's worthwhile stuff, it doesn't sound like it'll take a lot of work on my part. I'm a project coordinator at a healthcare organization, and much of what's coming up will be scheduling and leading meetings, keeping track of decisions, and coordinating the work of others. So while there will be more meetings every week, there won't be too much work outside that, at least for me.

I'm trying to figure out what my next step will be. I have competing desires here. I want to be very productive and engaged at work, but I also want to have a really good work-life balance and maybe after a year or two move down to 30 hours/week. I feel like pursuing more responsibility and additional projects may make it harder for me to find a work-life balance. I really dislike not having enough to do. I end up wasting time and it makes me feel guilty/bad.

I think I'm leaning towards bringing this issue up with my boss and framing it as 'I want more responsibility.' I'm afraid of being given menial/pointless projects if I say I want to be busier. I do have a concern that the area I'm working in just might not have enough work to satisfy me, and if that's the case I'm thinking about talking with the director of the department and seeing if there are projects I can work on in other areas. Anyone else have experience with this sort of work boredom?

stevesteve

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Re: Boredom at Work
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2014, 05:14:05 PM »
My guess is that asking for more work is a trap.  I've experienced this and I've asked for more work and I've gotten really stupid work.  Sometimes it's difficult for a boss to manage you if all of your work has to go through them and you have to accept not always being engaged.  Personally, I'd use that opportunity to ask for flexibility.  If you can get the same amount done working from home for a day then see if you can do that.  Maybe you have to make a few calls each Friday but you have a long weekend.  It's hard for employers to say you're productive enough that you can just take time off and get paid but for many jobs with good employees there's kind of a unspoken agreement that if you get your work done they're not going to see what you were doing at 2pm on Friday from home.

Your other option is to try to leverage this for more pay and responsibility.

plainjane

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Re: Boredom at Work
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2014, 06:56:34 PM »
If you have space, could you work towards getting your PM designation/certification and have your organization reimburse some of the costs?

Are you following all the best practices around project management?  Does your organization have best practices around PMing?  If not, can you create a training doc for everyone else?

Also, at the beginning of a project it often looks like it will need less problem solving that once that project gets started.

yahui168

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Re: Boredom at Work
« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2014, 08:28:45 PM »
I won't say "I want more responsibility." I manage a small team and that sounds like "I'm not happy and you need to fix it" which is a wrong start to the conversation. Have a general conversation on the work your manager is doing and what difficulties she may be having. Offer your help in areas that makes sense to you. Ideally, taking over some aspect of a project completely without much direction. With this strategy, you're giving something instead of asking for something. In general, intellectually stimulating, problem solving work is in short supply but this will give you some control over the type of work. A side effect of this is that you will shoot straight up the org hierarchy and have more responsibility than you can shake a stick at which is not necessary a good thing.
« Last Edit: February 20, 2014, 08:33:22 PM by yahui168 »

horsepoor

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Re: Boredom at Work
« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2014, 08:40:16 PM »
Perhaps you could ask about a part time detail to another department or area?  Maybe frame it as "over the next xx months, I anticipate having about xx hours per week that I think could be focused on building my skillset with blah blah blah.  Are there any opportunities for me to help out over at someotherdepartment?  I think if I could help them out with their TPS reports, that would be beneficial experience for when we start working on our TPS report workload this fall."

fallstoclimb

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Re: Boredom at Work
« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2014, 09:51:53 AM »
I used to have a job where I was bored senseless.  The problem wasn't really that there wasn't anything to do, but that I hated the work, and the amount on my plate wasn't really that much so I procrastinated and slacked off and just did 10% over the bare minimum and was recognized for that little bit extra.  Now I have a job I (mostly, sometimes) like, and I have a decent amount of autonomy, and I can always find something else to do whether it's technically on my plate or not.  I also recently asked to be made colead of a new initiative because I wanted to be sure I stayed busy enough.

I agree with others that asking for more responsibility in a vague sense kind of makes it your boss's problem - "keep me busy please" - unless there is a specific area of work you would like to be included in.  Is there really nothing that you can initiate on your own?  Even something as simple as improving your project documentation, schedules, etc - that's not really fun, but you might find some satisfaction in it and it'll keep you busier.  Or is there any new approach or technique your company can embrace?  Can you research the literature, or business methodology? 

Also, this is a legitimate concern: 

I'm trying to figure out what my next step will be. I have competing desires here. I want to be very productive and engaged at work, but I also want to have a really good work-life balance and maybe after a year or two move down to 30 hours/week. I feel like pursuing more responsibility and additional projects may make it harder for me to find a work-life balance. I really dislike not having enough to do. I end up wasting time and it makes me feel guilty/bad.

It's really really hard to have a productive and engaged career that ends at 5pm every day.  You sort of have to choose one or the other here, or choose one for now and save the other for later.  My biggest piece of advice, though, is don't feel guilty if you're just sort of slacking on the internet and you feel like a waste of space.  Everyone slacks off at work occasionally to some degree.  Use the time to learn about something.

windawake

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Re: Boredom at Work
« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2014, 10:08:33 AM »
Thanks for all the great recommendations so far. I've only been here for about 3 months, so there is a lot I don't know yet. I think I'll try to have more discussions with my manager about what her workload is, what's coming up for projects, what I can be involved in, etc. There have been several things I've taken the initiative to do on my own, for example putting together detailed documentation for workflows that took us weeks to muddle through because the previous person in my position didn't leave any information on how to do them.

There are other projects I'd like to work on in the organization. For example, we're a corporate office (200+ employees) on the campus of a very large university and we don't recycle paper! This drives me nuts. I'd really like to see if there's an easy way to incorporate paper and cardboard recycling. The university has their own recycling center and composting center, so there might be some avenue for partnership (I honestly have no idea but I'd like to look into it).

My degree is in community health promotion and right now I'm not really working in that field; I'm working in the quality improvement department. So I'd also like to have some one-on-one meetings with the HR reps here at our organization and see what kind of health promotion work (if any) they do. If there isn't anything, maybe I could contribute some of my 'extra' time to developing some sort of easy organization-wide health promotion program (even something as simple as me leading free yoga classes during lunch once or twice a week, or doing a steps challenge where you wear a pedometer and get entered to win prizes if you surpass a certain step threshold). This would be engaging and right up my alley, and would take work to find literature/develop a program/etc. while giving me experience I'd really like for whatever comes next.

So I do have ideas, but they're not really relevant to my department. I am trying to keep my ears open about any relevant department work that I could take over. Right now I don't have a lot of autonomy simply because I haven't even been here for 3 months. Once I get more in the swing of things I anticipate I'll be able to make more decisions on my own, as it is I'm always verifying with my supervisor.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Boredom at Work
« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2014, 10:24:52 AM »
I was in a very similar position in my last job--my work only occupied about 25% of my time, and even in that small fraction, I still managed to impress people with how much I did (which mystifies me to this day).  I disliked the work I was doing, and spent gobs of time browsing the web.  Here are a few suggestions:

1) look around, talk to other people, FIND OPPORTUNITIES where you can add value to the company.  Then take a proposal to your boss, along the lines of "hey, I noticed this problem, and I think we could fix it if I do XXXX." 
2) if it's ok with your employer, spend time improving yourself--online courses to prepare for some sort of certification, get an MBA on work time, take up a hobby that includes marketable skills, etc.  Or find some training classes that your employer might be willing to send you to.
3) talk privately with your peers and get their input.  There might be something you're missing, or they might have some suggestions.

the fixer

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Re: Boredom at Work
« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2014, 11:56:57 AM »
I've also had lots of jobs where I felt underworked. I'm in a different field, though, and most of the time the problem was that I can't be at 100% productivity-wise for 40 hours per week. Coding feels to me a lot like writing, it works well in spurts but when I get stumped on something it's best to just let it sit for a while and come back to it when I'm refreshed. A strategy like this requires lots of downtime between some extremely productive work sessions.

My solution was self-employment. Now I don't feel guilty about not working all the time, because no one's paying me to goof off.

Mori

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Re: Boredom at Work
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2014, 02:00:14 PM »
Some of the suggestions are things I would have recommended, so I won't cover them again.

If you see things (like the recycling) that aren't necessarily related to your job you can still propose them--especially if they will end up as a "cost saving measure". Cardboard is worth some decent savings (I don't know exact $, but enough that my company specifically culls it out). You could head a "green" initiative to do something like that, get to network with different departments, and keep yourself busy. :)

doyouknowwhy

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Re: Boredom at Work
« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2014, 02:12:30 PM »
Try to pick up a remote side gig or contract. 

Mortgage Free Mike

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Re: Boredom at Work
« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2014, 09:42:23 AM »
In my career, I have found it easy to get a lot of attention for doing well without really trying. Perhaps my chosen career path doesn't really challenge me.  I have found stimulation by seeking new opportunities in other departments.
Also, most importantly, I keep busy outside of work.

jrhampt

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Re: Boredom at Work
« Reply #12 on: February 23, 2014, 09:56:00 AM »
Over the years I have learned that there will be periods of boredom in every job.  I have also learned to appreciate those periods of boredom, as they typically occur between crises.  In the past, if I have a job that is boring me, I make use of the time by: reading technical manuals and getting more certifications, getting a master's degree (funded by job), or listening to audio books.  Sometimes I just enjoy the time to recover from the previous crisis.  If you are busy every single minute of every day, it can actually be a bad thing, as there is no slack in the schedule to accommodate a "work emergency."  Furthermore, periods of boredom can be more common in newer jobs, but once you've been at a place for a longer period of time, you tend to have accumulated a larger amount of "baggage" in terms of ongoing projects that never seem to be totally finished but that require some kind of periodic maintenance.

Matte

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Re: Boredom at Work
« Reply #13 on: February 23, 2014, 10:25:54 AM »
Reading forums at work always passes the time.  Lol

Numbers Man

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Re: Boredom at Work
« Reply #14 on: February 27, 2014, 09:35:16 AM »
You should have my wife's job. She leaves the house at 6:45am and returns home at 7pm. She is constantly dealing with customers and sales reps. She gets calls on the weekend. After we finish dinner at 7:30pm she is working until 10pm to catch up. She got nearly 600 emails the one week we took a cruise, so am guessing that is what her normal week looks like. Her company tasks her with 3 projects a month on top of her regular duties. These projects for a 12 month period can yield a 20% bonus. She is an A Type personality so she can't do 90% of the job, she always has to do 110%. She usually works for a few hours on Saturday & Sunday.

She used to have an easier job that only took about 80% of her time but got bored and wanted to be more productive. She got her wish; so be careful what you wish for.

jrhampt

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Re: Boredom at Work
« Reply #15 on: February 27, 2014, 12:51:53 PM »
She used to have an easier job that only took about 80% of her time but got bored and wanted to be more productive. She got her wish; so be careful what you wish for.

Totally.  I think my spouse is currently regretting a similar move from his easier job.

Dr. Doom

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Re: Boredom at Work
« Reply #16 on: February 27, 2014, 12:59:43 PM »
However, now that I'm almost 3 months in, I am definitely not busy.

Only 3 months? Usually somewhere between 3-6 months you start to see lots of things that you might like to improve.  The more you understand about your company and org, the greater the number of opportunities that present themselves.  Maybe you can talk to your manager about creating your own projects?


I also liked the idea mentioned by someone else about training and self-improvement.  Get certified in something that aligns with the company's vision for you and they'll usually pay for the whole thing.

I've also been on both sides of this.  Way, way too much work, and also not nearly enough.

I *much* prefer having not nearly enough.  Once you start pushing 100% and people get used to it, it can become very difficult to scale back without looking like you're slacking.  I don't let people know what I'm really capable of anymore because I've found that most companies really ride the high performers and can't help themselves from continuing to ask more and more of them.