Do you work with bored employees?

It’s not necessarily fair, but as an employer, you’re partly responsible for keeping your employees interested in their jobs. Work isn’t going to be fun all the time, but when your team comes in on a daily basis knowing they’re going to spend the day doing boring tasks they can’t stand, or have trouble filling their time and maintaining interest in their positions, you’re not going to end up with a very productive environment. Bored employees are very common—a Udemy for Business report noted that 43% of employees are bored. This isn’t just a problem for workers, however. Businesses can lose a lot of money if their workers are bored or disengaged. But why is the phenomenon so common, and just how expensive can bored employees be?

A New Culture of Growth and Tech Savvy

Of course, the main reasons for bored employees is that they’re doing repetitive tasks that don’t challenge them, or they’re simply having trouble finding enough work to do. However, other reasons may be more cultural. One possible reason boredom is becoming a huge concern in the workplace is due to changing cultural trends in the workplace. As Millennials become the most prominent group making up the workforce, professional growth is becoming a top priority for workers. The best and brightest of this generation don’t just want to come into the office, do a job, get paid, and go home for 30 years at the same company. They want to learn new skills and eventually grow in their field. If they can’t do that at one company, they’ll find another company that will offer them a path to advancement. Millennials also tend to be more efficient with technology, finishing tasks more quickly than their older colleagues—leaving them with little to do.

The True Costs of Employee Boredom

Bored employees may seem like a problem with few consequences at surface level, but that’s not the case—it’s actually costing businesses billions. Know what happens when employees are bored? They get less productive. They’re unhappy. And eventually, they quit. Turnover is very expensive for businesses large and small, and the more bored employees in your office, the higher your turnover will be. About 18% of US workers are actively disengaged—and these workers cost businesses an estimated $450-$550 billion dollars per year. Losing thousands of hours in turnover costs and productivity loss isn’t going to help your company grow and achieve its goals. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way—no matter what industry you’re in.

Turning Boredom Around

Most of the time, you won’t hear from your employees directly that they’re bored. Think about it—they don’t want to attract negative attention from management. However, if you don’t catch the warning signs, they’ll move on after a while.

If you notice telltale signs of boredom like low morale, tiredness, absenteeism, and distraction, it might be time to think about how to re-engage your team.

Some companies are using tactics like cross-departmental opportunities. HootSuite allows employees to try out another department after a year, giving them an opportunity to try something new, which re-engages and challenges them to start thinking critically again at the job. Other companies use different approaches. Some common tactics include:

  • Offering more responsibility
  • Letting employees pick their projects
  • Instituting flexible work hours or even reducing hours
  • Establishing training and development programs
  • Gamification or competitions

You can always experiment with different options and see what suits your team best—after all, every group and every company is different.

If Can Happen Anywhere

If you’re frustrated that boredom is becoming a problem in your office, it’s important to remember that it can happen in any office and in any industry. Long-term projects with few milestones can bore workers over time (even if you’re an engineer designing an $8 million roller coaster) if enough recognition isn’t supplied. Administrators can tire quickly of repetitive tasks. Finding ways to engage and help your employees find fulfillment in their work isn’t easy—but it will help you retain talent, productivity, and ultimately, revenue.

Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He is currently writing a book about scaling up business and his experience implementing lean methodology.