WORKPLACE / NOV. 12, 2013
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Is Boredom at Work Really Just Boredom with Life?

Boredom at work

Boredom has been described as ‘hostility without enthusiasm’. It sounds like a harsh definition – but think about the times in your life when you were bored out of your mind. Was there an undercurrent of resistance and resentment? Of course there was.

One of the most common places where boredom strikes is at work

The scenario goes something like this: You arrive at the office, get yourself a coffee and sit down in front of the computer. You exchange a few words with your co-workers, glance out the window (if you are lucky enough to have one) and try to focus on your inbox. An hour later, you find your mind wandering.

If you are one of the few still permitted access to websites like Hotmail, Twitter and Facebook at work– this is when you start aimlessly surfing. Either that, or you head directly to the Daily Mail, or some other site where you can catch up on news and gossip.

If you don’t have access to social media sites or popular news websites at work – this is the point at which you stare blankly at the screen for a bit, or get up and make yourself another drink. Alternatively, you might wander off to chat to a colleague, grab yourself a takeaway coffee, or sneakily surf the web on your smart phone!

Boredom at work is everywhere. It’s often behind a scowling face, a sarcastic comment – and those glazed expressions at meetings. Interestingly though, although we often blame our jobs or work environment for boredom, upon closer inspection you might notice that the root cause lies with you.

With me? I don’t think so.

I’m afraid so. Boredom masks low-level unhappiness and resentment in our lives generally –not just at work. Look at your life beyond the ‘nine to five’. Do you wake up every morning with a sense of irritation or depression that you have another same-old day ahead of you? Do you flop down in front of the TV after work, not caring what you watch? Do you shove a ready-meal into the microwave and eat mindlessly while watching the news? Do you look forward to your weekends, but then find you waste your mornings sleeping in, before loafing around the house in your pyjamas until midday?

Do many of your activities outside of work consist of seeking oblivion, rather than connection?

Ironically, injecting meaning into the hours you spend away from work, can actually improve your concentration and attitude when you’re in the office. We often seek meaning in our lives through job satisfaction – yet we’d probably be happier if we got our lives sorted out first.

The solution is this. Take a long, hard look at your whole life – not just the eight hours a day you spend at work. Look at everything:  the food you eat, your daily rituals and habits, your hobbies, and your interaction with friends and family. Don’t think of boredom as something outside yourself. If you’re feeling bored, it’s probably because you’ve become boring. Yes, that might be hard to take, but it’s also empowering. It means that you decide whether or not your life is just a series of dull days punctuated by the odd-highlight. Days of sitting bleary-eyed at your desk wishing you were lazing on a beach in Greece will make you feel as if life is passing you by.

You can create meaning in anything you do – even the mundane tasks of washing the dishes or cleaning your home – yet many of us focus on life’s highlights and stumble through the rest of it bored out of our minds. Learn to look forward to, and enjoy tasks like planning meals, doing grocery shopping and cooking dinner in the evening. Stop making them necessary chores that need to get done so that you can get on with living. So next time you find yourself zoning out at work, don’t immediately point the finger at the easiest target – your job. Instead look at the bigger picture. You might make a few surprising discoveries.

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