The old expression “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” is cute, but even passionate professionals will admit that not everything about their job is fun and fulfilling.
In fact, today many employees feel burnt out or bored.
That’s especially true for millions of Americans who now feel like they’re in it just for the paycheck and little else. And it’s not necessarily because they’re indifferent or “quite quietly.”
Rather, they may be on to something, intentionally or unknowingly: Boring work, for employer and employee alike, may be the best thing for their happiness. This is why.
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Work life balance
A recent survey by supplemental insurance company Aflac found that nearly 60% of employees have experienced at least moderate burnout, suggesting that the easing of the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t made their situation much better.
The pandemic sparked a major rethinking of life goals and the perceived value of traditional work, leading to the Great Resignation and raising the alarm among companies now forced to pay more attention to work-life balance.
Respondents to the Aflac survey reported a decline in performance at work, with around 46% saying their work had suffered in the past year and more than half of employers surveyed acknowledging that mental health issues contributed to a drop in their productivity.
But while employers could do more, a change of mindset can help employees handle it themselves. For many employees, it can be helpful to think that work is just a means to an end. If boring tasks can be completed well and on time, it could be easier to excel at mediocre work – especially when you know the reward is a paycheck that animates bigger goals outside the office.
Working for the weekend, and beyond
There is no denying that business and entrepreneurial success depends on passions catalyzed by hard skills, perseverance and relentless iteration.
Suzy Welch – co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute – once wrote that there were only three cases where someone should work “just for the paycheck.” One, she said, was philanthropy: “’Effective altruists’ are people so devoted to their social causes that they primarily seek high-paying careers to maximize their ability to give away their earnings. For example, you don’t mind working a 70-hour week to fund a philanthropic initiative you support.”
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But behind successful widgets and nifty technologies are unannounced armies of workers who value their work, yet view it as strictly transactional: Hours of toil in exchange for currency that in turn fund their most personal and important pursuits.
Reframing “boring” work as essential to after-hours charitable work or personal betterment helps an employee accept the less exciting aspects of his job by understanding its importance to other areas of his life.
A bored worker is a good worker, explained
Research supports the idea that boredom can also pay off for employers.
Authors in a study for the Academy of Management Discoveries found that boredom can trigger spikes in creativity and lead to innovation, and psychologists generally agree that bouts of boredom can often lead to productivity gains.
“Our minds wander and alternative goals and situations suddenly become salient to us,” Andreas Elpidorou wrote for an opinion piece titled The Bright Side of Boredom in Frontiers in Psychology. “If boredom is likened to an emotional trap, it is a trap which, by its very nature, happily ‘pushes’ us to escape it.”
Researchers fascinated by the role of boredom in fueling creativity are increasingly coming to similar conclusions: Vital but boring tasks ultimately lead employees to explore motivations or tasks that lead to new experiences and opportunities.
Which means that boredom can be quite exciting for both employee and manager.
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This article provides information only and should not be taken as advice. It comes without any kind of warranty.