The world's most boring jobs - is there anything you can do but leave?

24 August 2016 -


Do you often find yourself daydreaming, struggling to maintain concentration and uninterested in your work? If so, you are probably bored. And while we shouldn’t expect all jobs to be a laugh a minute, persistent workplace boredom can be dangerous to your health

Jermaine Haughton

Increased bureaucracy and the mechanisation of many office jobs have led employees bored into disillusionment, through the demands of meetings, paperwork, and information overloads.

According to Dr Sandi Mann, senior lecturer in Psychology at the University of Central Lancashire, boredom is thought by some to be a distinct emotional state in which the level of stimulation is perceived as unsatisfactorily low. The lack of external stimulation leads to increased neural arousal in search of variety – failure to satisfy this leads to the experience of boredom.

A study of 7,000 UK civil servants even found that very bored workers were more likely to die during a 24-year research period than those who were not bored.

Dr Mann says people are probably not "bored to death" by work, but may die younger because bored people often seek stimulation from things like unhealthy food, alcohol, drugs and "risk-taking behaviour".

Experts highlight that a predictable and unchallenging work environment is one of the key factors of job stress, which can pour over to your personal life and lead to the blues.

Boredom: Bad for Business

As well as looking after the safety and wellbeing of the affected employees, managers and bosses should also be wary of the affect workplace boredom has on the morale, efficiency and productivity of their business.

Boredom can be a undermining, deflating and contagious condition which fuels the production of mediocre and uninspired work.

If your employees are falling victim to boredom in the office, you might notice they seem to be withdrawn and suddenly prone to failure at work; when people get bored, they become disengaged.

The UK is also experiencing a worrying decline in employee engagement. According to Office for National Statistics figures, in 2015 UK workforces were 31% less productive than those of the US and 17% less productive than the rest of the G7 countries.

Perhaps surprisingly, there’s little correlation between workload and boredom; busy employees can feel just as bored as their counterparts, with little to do.

Research suggests that repetitiveness, and the routinisation of work practices for employees is a key driver of boredom.

Mark de Rond, from the University of Cambridge's Judge Business School, spent six weeks at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, where he studied the work of military surgeons.

He found that, even in this demanding job, workers were not safe from the damaging effects of boredom. Within a week he had seen 174 casualties, 23 amputations and 134 hours of surgery, including treatment of local children.

However, during lulls in the action the on-call medics found it impossible to relax.

De Rond says because the surgeons are on call at all hours, they can never really relax even when there are no patients and the guilt caused by a lack of work starts to creep in.

As they await the arrival of helicopters bringing in new casualties the medics become competitive and critical of each other's efforts, and become reflective about the futility of it all.

And there are several tragic examples of how boredom mixed with critical tasks can lead to human error and disastrous results.

The 1979 Three Mile Island incident, the 1984 release of methyl isocyanate gas in Bhopal, India, and the 1986 Soviet nuclear accident at Chernobyl all involved people with boring assignments who committed judgmental blunders, resulting in incredible losses.

How to defeat boredom at work

Take Control: Being able to point to what makes you tick can be an essential part of avoiding boredom at work.

Looking back at your past jobs and projects, what situations and tasks were most enjoyable? Think about why this is? Did that project allow you to work in a group or away from the office? Also, how do you feel about your co-workers and boss? Do they help or hinder?

Stephanie Jolluck, creative director of Coleccion Luna and winner of a Spanx Female Entrepreneur Award, even suggests getting up and going for a walk.

"If I’m stuck in boredom, I head outside," she said. "Rain or shine, the outdoors always provides new energy and a fresh perspective."

Be Curious: Sometimes looking at numbers on a spreadsheet or words in a seemingly endless report can be less than stimulating, but by being curious about the meaning behind the jargon and figures, employees can trigger some creative thinking.

Try putting yourselves in the shoes of whoever will benefit from the project you're working on. How will the choices you make affect them?

"My boredom is usually the loss of curiosity," Steve Gordon, director of RDQLUS Creative Arts and Marketing, said. "If I catch myself bored with a project, I’ll stop to read magazines or watch a film, even in the middle of the day.

“I search for something far away from work, yet linked to the same battery crucial to that work."

Speak to the Boss: Meeting with your boss for a one-on-one discussion is also an important measure to combat boredom. Explain that you want to take on a greater challenge, work in a new way or that you want to stretch yourself in a new direction.

By speaking with your senior bosses, you can get a sense of the opportunities available for you to progress, and whether they are willing to help you out of your rut.

Enrich Yourself: From learning a language to designing a web page to taking public speaking lessons, there are a number of opportunities for most employees to build their skills outside of the workplace. As well as giving you something to look forward to at the end of the working day, the enrichment of skills can allow you build on your contribution to the office.

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