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Falling Iguanas

Chicken Little warned that the sky is falling.

My grandmother often proclaims that it’s raining cats and dogs.

The Weather Girls were thrilled that it was raining men.

And last month, the national weather service warned that it was raining iguanas!

That’s right!  It was so cold in southern Florida that the national weather service Miami office issued an iguana warning.  Amid rare cold temps, green iguanas were becoming so lethargic (and often immobile when temps dipped into the 30s and 40s) that they were falling from trees where they often sleep.  They don’t immediately die (and are apparently rather feisty when they warm-up), but they can’t survive a dormant period that lasts too long.

When this headline popped up on my screen, I laughed out loud.  I texted my friends and family in Florida.  I listened as my clients in Chicago scoffed about how “they don’t know COLD.”  And I started thinking about how often the warm-blooded mammals (you know, the humans) that work with me often stay in situations that make them just as dormant as these cold-blooded iguanas.

What about you?  Are you ready to simply roll over and fall out of your desk chair?  Are you excited about Monday morning or does the thought of it make you tired all day Sunday?  Are you going dormant professionally?

In other words, are you bored at work?  Boredom at work is a hot topic these days.  Interestingly, iguanas aren’t the only ones who struggle in the winter.  A Robert Half survey found that workers are most bored at work (28%) during the winter.  The good news is, if you are among that 28%, you don’t have to wait until spring to do something about it.

Boredom, or the current cool name of bore-out, can be a serious issue for both the company and the employee. 

Your company will see direct impacts on morale, productivity, and retention.  You’ll have employees showing up late, checking out early, or calling in sick.  And research shows that bored employees are more than twice as likely to quit as their non-bored counterparts.

People suffering from bore-out often feel irritable, worthless, and depressed.  Boredom actually raises a person’s stress level and zaps their energy.

But you can turn boredom around if you are willing to work at it and be a little creative.

Reflect – The solution is always easier to find if the problem is clearly defined.  What exactly bores you about your current situation?  Often, it’s not the job itself but the auxiliary activities that come along with the work.  For example, I love my job (which you already know!), but data entry (uploading resumes, updating call logs, etc) saps the life right out of me.  So, we’ve developed a process to automate a great deal of the data entry, and my amazing admin handles most of what remains.  Think about how you can automate, minimize, organize, or delegate those things that bore you to tears.  What you are left with, your core responsibilities might leave you feeling like an iguana in summer!

Reach out – The same Robert Half survey referenced earlier shows that managers think employees are bored 6 hours a week while employees say they are bored 10.5 hours.  That’s a significant difference…communication is important. Talk to your manager, co-workers, professional acquaintances.  Ask for more responsibility.  Discuss ways to work on something more challenging.  Consider continuing education.  Listen to a technically focused podcast on your commute.  Network with colleagues inside and outside your company.  Join an internal team or committee that aligns with your areas of interest (hint: it doesn’t have to be a professional interest).  Fill your time with activities that create relationships and require your brain to function rather than the all-too-frequent browsing on social media, cleaning up emails, and snacking.  Funny animal videos may have a time and place, but they are not effective boredom busters.

Re-energize – If things really are slow at work, it’s likely temporary.  I know you, your companies, and this crazy industry.  One thing I can predict is that things will change!  Use a slower time to refocus.  Revisit the meaning and impact of your work.  Get organized.  Reach out.  Doing so will energize and motivate you.  Set some new goals for your professional development, your current/upcoming projects, or your daily habits.  (We’ll talk more about those in a coming article!)  New research shows some boredom can actually increase both the quality and quantity (as well as the creativity) of production, so use the time to get ready for the next big project, opportunity, or fire that needs to be put out. 

I’ll leave you with the advice I truly never thought I’d give…do not be an iguana in winter!