As the old saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Here are 17 creative ways to kill boredom in the office:
1. Play around with something new
Ian Worrall, CEO of Encrypted Labs believes that one of the most effective ways to counter office boredom is providing your team with some new tech to play with. “360 Video and VR for example (which cost less than $300) can keep several employees free from boredom,” he says, “as well as be mutually beneficial for the company. Managers win due to creative content most likely being the end result, and employees enjoy toying around with something new (without even realizing that some of their content can actually be used to market the Brand).”
2. Focus less on the work, and more on being happy
If work is beginning to feel like a drag, the honest truth may be that you’re just not happy at work. As Mike Fabbri, Senior Lead of Agent Development at Compass puts it, “Happiness is the outcome which bolsters productivity and retention – our two main sources of revenue.” In order to create happier employees, his team focuses on constantly boosting the levels of engagement, communication, connection, and acknowledgment within the company. This includes weekly emails touting recent successes, lots of personal contact, and frequent interactive workshops. According to Fabbri, the holistic approach has brought new life to employees!
3. Spruce up the office in a big way
“It’s hard to be bored at work when your office is made of shipping containers, everyone is allowed to bring their best friend to work and the quickest way to get downstairs is by a giant metal slide,” says Kelly Brosch, spokesperson for Kurgo. Dedicated to attracting new and creative talent, Kurgo decided that making their office a place that employees want to be was a priority- and their new space certainly reflects that!
4. Take the power back
Few things are more tedious and mundane than being handed a list of tasks from your boss day after day and week after week. It can zap your creative juices in a hurry and put a drag on your focus and energy. To counter this, Shutterstock’s Head of People, Peter Phelan, suggest shifting the goal-setting onus onto employees. He believes in what he calls “a genuine process” that allows for goals and workload to be “user defined.” “This ability to influence your individual career growth,” he says, “can wake up a mildly disengaged employee or help an already engaged employee reach new heights.”
5. Stop doing work you hate
After a period of major growth, Firm86 Founder and CEO Benjamin Surman began to notice a trend. Despite having “great connections and endless referrals” from clients, he says, “our clients went from always being enthusiastic about results to just ‘meh’ about results.” What he discovered was that they’d been so busy onboarding new clients, they hadn’t taken the time to find out what their employees were really interested in and which clients they would do the best work for. The solution? “We began to learn more about our people and talent. What did they like outside of work and what would be their ideal client to work with? We then started to align talent interests to client interests and voila, the satisfaction flourished among both client and talent!”
6. Pump up the volume
Need a way to add some energy during the day? You might try infusing the office with some music! It’s worked out great for April Jimenez and the uber-talented design team at Huemor. She says, “Something that seems to work well for us is a universal speaker in the office. Each person has access to the speaker in the middle of the large space–we each can cue up music to listen to, and anyone that doesn’t want to can put headphones on.”
Beyond simply infusing fun, Jimenez says it can serve as a great tension breaker (“I dare you to not crack a smile when someone plays ‘Who Let’s the Dogs Out?’”) She calls the shared speaker “a relatively easy and cheap way to foster some type of community.” Definitely something worth trying!
7. Let them explore their passions
What motivates you most as an employee (or, alternatively, what motivates your employees most?) The simple truth is that most people are motivated by following their passions, not simply by picking up new office skills. “Learning a new Excel function might help pad the resume of an employee who’s going to leave you someday,” says LexION Capital CEO Elle Kaplan, “but it doesn’t offer that employee any actual, personal development.” She points to Google’s “20% time” as an example of giving employees the freedom to branch out and try things that really interest them. “When people are allowed to push the boundaries of their daily responsibilities,” she says, “it often yields some happy accidents. Unique ideas emerge.”
8. Create your own (career) adventure
If your everyday role at work is boring you, try looking not at where you are now but where you want to be. That’s what Chris Castiglione, Co-Founder & Dean of One Month believes. “Here at One Month,” he says, “we asked every employee, ‘How can we help you succeed personally next year?’” He admits that giving employees the ability to grow into new roles is not always a straightforward, clear-cut proposition. Despite that, he says that “allowing employees to grow, experiment and challenge themselves is something I’m really passionate about in the culture we create.” And so far, it’s allowing their company culture to thrive.
9. Cut the cord once in a while
Carisa Carlton, one of the experts behind Where Women Create Business Magazine, is a firm believer that a change of locale can provide a big boost to creativity and collaboration. “When I led the development of Chat Face2Face,” she says, “I took my team to Molokai Island for three days where we sat on a wifi-less waterfront estate detailing our user interface design in between rounds of ping-pong.” Her motivation was simple: Get her creative and technology teams to trust one another enough to accept criticism and play off of one another’s ideas. In short, she says, “It worked.”
She adds that although “many of our evenings were spent in front of computers, our biggest ideas came to life during times of social relaxation such as dining or play.” While a trip to a Hawaiian island may be a bit cost prohibitive for most business, a change of scenery can provide serious benefits to any employee.
10. Diversify your meetings
Meetings. They can be one of the most mind-numbing aspects of a workday, particularly when they seem to feature the same cast of characters discussing the same projects and running into the same roadblocks, over and over again. A clever way to add some diversity to the discussion is by engaging workers in group ‘thinkbox’ projects, utilizing employees who aren’t normally part of the conversation. “This will allow employees to think outside the box,” says Meadows Gaming VP Kegin Brogan, “and discuss multiple ways of solving the same problem.” It breaks up the monotony for both the normal meetings-goers as well as those who are primarily focused on tasks rather than high-level strategy.
11. Work hard…and play hard
Sometimes beating boredom at work is about making frequent goals and staying focused on them for just a few days at a time. That’s exactly the approach that’s been adopted by the team at Venta Marketing. Director Courtney Lindbeck says that they begin each week with an all-hands meeting, where employees outline the big goals they’re focused on completing during the week.
“When Friday rolls around,” she says, “we do something called ‘Happy Faces.’ On the whiteboard we draw a smiley face, a frowning face, a question mark and a light bulb. Under these sections we each write what we’re happy about from the work week, what we’re upset or discouraged about, what we have questions about, and finally, what new ideas or strategies we have thought of.” Making specific goals with short timelines – and then celebrating their completion each week – helps keep everyone motivated and really livens up the office, according to Lindbeck.
12. Make a suggestion
Sometimes finding ways to improve a workplace comes down to asking for feedback from employees and then acting on it! Why? Well, as Duncan Murtagh, Co-Fouder of Vetter, says, “No two job environments are exactly the same, so applying “cookie cutter” solutions effectively can be difficult.” Instead, he suggests asking for and using employees’ ideas. If you’re saying to yourself, “This sounds like the old office comment box,” you’re right. But when done right, it works. According to Murtagh, it makes employees feel valued, “and employees who feel valued at work are naturally happier and more motivated to perform well.” If you’re looking to make your office the perfect place to work, this is a great way to make it happen.
13. Keep a sense of humor
“Our motto is that we’re all going to make mistakes,” says Teri Gualt, CEO of The Grocery Game, “so learn to write good limericks!” Instead of droning on and on about a mistake an employee has made, more managers could benefit from taking the lighthearted and creative approach adopted by Teri and her team. Accepting that mistakes happen will take the pressure off of everyone involved, and requiring the employee to explain the mishap in the form of a limerick will make fun out of a normally heavy situation. It will also activate their creative juices, which will probably carry over into their normal workload.
14. Add a little activity to your day
We’ve all felt the mid-afternoon energy lull – even during the busiest of days. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be overcome. The Goodwin Group in Boston, Massachussetts has come up with a few creative ways to do just that! Their employees often take advantage of yoga and CrossFit during the day to take a break and re-energize. They also have occasional bring your dog to workdays because, as spokesperson Amanda Santucci says, “Who wouldn’t want to play fetch in the office?” Sounds like my kind of office!
15. Get a little more personal
One of the biggest workday vibe-killers can be spending the day surrounded by a bunch of people you don’t really know or care about. It’s awfully easy to get bored when the work gets mundane and you’ve got no friends around to break up the monotony. Doubledot Media CEO Simon Slade has the cure. “Team outings build camaraderie,” he says. “Employees get to know one another personally and professionally, which promotes collaboration,” he continues. These personal connections, he believes help make everyday more rewarding and, ultimately, more fun.
16. Work less (yes, you read that right)
The 40-hour work week has been the standard in the U.S. for nearly 150 years. But as Kaja Kuczyńska from Painite Consulting reminds, “The 40 hour work week was created as a “ceiling” on the amount of hours a worker should contribute to the workforce.” Over time, she says, expectations have seemed to morph to the point that a 40-hour workweek is now the minimum expectation.
To combat the boredom and burnout that can accompany these long workdays, she suggests taking plenty of breaks throughout the day. “Employees should get up frequently,” she says, “to stretch, grab a drink or engage with other employees.” These small breaks can help keep your mind fresh and engaged as the workday rolls on. They also provide workers with an important chance to stand up and move around, which can have serious health benefits
17. Always keep learning
As much as we all enjoy variety in our work, the truth is that our tasks and projects will often be very similar in nature. And it can sometimes seem like you’re missing out on opportunities to grow new skills and become more valuable as an employee. To combat this, Samuel Orf, lead designer at Levy Online suggests something he calls a “lunch and learn.” They combine a catered lunch with a presentation on a new skill or process that others in the company may not have tried yet.
“Not only does it bring the team together,” he says, “it’s a way for people in different departments to better grasp what their coworkers do or for someone in the same department to dive a little deeper and learn something new.” All in all it’s a way to keep things moving forward even when things are feeling slow.
Bonus: If all else fails, hire a balloon artist
Sometimes, no matter how many great new policies you put in place or how many team-building activities you hold, you might still need to add a little spice to the day. An idea you might not have thought of is hiring an entertainer to come in and enliven your team! That’s exactly what several Fortune 500 companies have done according to Mark Byrne, Owner of Winking Derby. He’s been flown around the world to liven up call centers and customer service departments. Certain jobs are, by nature, stressful and/or repetitive. Doing something out of the ordinary is a great way to keep things interesting!
Featured photo credit: Not Motivated/ Leon Fishman via flickr.com