By: Amanda Zimmerman Holley
Wake up. Get ready. Coffee. Commute. Work. Lunch. Work. Commute. Dinner. Bed. Repeat. How many of you relate to that? My guess? Way too many.
Let’s face it, the standard 8-5 work day can become maddeningly monotonous quickly. It’s really bad when stress and tight deadlines actually make your work life better because at least anxiety and pressure will wake a bored soul up.
This type of ennui is obviously less than ideal for the health of individual professionals, but it can also be catastrophic for employers. Study after study shows that workplace boredom lowers overall productivity and efficiency, causes stress and unhappiness to spread, and accounts for one of the main reasons employees resign. Importantly, it is high performing employees, not underachievers, that most often report leaving a workplace due to boredom.
Even competitive pay and benefits are not enough to keep workers in a dull and unchallenging workplace, especially if they are young. Sandi Mann, a senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire in England, says that as a society, we are becoming less tolerant of boredom in the workplace. Quoted in CNN’s article “Is workplace boredom ‘the new stress?,’ she says, “ people have more of an expectation to be fulfilled by everything they do. Compare our grandparents’ generation: there wasn’t any desire to have self-actualization and to reach their potential…That attitude has changed. Now, we get people quite commonly quitting higher paid jobs for jobs that are lower paid but more satisfying.”
At best, bored employees withdraw; at worst, they begin to resent their employer and turn to sabotage. Despite the high cost of losing productivity, or worse, losing high performing employees to boredom, many employers fail to address the issue.
How Tri-North Combats Workplace Boredom
According to Vice President, Anna Stern, “the first step is making sure employees have something to care about.” This is partly why Tri-North has recently adopted a heavily team-oriented structure wherein team accountability is stressed above individual accountability. Stern continues, “the highest performing teams are ones in which peers manage the majority of performance with one another. The role of management is not to settle small problems and constantly monitor every individual, but rather, to create an effective team culture where peers are empowered to address concerns immediately and respectfully with each other. This also encourages teams to engage and contribute to innovative solutions.”
Stern also advises that a vital part of the process of moving to a team-based corporate structure and culture is inviting employees to air anxieties and issues with procedures and protocol. When managed properly, this process can boost morale and engagement, provided leadership is open and supportive, rather than being immediately defensive in the face of well-intentioned critique and suggestions.
In addition to adopting a team structure, Tri-North prioritizes maximizing individual potential to ensure that employees know they are vital contributors to the team who are free to share ideas and opinions. Tri-North management also wants employees to enjoy being at work. As Stern says, “the jobsite and office are where we get things done, but they are also where we build friendships and grow personally. Not to mention the fact that it’s where we spend the majority of our days, so we want it to be a place people enjoy.”
To that end, Tri-North leadership makes an active effort to provide not just a rewarding and engaging place to work, but a fun one. This effort takes many shapes, including: monthly staff breakfasts and lunches, field trips for office staff to visit jobsites, a PTO purchase program that encourages employees to volunteer with non-profit organizations, and random giveaways and happy hours. Whether it’s the currently running step competition, the endlessly entertaining Bachelorette pool, or the Ugly Christmas Sock Exchange in December, Tri-North employees always have something fun to look forward to.
In a market where, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall average tenure of employees has dropped to around four years (with Millennials trending at half that), a fun, engaging work culture can make a huge impact on combatting that disruptive trend and, subsequently, improve a company’s bottom line.