Bored at Work

I ran across this BBC article Too Much Time on Your Hands At the Office, and loved it. I work in an atmosphere that rarely lends spare time in the office. During the furlough, we were still employed even though our government counterparts were not, and it was hard for me to not be as involved with the kind of work I like, in that I thoroughly enjoy working on the challenges that come up in the office when everyone is there. I still had things to do, but it was easy for me to breeze through them and get rather bored along the way with mundane tasks like writing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). I am not typically one who gets bored with my job because I like seeking the challenges in order to fix them, so you can imagine my consternation when I was faced with such a dilemma.

I remember an interviewer asking me, “What are your weak points,” as per typical during the interview process. I have never really liked this question, not because I don’t like sharing my weak points, but that there are far better questions to ask – case and point: “What areas or skill sets do you have that your feel you can improve, and what are your expectations for improvement in those areas should you be hired with our company.” Something like that (I digress). My answer is that I typically run faster than I have strength and expect people to keep up with me. Hence why I found myself being bored. At the end of the day, there are only so many SOPs I want to write before pulling my hair out, and only so many I can write that can be approved anyway since my approvers were out of the office.

While studying about different personalities and the inner self, it is not hard to hypothesize that there are several different kinds of personalities in the world. During the furlough, I was able to distinguish the 80 percenters and the 20 percenters personalities (I realized percenter isn’t a word, but my 8th grade teacher gave me a poetic license, so I’m doing it). There is the great About.com article Pareto’s Principle – The 80-20 rule in Management, that discusses the 80-20 rule when it comes to management and effective work. You can read the article for the more mathematical history and theory behind this rule, but I really liked these particular statements, “The 80/20 Rule means that in anything a few (20 percent) are vital and many (80 percent) are trivial. The value of the Pareto Principle for a manager is that it reminds you to focus on the 20 percent that matters. Of the things you do during your day, only 20 percent really matter. Those 20 percent produce 80 percent of your results.”

Going back to the first article, it states, “Your responsibility here is to tell your boss that you have plenty of time to add more to your list of responsibilities. Let your superiors know that you’d like to tackle more challenges. It’s then up to senior management to give you more to do.” I think I would rather be a categorized as the 20 percenter that produces 80 percent of the results than just dragging my feet and being ok with the status quo. The article continues, “Even if your boss does not follow through with more responsibilities, you could take this opportunity to expand your profile within the company. Volunteer to take on some bigger projects, or ask for more duties outside your area. That would serve both your interests and those of the company.”

In another BBC article, When Professional Boredom Hits Is It Fair to Coast? it states, ” Regardless, it is a bad idea to slack off at work – both ethically and professionally, said Gail Golden, an organizational psychologist and leadership consultant in Chicago, Illinois.” There are always things employees can do to keep busy, and it is important to keep in mind that our companies are investing a lot in us. I understand that some companies take advantage of hard-working employees….and it happens way too often. My experience has been that if I play my cards right, with more responsibilities come more privileges. When I work close to 9 hours a day, I can work my way up to having a day off every once in a while, or negotiating what is fair. I do warn that this is not something employees can negotiate into their employment right off the bat, unless they are maybe an executive. Privileges need to be earned, and coasting or not finding things to do when I am bored is not going to get me there.

The first article concludes, “The best way to solve your problem — both ethically, and for your own career — is to see it as an opportunity. In contrast to most executives, your workday has some blank spots on the schedule. Now figure out how best to fill that time.”