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17 Creative Ways to Kill Boredom In The Office

17 Creative Ways to Kill Boredom In The Office

1. Play around with something new

As the old saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Well Ian Worrall, CEO of Encrypted Labs believes that one of the most effective ways to counter office boredom is providing your team with some new tech to play with.

“360 Video and VR for example (which cost less than $300) can keep several employees free from boredom,” he says, “as well as be mutually beneficial for the company. Managers win due to creative content most likely being the end result, and employees enjoy toying around with something new (without even realizing that some of their content can actually be used to market the Brand.)”

2. Focus less on the work, and more on being happy

If work is beginning to feel like a drag, the honest truth may be that you’re just not happy at work.

As Mike Fabbri, Senior Lead of Agent Development at Compass puts it, “Happiness is the outcome which bolsters productivity and retention – our two main sources of revenue.”

In order to create happier employees, his team focuses on constantly boosting the levels of engagement, communication, connection, and acknowledgment within the company. This includes weekly emails touting recent successes, lots of personal contact, and frequent interactive workshops. According to Fabbri, the holistic approach has brought new life to employees!

3. Spruce up the office in a big way

“It’s hard to be bored at work when your office is made of shipping containers, everyone is allowed to bring their best friend to work and the quickest way to get downstairs is by a giant metal slide,” says Kelly Brosch, spokesperson for Kurgo.

Dedicated to attracting new and creative talent, Kurgo decided that making their office a place that employees want to be at was a priority. And their new space certainly reflects that!

4. Take the power back

Few things are more tedious and mundane than being handed a list of tasks from your boss day after day and week after week. It can zap your creative juices in a hurry and put a drag on your focus and energy. To counter this, Levy Production Group’s Co-Founder, Barry Levy, suggest giving employees control over their own goals and workflow.

When agreeing on a new contract with an employee, he’ll take time to discover each employee’s short-term and long-term goals, and then makes sure the workers hold themselves accountable to those goals.

He believes that “Employees who establish their own goals for promotions, salary, and personal development have a greater energy for achieving those goals than employees who don’t put that pressure on themselves.”

He believes that the engagement produced by that “pressure” benefits the company and the employee, who gets exactly the job she wants because she’s the one detailing how that job looks day to day!

5. Stop doing work you hate

After a period of major growth, Firm86 Founder and CEO Benjamin Surman began to notice a trend.

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Despite having “great connections and endless referrals” from clients, he says, “our clients went from always being enthusiastic about results to just ‘meh’ about results.”

What he discovered was that they’d been so busy onboarding new clients, they hadn’t taken the time to find out what their employees were really interested in and which clients they would do the best work for. The solution?

“We began to learn more about our people and talent. What did they like outside of work and what would be their ideal client to work with? We then started to align talent interests to client interests and voila, the satisfaction flourished among both client and talent!”

6. Pump up the volume

Need a way to add some energy during the day? You might try infusing the office with some music! It’s worked out great for April Jimenez and the uber-talented design team at Huemor.

She says, “Something that seems to work well for us is a universal speaker in the office. Each person has access to the speaker in the middle of the large space – we each can cue up music to listen to, and anyone that doesn’t want to can put headphones on.”

Beyond simply infusing fun, Jimenez says it can serve as a great tension breaker (“I dare you to not crack a smile when someone plays ‘Who Let’s the Dogs Out.'”) She calls the shared speaker “a relatively easy and cheap way to fodder some type of community.”

Definitely something worth trying!

7. Let them explore their passions

What motivates you most as an employee (or, alternatively, what motivates your employees most?) The simple truth is that most people are motivated by following their passions, not simply by picking up new office skills.

“Learning a new Excel function might help pad the resume of an employee who’s going to leave you someday,” says LexION Capital CEO Elle Kaplan, “but it doesn’t offer that employee any actual, personal development.”

She points to Google’s “20% time” as an example of giving employees the freedom to branch out and try things that really interest them. “When people are allowed to push the boundaries of their daily responsibilities,” she says, “it often yields some happy accidents. Unique ideas emerge.”

8. Create your own (career) adventure

If your everyday role at work is boring you, try looking not at where you are now but where you want to be. That’s what Chris Castiglione, Co-Founder & Dean of One Month believes.

“Here at One Month,” he says, “we asked every employee, ‘How can we help you succeed personally next year?'”

He admits that giving employees the ability to grow into new roles is not always a straightforward, clear-cut proposition.

Despite that, he says that “allowing employees to grow, experiment and challenge themselves is something I’m really passionate about in the culture we create.”

And so far, it’s allowing their company culture to thrive.

9. Cut the cord once in a while

Carisa Carlton, one of the experts behind Where Women Create Business Magazine, is a firm believer that a change of locale can provide a big boost to creativity and collaboration.

“When I led the development of Chat Face2Face,” she says, “I took my team to Molokai island for three days where we sat on a wifi-less waterfront estate detailing our user interface design in between rounds of ping-pong.”

Her motivation was simple: Get her creative and technology teams to trust one another enough to accept criticism and play off of one another’s ideas. In short, she says, “It worked.”

She adds that although “many of our evenings were spent in front of computers, our biggest ideas came to life during times of social relaxation such as dining or play.”

While a trip to a Hawaiian island may be a bit cost prohibitive for most business, a change of scenery can provide serious benefits to any employee.

10. Diversify your meetings

Meetings. They can be one of the most mind-numbing aspects of a workday, particularly when they seem to feature the same cast of characters discussing the same projects and running into the same roadblocks, over and over again. A clever way to add some diversity to the discussion is by engaging workers in group ‘thinkbox’ projects, utilizing employees who aren’t normally part of the conversation.

“This will allow employees to think outside the box,” says Meadows Gaming VP Kegin Brogan, “and discuss multiple ways of solving the same problem.”

It breaks up the monotony for both the normal meetings-goers as well as those who are primarily focused on tasks rather than high-level strategy.

11. Work hard…and play hard

Sometimes beating boredom at work is about making frequent goals and staying focused on them for just a few days at a time. That’s exactly the approach that’s been adopted by the team at Venta Marketing. Director Courtney Lindbeck says that they begin each week with an all-hands meeting, where employees outline the big goals they’re focused on completing during the week.

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“When Friday rolls around,” she says, “we do something called ‘Happy Faces.’ On the whiteboard we draw a smiley face, a frowning face, a question mark and a light bulb. Under these sections we each write what we’re happy about from the work week, what we’re upset or discouraged about, what we have questions about, and finally, what new ideas or strategies we have thought of.”

Making specific goals with short timelines – and then celebrating their completion each week – helps keep everyone motivated and really livens up the office, according to Lindbeck.

12. Make a suggestion

Sometimes finding ways to improve a workplace comes down to asking for feedback from employees and then acting on it! Why?

Well, as Duncan Murtagh, Co-Fouder of Vetter, says, “No two job environments are exactly the same, so applying “cookie cutter” solutions effectively can be difficult.”

Instead, he suggests asking for and using employees’ ideas. If you’re saying to yourself, “This sounds like the old office comment box,” you’re right. But when done right, it works. According to Murtagh, it makes employees feel valued, “and employees who feel valued at work are naturally happier and more motivated to perform well.” If you’re looking to make your office the perfect place to work, this is a great way to make it happen.

13. Keep a sense of humor

“Our motto is that we’re all going to make mistakes,” says Teri Gualt, CEO of The Grocery Game, “so learn to write good limericks!”

Instead of droning on and on about a mistake an employee has made, more managers could benefit from taking the lighthearted and creative approach adopted by Teri and her team. Accepting that mistakes happen will take the pressure off of everyone involved, and requiring the employee to explain the mishap in the form of a limerick will make fun out of a normally heavy situation. It will also activate their creative juices, which will probably carry over into their normal workload.

14. Add a little activity to your day

We’ve all felt the mid-afternoon energy lull – even during the busiest of days. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be overcome. The Goodwin Group in Boston, Massachussetts has come up with a few creative ways to do just that! Their employees often take advantage of yoga and CrossFit during the day to take a break and re-energize.

They also have occasional bring your dog to work days because, as spokesperson Amanda Santucci says, “Who wouldn’t want to play fetch in the office?”

Sounds like my kind of office!

15. Get a little more personal

One of the biggest workday vibe-killers can be spending the day surrounded by a bunch of people you don’t really know or care about. It’s awfully easy to get bored when the work gets mundane and you’ve got no friends around to break up the monotony. Doubledot Media CEO Simon Slade has the cure.

“Team outings build camaraderie,” he says. “Employees get to know one another personally and professionally, which promotes collaboration,” he continues.

These personal connections, he believes help make everyday more rewarding and, ultimately, more fun.

16. Work less (yes, you read that right)

The 40-hour work week has been the standard in the U.S. for nearly 150 years.

But as Kaja Kuczyńska from Painite Consulting reminds, “The 40 hour work week was created as a “ceiling” on the amount of hours a worker should contribute to the workforce.”

Over time, she says, expectations have seemed to morph to the point that a 40-hour workweek is now the minimum expectation. To combat the boredom and burnout that can accompany these long workdays, she suggests taking plenty of breaks throughout the day.

“Employees should get up frequently,” she says, “to stretch, grab a drink or engage with other employees.”

These small breaks can help keep your mind fresh and engaged as the workday rolls on. They also provide workers with an important chance to stand up and move around, which can have serious health benefits

17. Always keep learning

As much as we all enjoy variety in our work, the truth is that our tasks and projects will often be very similar in nature. And it can sometimes seem like you’re missing out on opportunities to grow new skills and become more valuable as an employee. To combat this, Samuel Orf, Director of Art at Levy Online suggests something he calls a “lunch and learn.” They combine a catered lunch with a presentation on a new skill or process that others in the company may not have tried yet.

“Not only does it bring the team together,” he says, “it’s a way for people in different departments to better grasp what their coworkers do or for someone in the same department to dive a little deeper and learn something new.”

All in all it’s a way to keep things moving forward even when things are feeling slow.

Bonus: If all else fails, hire a balloon artist

Sometimes, no matter how many great new policies you put in place or how many team-building activities you hold, you might still need to add a little spice to the day. An idea you might not have thought of is hiring an entertainer to come in and enliven your team! That’s exactly what several Fortune 500 companies have done according to Mark Byrne, Owner of Winking Derby. He’s been flown around the world to liven up call centers and customer service departments.

Certain jobs are, by nature, stressful and/or repetitive. Doing something out of the ordinary is a great way to keep things interesting!

Featured photo credit: Not Motivated/ Leon Fishman via flickr.com

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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