Here’s a test. When you get to work, are you excited about what you’re going to do? Or are you already counting the hours until you can leave? By the end of the day, are you satisfied with what you’ve done? Or do you no longer care? If you’re watching the clock instead of caring about your work, it’s time to take action.
Everyone will agree that one of the major rewards of a job is the paycheque. But rewarding work goes beyond that. You’ll feel better about clocking in if you care about your job and the people you work with. Using your skills and experience to tackle challenges will also make your work more interesting and exciting. If this isn’t what your job looks like now, these changes can make it more rewarding.
Plan for change
Darryl has worked behind the counter at a plumbing supply store for the last 20 years. At first, he was learning new things and the steady paycheque was terrific, especially because he was finally making a dent in his car loan. But lately he’s noticed that the hands on the clock just won’t move and the hours seem to crawl by. He’s so bored at work. Something needs to change.
Before you shake up your job, take a step back. Consider the changes you want and what you’ll need to do to make them happen.
- Think about what you want in your current position. Identify the changes that are realistic and those that aren’t. Focusing on realistic changes will make you feel more in control.
- Review your life outside of work. If you’re not happy away from your job, you can bring that feeling to work with you. Think about changes to your lifestyle. Try volunteering. Or explore a new activity during your leisure time to help you feel better about work.
- Break down large changes into stages. When you adjust things one step at a time, the change doesn’t seem so risky. If change is hard for you, explore ways to help manage your fear of change.
- Be sensitive to the needs of co-workers and family members. Your changes may also affect them. You may want to explain what you’re doing and listen to their concerns.
Change the way you approach your work day
Take a look at the history of Magda. Magda finds new meaning in her work by recognizing how much she enjoys helping others. As the paperwork mounts, she realizes she can help not only her patients, but also the student nurses she mentors.
Magda shoves the last chart into its slot and checks the computer screen and then her watch. Some of the other nurses want to toast her birthday at a nearby restaurant tonight, but Magda can barely find the energy to go.
In fact, Magda can barely find the energy for anything to do with work. She used to enter the hospital each day eager to see how her patients were doing. But now she drags herself in, knowing that she faces piles of charts, orders, patient classification sheets, and early discharge planning forms. The paperwork is drowning out her passion for looking after other people. That’s why she entered nursing. But these forms are making her want to quit.
“Magda?” A student nurse taps her on the shoulder. “I’m worried about Mrs. Kent in 4B.”
Magda looks at Kim, full of the same kind of passion she once had for her patients. Kim needs guidance from someone with more experience. Magda pauses for a moment. “Me too. Let’s look at her chart together. And when we’re done, will you join some of us nurses down at the restaurant tonight?”
While some tasks have to be done in a certain way, you may be able to change some of your routines so you feel more productive and in control. For example:
- Do the least interesting tasks first. When you can look forward to your favourite tasks, you may be more motivated to finish the boring ones.
- Compete with yourself. See if you can improve your last day’s performance by doing things better or faster.
- Make your surroundings more personal. Add photos or plants in your workspace. Put up posters, pictures, or wall hangings. This is easy when you work from home. If you work in an office, you may need to ask your employer. Rearrange your work area or switch with a co-worker.
- Make your meal break a real break. Look at what you do on your break, who you spend time with, or whether you need to spend time alone or with others. Meet a friend, exercise, play cards or other games with your co-workers, or catch up on your reading or personal networking. Do something you enjoy.
Alter your outlook at work
- Focus on positive attitudes and strategies. Discover how positivity can change how people at work see you. Attract positive attention by being friendly, reliable, and a team player. Try these practical strategies to stand out on the job.
- Seek and destroy habits that make you feel down about work. Choose not to complain, gossip, criticize, or take part in work politics. These workplace traps will pull you down.
- Celebrate your successes. Even if your supervisor and co-workers don’t notice, you know when you’ve done something well. Give yourself a treat or share your success with someone who supports you.
Most negative thoughts at work result from a need that's not being met. In the space below, identify your workplace complaints, find the need that's not met, and then rewrite the complaints in a positive way.
Make your work meaningful
When your work reflects your values and interests, recharging and recommitting to your job is easier. The following suggestions may need time and resources, so you’ll probably want to talk with your supervisor before trying them:
- Look for ways to do more of what you enjoy. For example, if your employer needs an orientation manual and you like writing, why not volunteer to write it?
- Take on a project where you’ll grow. For example, you can learn a new skill or work in a different part of the organization.
- Help organize staff functions and activities such as fundraisers, sporting events. or social gatherings.
- Strengthen work relationships. Explore these articles for ideas about sharing your knowledge and experience:
- Build a relationship with a mentor or use your skills and experience to mentor other employees. Helping someone learn and grow can be challenging and rewarding.
- Keep learning on the job. Take charge of your learning. Work with colleagues who can teach you new things. Sign up for any job training your employer offers or explore the learning options and courses that can enhance your career.
Help your employer
Position Yourself as a Valued Employee
Helping your employer reach or exceed goals can mean rewards for you. Let’s say you come up with a way to increase profits or offer other benefits to your employer. Not only will you impress your supervisor, but your efforts may challenge and engage you—a great way to fight boredom at work. Here’s how to do it:
- Learn about your employer’s goals and priorities.
- Consider ways you can help your employer achieve those goals. For each idea you like:
- Outline the steps needed to put it into action
- Identify the advantages and drawbacks
- Figure out the timelines and costs
- Be prepared for any concerns your supervisor might have. For example, if you already have a heavy workload, enlist a co-worker to share the work involved in the project.
Once you’ve done the research and put your ideas together, bring them to your supervisor and:
- Point out the benefits to the organization.
- Clearly explain how the idea will be put into place.
- If you think your supervisor will see your job satisfaction as a plus, describe how the project will benefit you personally. For example, it might include working with new people or developing different and more interesting responsibilities.
Change can take time and effort
If you’re unhappy or bored at work, don’t ignore your feelings. They can be the gentle push you need to make your job more rewarding. Pay attention to the way you feel and try to make changes that are within your control.
You may not feel instantly rewarded once you decide to make a change. If you find yourself returning to old behaviours and patterns, don’t get discouraged or give up. Change takes time. Think back to the reasons you wanted to change in the first place. Your goal of a rewarding job can motivate you to start again.
Enjoy the pay-off
When your work is interesting, it energizes you. Being energized improves your attitude and productivity, which increases your value as an employee. New skills may allow you to move into other positions in the company. If you take on more complex duties, your employer may be willing to change your job description or your job title. You may even be able to negotiate a raise. All of these are great changes that make your job with your current employer more rewarding.