Being bored is….well, boring. At the office, though, it’s a bigger problem. Bored employees don’t do their best work. Brains doze off and creativity and productivity go out the window. Your employees are thinking about going home, counting down to quitting time, and generally disinterested in the task at hand.
What can you do to bring back the interested, creative, and innovative employees you hired to take your business to new levels? It’s a problem businesses have faced as long as innovation has been a competitive necessity. From Google and Microsoft to small start-ups, businesses seek ways every day to keep employees engaged, create teams that work together happily and efficiently, and provide environments that inspire. Fortunately, those who have gone ahead have paved the way, and are willing to share some of the tricks they’ve discovered for banning boredom and keeping employees excited about the creative process.
Read on to discover 17 tricks to fight office boredom.
1. Change the scenery around the workplace.
Minds are not stimulated by flat, bare, white walls. This can be as simple as adding colorful decor, or could be a much more dramatic change. Kurgo, a company that creates products for dog care, built their offices from recycled shipping containers, invited employees to bring their dogs to work, and added a slide between the second and first floors.
Never content to do a thing halfway, we set out to build the coolest office we’ve ever seen.
2. Alternately, change the scenery up by leaving the workplace.
A complete change of venue was a boon to creativity for Carisa Carlton, who led the development of the Face2Face video chat app. She took her team to a Hawaiian island retreat, where she says the social setting helped team members relax and develop as a team.
You don’t have to take your work to the beach, though. Organizing company picnics, sporting events, or even fantasy sport leagues can help create work relationships that promote creative cooperation.
3. Wake up the office with music.
Huemor, a digital design company, has a speaker in the center of the office that all employees can access. Anyone can play music of their choice, and headphones are available for those who prefer to block out the sound.
Digital Marketing Director April Jimenez says the music sharing is fun and breaks up tension in the workday — and as office changes go, it’s a fairly easy and inexpensive one to implement.
4. Break up the workday with a workout.
You don’t have to completely change your physical environment to change how your employees feel in it. Instead of redesigning the office, try pushing the furniture back and encouraging employees to get up and join in a yoga or exercise session together. Just stretching and moving in the middle of the day can help get the blood — and creative juices — flowing again.
5. Break up tasks into manageable goals.
It’s easy to get bored when the finish line is nowhere in sight. Give employees goals that are reachable in a shorter time period. Instead of one goal (the complete finished project) being reached over the course of several months, divide the project into several short-term goals, so that these milestones can be reached weekly, or even daily.
Reaching a goal provides a sense of accomplishment, and the desire to replicate that positive feeling is motivation to work harder for another. Setting up an environment in which employees receive this sensation of accomplishment and completion on a regular basis means creating an environment in which it’s hard to get bored.
6. Celebrate successes!
Whether it’s a mini-party in the break room with cupcakes and soda each time an important milestone is reached, or a weekly email detailing goals reached this week, letting employees know on a regular basis that their efforts are appreciated goes a long way.
When employees know that their accomplishments matter, and are recognized and appreciated, it creates a drive to accomplish more, and to strive for greater things. You can see how it works for Microsoft — consultant Steve McConnell says they actually have a ‘morale budget’ for projects, which can be used for anything from t-shirts to movie nights to ski trips.
7. Laugh off the failures.
By the same token, failures have an impact on morale. When one fails to meet a deadline, or a design doesn’t work as intended, or an idea completely flops, it can make trying again difficult. This is especially true if, after long hours of work, it’s necessary to go all the way back to the drawing board and begin planning and designing again.
Take the sting out of mistakes by making light of them. Teri Gault, CEO of The Grocery Game, asks employees to explain their goofs in limerick form. She says it turns what could be a tense discussion into a light, laughing one, and that the creativity inspired by the poetry form can carry over into work.
8. Change the whole conversation.
By the way, explaining a messed-up project isn’t the only workplace encounter that can be frustrating and unpleasant. Almost anyone who has ever sat through an office meeting will recognize the sense of dread that comes with the expectation of one more Powerpoint with the speaker’s entire speech on it.
Change it up. Have employees who don’t usually lead offer their ideas. Divide up into different groups and give them a chance to create a new chemistry that may spark a new approach. Utilize available technology to make meetings interesting and exciting.
9. Bring a new toy to work.
That is, try a new tech ‘toy’ that will simultaneously give your employees a new way to create and a fun experience. Encrypted Labs CEO Ian Worrall describes providing employees with the tech to create 360 video and virtual reality.
He says employees enjoy exploring a new device, and that the most likely result is new creative content that can be used to market the company’s brand.
10. Give employees new opportunities for learning.
It’s not just new tech that provides learning opportunities. Creative creators tend to be people who love to learn new things and obtain new skills. Allow employees to try new projects that require different skill sets. Give your employees access to educational opportunities, whether it’s a course for additional credentials, or inviting a speaker to introduce a new process or skill.
You can also give an employee who has mastered a certain skill an opportunity to work with others to demonstrate it. In this way, you combine education with team-building, and help form new bonds between employees.
11. Bring the team together.
People who are comfortable with their surroundings, including their co-workers, are more able to speak up to offer ideas or express needs. Turn employees into a team. A team member who feels safe in expressing a concern about an idea, rather than keeping quiet about it, for instance, can save hours of lost productivity on a concept that is flawed.
In addition to classic team-building exercises, try group outings or other events designed to foster friendship among workers.
12. Make work beneficial to those doing it.
Would your creative crew be happier to come to the office if they knew they’d be able to combine personal interests with work requirements? Letting your employees pursue their own passions in ways that connect to work productivity can produce new combinations of ideas and skills that will benefit your workplace.
Consider, for example, the ‘20% time’ policy Google once implemented. Employees were expected to devote 80% of work time to current projects, and the remaining 20% to any pursuit that they believed would help them benefit th company.
13. Help employees succeed at their own personal development.
Ask employees what goals they hope to reach with your company. If an employee comes into the job with, for example, the idea that he’s going to have the opportunity to learn a certain skill, and apply it in a certain type of project, and this isn’t ever available to him, he can become discouraged and disheartened. Knowing in advance what your employees’ expectations are helps you create an environment in which those expectations can be met, and may provide new opportunities for the company as well as the employee.
14. Match employees to the tasks best suited to their skills.
It’s easy to get caught up in assigning tasks and fail to recognize they aren’t a good fit. If you’re loading one employee up with projects that he doesn’t enjoy and that don’t fit his creative style, while another employee seeths with envy at being denied those same projects, you’re setting up an environment of dissatisfaction.
Ask employees what type of tasks fit best with their skills, interests, and desires, and allow them to change the list as necessary. When team members are pursuing goals that interest them, they’ll be less likely to be distracted and unproductive.
15. Let employees define their own goals.
While it’s important to break large projects into small goals, if it’s always an authority figure defining those goals, an employee can still feel chained to the chair. Where appropriate, invite employees to define their own individual goals and timeline for a project.
Peter Phelan, who bears the title ‘Head of People’ at Shutterstock, refers to this as ‘user defined’ workload, and says he’s seen it bring a mildly disengaged employee back on track.
16. Ask your employees.
What can bust your employees’ boredom during the workday? Chances are, they already know some things that would make work a more pleasant place. Invite them to share their ideas. Maybe it’s as simple as adding a mini-fridge to the design floor so that grabbing a soda doesn’t require a trip to the breakroom, or maybe it’s a complete shake-up of management style. Whatever it is, your workers likely have some thoughts on what slows down productivity.
Offer an open-door policy for stating these issues and suggestions, but also provide a way to do so anonymously, so that even the most timid employees and even the most controversial ideas don’t go unheard.
17. Know when to quit.
Don’t push employees to exhaustion. Encourage breaks, and keep hours reasonable. Two 8-hour days can be more productive than a single 16-hour session, since tired brains struggle to stay on-task, and are often at their least creative. If things are tense, don’t hesitate to cut a day short and let your team enjoy the sunshine and some relaxation time, and start the next day fresh and ready to work.