Bored of work? Why jobs have become tedious

Bored or work

You’re not the only one bored of work. One global survey of 10,000 employees, unsurprisingly found boredom an issue, with 40% of UK respondents admitting they’re bored in the workplace.

Moreover, 37% of British workers believe their jobs are meaningless according to a YouGov survey. This means about four in ten people struggle with the daily grind. The thing is, after a while, you start to believe you’ve become bored of work but this isn’t true. The workplace has become boring through no fault of your own.

Big business made work boring

You're bored of work because of big business

Corporations first came about in Europe around the 17th century and have become bigger and omnipresent ever since. Big business has sucked the life out of vibrant marketplaces and replaced them with dull offices, mind-numbing work and battery-cage-customer-support-centres. Big business doesn’t care about you and you don’t care about them (so long as you’re paid).

You’re bored of work because your work is boring but also because you have no emotional attachment to who you work for. You’re just a cog in the wheel of the big business machine.

Most work is meaningless

Being bored of work is inevitable when work is meaningless. Before I “graduated” to office worker, I’d worked in supermarkets, restaurants and pubs. While I’m not saying these jobs were exciting, they did serve a purpose.

Like many, I spend all of my working day doing email, meetings and PowerPoint. Big business has a mystique of uber-efficiency and competency, but it’s a lie. Instead, they’re incredibly inefficient with departments of people with no real work to do and incompetent management. When businesses get big; bureaucracy, politics, and inefficiency ensue, all of which is a potent mix for meaningless work.

The most boring professions

A survey of 1,300 professionals found those working in Legal departments are the most bored of work, closely followed by Project Management, Support and Finance. I don’t find these results surprising, as much as my work in Marketing is dull, I see how monotonous and stressful the work in Legal and Finance can be.

ProfessionBoredNot bored
Project Management78%22%
Support Functions71%29%
Finance Control68%32%
Consulting & Accounting67%33%
Financial Services & Banking67%33%
Marketing & Communications60%40%
Human Resources54%46%
Executive Management49%51%
Research & Development45%55%
The league table of boring work

No one likes you

Is there a single big business you’re affectionate towards? I can think of many big businesses that no one likes: Monsanto, Goldman Sachs, Philip Morris, BP, Facebook, Equifax …the list goes on.

When businesses get big it seems there’s a natural evolution into doing wrong. Google’s company motto used to be “don’t be evil” which seems like a good way to run your business, however, in 2018 they removed it from their code of conduct. Not being evil was obviously preventing them from running their business properly. Needless to say, it’s hard to like working for someone that’s morally corrupt.

Business inefficiency

Bored of work - DIlbert doesn't care as he still got paid

Not working in the free market is one reason for being bored of work. Most big businesses are monstrously inefficient which means you get paid whether you work or not. Office work is mostly meaningless which doesn’t drive productivity and only drives down profitability.

Whether you do your job or not — nothing changes. I’m confident nothing would change on the quarterly earnings report if everyone stopped going into my office. This purposelessness drives down your motivation which makes you bored of work.

Specialisation is for insects

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.
Specialisation is for insects.”
Robert A. Heinlein

The move from generalism to specialism has been good for economic growth but bad for boredom. Specialism is possibly also making us dumber, Gerald Crabtree, a geneticist at Stanford University is prepared to bet on it:

“I would be willing to wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions. We would be surprised by our time-visitor´s memory, broad range of ideas and clear-sighted view of important issues. I would also guess that he or she would be among the most emotionally stable of our friends and colleagues.”

Life has become too easy so we can afford to be stupid, whereas for our ancestors it would have been a matter of survival. Hunter-gatherers were multi-skilled generalists and we’ve evolved into the workplace as computer specialists incapable of writing a sentence without the help of a spellchecker.

Wrapping up

In summary, the reason you’re bored of work: it’s meaningless, it’s monotonous and you’re emotionally detached from your employer. I’m not convinced the cliche advise of “do what you enjoy” is the solution either. You might enjoy writing but working for a newspaper writing clickbait articles all day will suck. More often than not, working for someone else just isn’t fun.

The solution: working for yourself fixes what’s boring about work. It’s meaningful as you’re on the bleeding edge of the free market: if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. It’s not monotonous as entrepreneurs need to be generalists and continue learning.

That being said, becoming an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone, so the next best thing is to tough it out and make the most of your free time while saving up to retire early. You can then work on something you enjoy later in life. Work should be enjoyable — it’s the vast majority of businesses that turned work into a chore.

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to be notified about new posts, you can subscribe by email, Twitter or RSS.


3 thoughts on “Bored of work? Why jobs have become tedious

  1. Pingback: How free are you?
  2. This is an interesting viewpoint! Thanks 🙂 I agree.

    One thing I think people these days should consider is that “meaningful” work isn’t necessarily less boring, you only tell yourself that it’s important because it’s meaningful.

    I can’t remember what book I read this in – sorry! – but satisfaction doesn’t arise from meaningful work, it arises from work that makes you “come alive” (in a reference to Carl Jung).

    That hit me! Why? Because I am the poster child for being mind-numbingly bored at a job that’s meaningful to me! And I really like the people I work with (the other alleged source of work satisfaction). But why am I bored with my meaningful job? Because the work itself is not suited to me, and the way my brain is wired.

    I’ve found that the work that suits me leaves me energized. The best day at my job still leaves me drained, every single day. A punishing day doing work that suits me leaves me energized and feeling alive!
    Now if only I could get it to bring me money, too. *sigh*

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *