A lot of jokes have been made recently about how the lifeguards at the Rio Olympics must have the most boring job in the world.
While a lot of these comments are in jest, they do raise a serious point about how boredom at work can affect people’s performance. When people are unstimulated or see their jobs as pointless, it can have a serious impact on their wellbeing and, ultimately, your bottom line.
In their 2014 book An Introduction to Contemporary Work Psychology, Maria Peeters (Associate Professor of Work and Organisational Psychology at Utrecht University) and Jan de Jonge (Professor of Work and Organisational Psychology at Eindhoven University of Technology) identify the key factors and consequences of boredom at work:
- Monotonous and repetitive work
- Mental underload and poor skill utilisation
- Behavioural constraint
- Absence of meaning
- Distress (e.g. dissatisfaction, hostility)
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- Injuries and accidents
- Sickness absence
- Poor performance
- Counter-productive work behaviour
Since prevention is better than cure, the best way to avoid the consequences of boredom is to stop it happening in the first place. This is where good internal communications can help.
Work is about more than the specific task we do. It’s about the people we interact with and the impacts of an organisation on its stakeholders. Shout about your successes to spark interest and pride, and encourage people to find out more about your organisation via competitions and work-related social activities.
Promote opportunities for upskilling
Let people know how they can develop professionally. Highlight the opportunities available and what the personal and professional benefits are. A job where you’re learning new things is rarely boring.
Inject some humour
Humour can be a good way to make serious points, but you can also use humour for its own sake. A fun atmosphere will make the workplace a more fun and stimulating environment. Use noticeboards, emails and internal magazines to bring a bit of laughter into the workplace.
Remind people of their importance
Just because a job isn’t high-profile or action-packed doesn’t mean it’s not important. Those Olympic lifeguards might not have had too much to do at the games, but would anyone seriously suggest not having lifeguards by a crowded pool? Use internal communications to remind people of what they’re contributing to your organisation and what the impact(s) would be if they weren’t there. Profile employees on your intranet or internal magazine to give them a share of the spotlight.
PR and communications expert Julia Brook said: “Companies that successfully communicate will find they get a more energised performance from their employees, because they’ll understand their value within the bigger organisation.
“If people feel informed of what’s going on, or they’re made to feel more important, or that they’re part of something bigger, it makes them feel more motivated.
“This can be the difference between a company that’s doing ‘OK’ and one that’s doing really well.”
Get your internal communications right and you’ll help employees make a splash in the right way.