The Psychology of Workplace Boredom

Boredom is popularly believed to be a state that results from having absolutely nothing to do. This is not entirely true. It is not practically imaginable that a person has absolutely nothing to do. Boredom can more accurately be defined as a state where anything a person does, ceases to be appealing or interesting to them.

Boredom at work is a fairly common occurrence at work and could simply be attributed to a loss of interest in work. But there could be real reasons for the loss of this interest which could have consequences if not addressed. There could be many reasons for a person to get bored in their workplace. It could be because the person is overqualified for their job, could be because of a monotonous routine, or a personal change in life. Whatever the reason, such boredom may leave a person demotivated and uninspired.

What Makes You Bored?

Neurologically, boredom is an experience that arises from a level of stimulation that is perceived by the mind as too low. Insufficient stimulation to perform a task leads to the mind searching for a different task to perform. The mind looks for variety, and no longer is inspired by the task at hand. It leads to a person becoming inefficient in completing the task or not able to complete the job in time or even at all. Hence boredom is followed by frustration.

Although boredom is considered a negative emotion, it serves a purpose. Boredom arrives as a signal for improvement. When you realize you are getting bored with something, you think of new ventures and engage in challenging tasks and behaviors that can bring out the best in you. It serves as a motivating force. The experience of boredom serves as a signal that this is not right, and something needs to be addressed. How each person deals with boredom at work is subjective, and depends on a lot of factors.

What is Workplace Boredom?

Sitting idle at home, watching TV or Netflix all day, and feeling unproductive is a fairly common occurrence and happens to the best of us occasionally. But one may also get bored at work. Your daily job routines tend to burn out your capacity to work and cause boredom, where you eventually lose interest in the work.

Burn-out develops when the job demands are high, and the capacity to work is insufficient to meet the demands. Boredom, however, is distinct and maybe the opposite of burn out, where the job demands are low, and resources are more than sufficient.

Some jobs are considered boring by almost all individuals, such as unproductive heavy tasks like driving a truck, entering boring numbers into a file, simple repetitive tasks, or tasks that require little thought like inspection or vigilance work, are known to make a person bored. But other tasks may be deemed boring at different levels by different individuals.

Fischer’s model for work is usually followed to describe the level of boredom at work. For example, Fisher (1993) describes tasks low on skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback as more likely to induce boredom. Following instructions and being directed to do simple tasks according to another person’s directions is a stimulator of boredom for such jobs.

In another theory, a theory on flow, Csikszentmihalyi (1999) suggests that boredom occurs when one’s skills are greater than the challenges posed by the activity. This is a common experience when a person is overqualified for their job. Their mind is consistently looking for more challenging and productive work to utilize their skills fully. Failure to do so leads the person to get bored and even frustrated with their job.

The workplace environment is a significant cause of boredom at work. A hostile environment with unsupportive friends, no friends at work, and overly bossy employers, naturally makes your job only a burden or piece of work that must be finished, without any gain.

Has Workplace Boredom Increased?

It has been theorized recently that workplace boredom is increasing by the day. This is partially true, although it has not been tested sufficiently. The reason for the increasing number of people getting bored at work could be the invasion of technology. Machines and calculators have taken over the work of calculation and other pieces of work that require the processing of brain and active thinking. Such automated work supplies, lead to most people sitting mostly idle at work, staring at a computer screen, hence getting bored.

The introduction of a new type of job, such as working at call centers, means no use of innovation and no autonomy, it is a simple repetitive task, which people would take for the sake of earning money and may eventually get bored of the job.

Another reason may be that, contrary to the past, more people are graduating and hoping for better jobs that challenge and allow them to do something significant. The rising number of graduates and an ever-decreasing number of jobs available leads to people taking up any available jobs to make ends meet. At most of these jobs, they tend to get bored. In recent years, the rise of self-actualization and self-realization has increased, and people are always looking for something more important to do.

Solutions of Workplace Boredom

Workplace boredom is a gradual process, and no sudden changes can be brought about to evade boredom. The first step towards treating the condition is identifying the causes and accepting that boredom at the workplace is now an entity. The work environments have changed, and work is not as challenging, adventurous, and does not require the manual skills that it used to in yesteryear.

The solution to workplace boredom depends on the cause that triggered it. Following are some of the ways you can minimize boredom at work:

1. Decreasing the Automation

Work, such as that at call centers, requires a mere reading of scripts with no end in sight. Experts suggest that decreased control, and providing more autonomy to the employees can reduce the levels of boredom. Similarly, tasks such as automated entry of data have similar effects and can be treated as such.

2. Seeing the Results

Creating an environment where the employees can see the results of the work they are doing can do wonders. Moreover, creating an interactive environment where the workers doing seemingly insignificant tasks should be included and told about the effects of their work on the business.

3. Workplace Environment

Another essential factor is the workplace environment. A friendly environment with something to do other than tedious work is a welcome sign for the employees. An environment that welcomes all the employees regardless of their level of work creates a lively and interesting workplace environment, where boredom can be treated promptly.

Supportive colleagues and an encouraging boss can also help a person excel in any kind of work that they are performing in the office.


Workplace boredom is a phenomenon that has begun to surface in recent years, owing to the change in work environments. The changing times have contributed to an increasing number of cases of boredom and loss of interest in work. Workplace boredom must be identified as a reality and must be treated for the psychological betterment and social health of the workers/employees.