Though it’s unrealistic to expect complete satisfaction 24/7 in our careers, if you’re constantly drumming your fingers, yawning in meetings and finding every excuse to do anything but work — your boredom might be reaching dangerous heights. You’re not the only one who lacks luster at the workplace, considering a recent survey found that 43% of employees feel blase while on the clock. Some periods of disenchantment are normal, but workplace expert Amy Cooper Hakim, Ph.D. says continued fatigue can lead to burnout — fast.
“Even the CEO of an organization has some mundane tasks that bore him or her. But, ideally, we scatter the ‘chore’’ type work amongst fun and interesting tasks, so that the majority of our workday is enjoyable, meaningful and productive,” she shares. “When you are bored at work, you are less likely to submit quality work and are more likely to goof off. You may not perform as well or as consistently.”
Do you worry your current gig has lost its appeal? Here, career experts give the undeniable signs it’s time to seek a new opportunity or make a change ASAP:
You constantly watch the clock
We all have those days where the caffeine hits just right and you’re zooming through emails, sending out projects and killing it in every meeting. And then there are days when nothing is grooving and you feel like you’ve retreated back to your entry-level performance days. Here’s the deal: if you’re tuned-in to the clock, praying for the minutes to pass faster, you’re not engaged with your work.
Career coach Cheryl Palmer explains work days will become increasingly agonizingly slow when you don’t fill your hours with tasks that interest you. “Instead of counting down the clock, volunteer to help someone else. If your work is boring, you can probably do it quickly and then have time to help someone else on the job who is really busy,” she recommends.
You constantly zone out
Much like in middle school math class — where algebra just wasn’t your jam — if you’re daydreaming about the weekend, cooking dinner or your upcoming vacation during meetings, you’re bound to drop the ball. Zoning out is usually an indicator that you’re not invested, which should be a signal for you to raise your hand for more responsibility.
As Hakim suggests, ask if you might learn a new job or help someone out with a new project, just to change the pace a bit. “This brief break from the mundane affords you an opportunity to learn a new skill or to help out a coworker,” she explains.
You only do the minimum required
There’s nothing worse than hiring an employee to assist your team and they begrudgingly meet the requirements, without giving an ounce of additional effort to position the company for success. You know how much resentment breeds from working with someone who does the bare minimum, so when you start to deliver less than stellar work, it’s a red flag of boredom. Palmer says first and foremost, it’s not enough to meet deadlines — but rather, to exceed expectations if you want to propel your career forward. After all, until you prove you can handle the tedious tasks, you won’t be trusted to explore more creative pursuits.
“It’s unlikely that you will be given more responsibility or challenge if you don’t do the work that you have been hired to do well. Once you have established your reputation as a good worker, then you are in a position to ask the boss if you can take on a new challenge like being cross-trained to do another type of work which could be more interesting to you,” Palmer says.
You goof off when you should be working.
Dependent on your company culture, chatting about the latest celebrity gossip or asking for recommendations for a date night dinner place is welcomed conversation. But if you spend more of your hours Gchatting away about unrelated work topics, you’re engaged with your team — but not your job. Hakim explains if you were interested in your tasks, you would not permit yourself to lose focus on your daily objectives.
As a way to give yourself the time to socially connect, make a rule for yourself: you’ll take a five-minute break every hour or so, and then it’s back to the grind. This self-discipline takes practice, but Hakim notes it can do wonders for your personal accountability.
You spend a lot of time on non-work-related tasks while on the job
If you know more about your best friend from high school’s wedding than you do about this quarter’s sales projections, your idle hands might be disrupting your workflow. Though the social media landscape has fundamentally shifted many company policies, when you’re at the office, you should still give your utmost attention to your gig — not your Instagram feed. As a way to omit distractions, Palmer suggests taking the initiative to go above and beyond what’s required of you. This will help position you to become a more valuable employee and push you to commit to your work in a more effective manner.
She adds this could include volunteering to serve on department-wide or organization-wide committees that serve the purpose of increasing organizational efficiency. “Serving on such a committee can make you more visible in the organization and could potentially open doors for you in the future,” she says.
You scour online job sites regularly
When you’re in a dysfunctional relationship that’s unfulfilling, you might start noticing singles through a rose-colored lens. Or find yourself peeking over your pal’s shoulder while they’re Tindering. The same metric applies to job seeking: if you’re currently employed but have 10 job alerts from various sites, you likely aren’t digging your role anymore.
“We all want to feel challenged and important. If you are not satisfied at work, it may be a good idea to look for another opportunity. But, still, make sure to meet job expectations while you are on the clock. After all, you want to earn a good recommendation for that next position,” Hakim suggests.