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Work From Home Boredom: 10 Ways Employers Can Help

Work from home boredom affects remote workers whereas occasional and occupational boredom seems commonplace. On the other hand, constant or consistent work-related boredom is a cause of concern.

In fact, a 2016 Udemy study found that 43% of employees are bored and are twice as likely to leave the job within six months, all things being equal. Similarly, in a recent survey of British Columbians, researchers found that 60% of people working from home due to COVID-19 are more bored than usual. 

Given that high performing companies are characterized by high employee engagement, this is worth giving a look.

Since COVID-19, more employers and employees are embracing and normalizing remote work already; brands like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Shopify, are allowing staff to work from home indefinitely. 

 Google Trends: Telecommuting in the US Over the Last 30 Days

Within the last few months and especially the past 30 days, people have shown keen interest towards work from home opportunities and online jobs as shown above.

However, considering the possibility of boredom when working from home, how will telecommuting impact the productivity of newly remote staff?

In this post, we will delve into employee apathy and highlight ten (10) simple ways employers can help their employees overcome work from home boredom, but first  

What is Boredom?

Boredom is the state or fact of being bored (feeling helpless, hopeless, powerless, listless, enervated, uninspired, unsatisfied, or stuck) with a person, situation, condition, or environment over which one has little or no control.

According to John Eastwood and his team of Psychologists, boredom is also “an aversive state of wanting, but being unable, to engage in satisfying activity.”

This implies that boredom can stem from:

  1. Feelings of dissatisfaction, helplessness, and powerlessness to change the status quo.
  2. Feelings of frustration from inability to channel or expend available energy accordingly.

Who Is Prone to Occupational Boredom?

Anyone!

Whether they’re working from the office, telecommuting due to COVID-19, or doing other online jobs, work-related boredom can hit employees, and it can stifle their productivity.

Source: Twitter

With over 40 million job losses in the US alone, layoffs and staff releases, some displaced workers are seeking alternative sources of income, even in jobs or industries they would normally avoid.

Although, early studies suggest that 45% of newly remote workers reported increased productivity working from home, with another 44% willing to accept a 10% pay cut to telecommute;  we must not overlook the problem of work from home boredom and its impact on productivity.

Below are:

20 Signs of Work From Home Boredom

If your telecommuting staff are (constantly) exhibiting the following on the job, it may be a sign of occupational boredom.

These signs include:

  1. Indifference
  2. Disinterest
  3. Apathy
  4. Aloofness
  5. Unenthusiasm
  6. Disenchantment
  7. Tardiness
  8. Offhandedness
  9. Tiredness
  10. Exhaustion
  11. Dullness
  12. Idleness
  13. Dissatisfaction
  14. Irritability
  15. Nagging
  16. Negativity
  17. Distractions
  18. Inattentiveness
  19. Absent Mindedness
  20. Shoddiness

Whereas some of these signs lie outside employer radar, they manifest in work output and productivity levels.

So, 

What Causes Work From Home Boredom?

Work from home boredom can stem from several sources.

According to a Fisher report, 80% of employees are bored because they aren’t learning new skills, 44% feel unchallenged, 30% have little to do, 25% are overworked, and 29% are distracted by social media.

  1. Repetitive, monotonous tasks
  2. Illness
  3. Weakness
  4. Long-drawn COVID-19 lockdown
  5. Poor remuneration
  6. Lack of extracurricular activities
  7. Feeling uninspired
  8. Lack of competition
  9. Not learning new skills
  10. Feeling unappreciated/underappreciated
  11. Little to do
  12. Overwork
  13. Stress
  14. Fatigue/Burnout/Exhaustion
  15. Disinterest
  16. Dissatisfaction
  17. Depression (Clinical)
  18. ADHD
  19. Isolation/Loneliness
  20. Overwhelm

10 Ways to Help Employees Overcome Work From Home Boredom

  1. Appreciate Them
  2. In its 2020 Engagement and Retention Report, Achievers found that 52% of employees are looking or would consider leaving their company because of compensation, 43% due to career advancement, and 19% due to lack of recognition.

    According to another 10-year long study of 200, 000 participants, 79% of subjects cited “lack of appreciation” as reason for quitting their jobs.

    Recognition and appreciation boost employee morale. This can help them cope with work from home boredom as they navigate remote work.

  3. Learn About Work From Home Boredom
  4. COVID-19 is disrupting lives and livelihoods, forcing many to stay in and work from home for extended periods (for the first time), which can lead to boredom.

    60% of newly remote staff are reportedly feeling more bored than usual. For some, it is workload variation while some overwhelm themselves from caring for other family members.

    By learning more about work from home boredom, its types, signs, causes, effects, and consequences, employers can better help their staff overcome it.

  5. Educate Them About Work From Home Boredom
  6. Educate your employees about the types, signs, causes, effects, and consequences of untreated work from home boredom.

    Some know they’re bored, but don’t know why; compounding their confusion. Demystify their boredom by creating awareness about their experiences.

    If you head a small team, visit team members, and observe their work from home routine firsthand. This will provide actionable insights to fight it.

  7. Share Your Work From Home Stories/Experiences
  8. Share your work from home experience and also encourage employees to share theirs. You can do this via blog posts, newsletters, or creating and using a hashtag like #TBHWFHis

    Be frank and encourage them to be honest, when sharing their work from home experiences. This can give rise to a peer to peer support system and foster a sense of community.

    Let them know they’re not alone, that together they can better overcome work from home boredom. 

  9. Teach Them to Use Collaboration Tools
  10. Collaboration is all about working together to achieve common goals while working apart. Collaboration tools help to create this much-needed cohesion for remote teams.

    Collaboration software can be useful for:

  • Time tracking
  • Communication
  • Design
  • Documentation
  • File sharing
  • Project management, etc

Examples include:

  • Bitrix24
  • Trello
  • Slack
  • GitHub
  • Asana
  • Google Drive, etc

Another thing that can also lead to or worsen work from home boredom is when there’s no expert to provide hands-on tech support. Teach employees how to use your preferred collaboration tools by themselves.

  • Create a Staff Chat Group
  • Another smart way to facilitate knowledge sharing among team members is by creating a dedicated chat group. Although most collaboration tools support messaging, it is mostly formal or work-related chat that takes place.

    By creating a separate dedicated messaging channel, staff can interact more informally. This can be a WhatsApp or Facebook Group; something they’re already familiar with.

    Staff can go here to take mental breaks, connect, chat, interact, share knowledge, information, etc. This mimics a typical office setting and can help to stave off work from home boredom.

  • Vary Tasks
  • Repetitive monotonous tasks feel like running around in circles. They are too predictable and unvarying. Not only are they soul-sucking and spiritless, but they are also a leading cause of boredom.

    Some staff may prefer the monotony of repetitive tasks. That’s their comfort zone. Depending on their job description, this might work for you or not.

    Creatives and energetics, on the other hand, will rather resign to the boredom that accompanies predictable routines. By varying tasks you can keep things exciting for them, making work something to look up to.

  • Challenge Them
  • Okay is the enemy of great. It causes people to level when they should level up. Soon enough they’d get bored and may lack the initiative to take necessary action to overcome their boredom.

    Provide sufficient mental stimulation to get things going and accelerate results. This can be achieved by setting SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

    With the right stimulation and accountability systems, you can help employees turn a chore into a chorus and harmonize productivity levels across-the-board.

  • Avoid Work Overload
  • In challenging them to do more and filling their to-do lists, avoid overtaxing them. 25% of workers cite work overload as a leading cause of boredom, in contrast to 30% who are bored because they have little or nothing to do.

    Striking the right balance between too little and too much is key to maintaining high employee engagement and favorable productivity levels.

    Overwork can lead to stress, fatigue, and burnout resulting in boredom. It can also worsen employee health. All of these are counterproductive.

  • Identify and Reward Productivity Openly
  • According to a Monster study, 80% of staff say they feel unappreciated or underappreciated by their employers and would appreciate it if they are better recognized and rewarded for their work.

    A Gallup Poll also found that only one in three US workers strongly agree that they’ve been recognized for their work within the past week. Those who aren’t, are twice as likely to quit within one year.

    There are several recognition programs that can help you create and implement a custom staff appreciation scheme. You can also offer them scholarships to upskill or reskill, and eliminate the 80% of boredom caused by not learning new skills.

    Conclusion

    Work from home boredom is real and affects many remote workers. Left unchecked, it can diminish employee engagement and hamper productivity.

    As more studies emerge, we would get a broader view of the extent and impact of work from home boredom caused by COVID-19.

    Until then:

    1. Appreciate your staff
    2. Learn about WFH boredom
    3. Educate them about WFH boredom
    4. Share your WFH stories/experiences
    5. Teach them to use collaboration tools
    6. Create a staff chat group
    7. Vary their tasks
    8. Challenge them
    9. Avoid overworking them
    10. Appreciate them again

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