How do I Motivate People doing Tedious, Repetitive or Boring Work?

Assess whether Boredom is a Problem in Your Business

What is Boring Work?

Boring work is work where there are low demands on the skills and thinking of the people performing the job and those people have low control over what work is done. Boring work has little room for input or decision-making from the worker.

Who Does Boredom Normally Affect?

Boredom normally affects the people who work on factory floors, labour on construction sites, stack supermarket shelves, drive trucks, clean offices. Described variously as blue collar, manual or low skill workers. However, some particular projects may be seen as boring.

Why is Removing Boredom Important?

Boring Work is a Pain

Work that is monotonous or in which the employee has little input has been found to increase the risk for developing musculoskeletal disorders. Boring work comprising half or more of a job significantly predicted new onset shoulder pain (odds ratio 1.7).

Alleviating the monotony can save your workers from work-related pain and your business from lost productivity.

Boredom is a Killer

A 23 year study of the working conditions of 5,000 households concluded that people who spent their working lives in jobs where they had to make the fewest decisions were 43% more likely to die than people in jobs with a lot of decision-making opportunities. Also, people who spent their working lives in passive jobs, described as those with low demands and low control over what work they do and when, were also 35% more likely to die.

Labour Shortage is Growing

Economic Policy Institute has warned of ‘critical skill shortages’ on factory floors; in US construction industry, more than half a million new workers needed by 2008 to replace retiring workers - average construction worker is 47 years; average factory worker is 54

Lost Business Opportunities

Increasingly businesses are finding they are losing contracts because they don't have enough people to fulfill the contract.

Turnover is Sky-high

An average truck driver has just 18 months service with employer; turnover in cleaning services industry is 80-90% pa. The cost of recruitment can be between 15 and 50% of a person's annual wage.

Quality is Replacing Price as Basis for Competition

This value-added approach requires better-qualified, trained staff

How can I Improve Boring Work?

Firstly lets look at why the work is boring:

Now let's address each one in turn:

Low Status

How do the employees see the job? Many boring jobs are seen as dirty, boring, smelly, unsafe, and unglamorous, with rotten hours.

Make sure that the same social and profit sharing opportunities are offered to all types of workers e.g. Cleveland Bridge now invites blue-collar workers to attend Xmas lunch previously enjoyed only by white-collared, and offers free share options to manual workers.

Management should work on factory floor - but not just the once.


Do the people who perform monotonous work feel their job has value? Do they feel valued by other people in the organisation? Many people feel their job is meaningless; it does not matter to the business and they feel like they are the “poor cousins”.

Focus employees on the people affected by a task and recognise the value. e.g keeping car owners and passengers safe, building safe and strong houses etc.

Engage employees in problem-solving activities; ask for their input. “What can we do to make your job easier?” “We have a problem, how can we fix it?” These questions recognise the value of what they do.

Recognise publicly the value of their work and the contribution they make in meetings, presentations and memos.

Where ever possible, do NOT engage in downsizing the workforce one year only to build it up in another. Avoid this yo-yo approach, all it does is confirm how little their jobs are valued.

Reduce the wage disparity between high and low skills workers. Initiate a payment for skills programme - where people who expand their skills are recognised for their extra contribution to the business.

Lack of Control

This is where there is low worker control over the work processes. Give people greater power over their work. This can be achieved at an individual level by making team managers responsible for profit and loss on contracts, customer care quality, training, and organising shifts. Or better yet, setting up self-managed team where everyone has responsibility for the quality, production, customer satisfaction, training opportunities and work organisation. Using this strategy ISS, a fast growing Danish cleaning company, was able to reduce turnover to 20% - one quarter of the industry average.

If people's pay is based around piece rate pay - look at ways of giving them back more control, setting up a team-based approach and allowing them to become more self-directed. Piece rate pay has deleterious effect on employee health - pressure to perform, constant monitoring, little control lead to increased anxiety and raised blood pressure.

Low Demands

This is where the job lacks stimulation. Ask the employees “How can we make your work more interesting?” “What can we do to remove the boredom in your tasks?”

Job rotation programmes are a strategy that can be used to extend people.

Again, setting up self-directed teams where people are made responsible for the outcomes of their work and managing their work processes is another method of increasing job stimulation.

Lack of Opportunities

Provide training and development opportunities. Set up processes to identify the hidden management potential in your people. Attempt to promte within. This will ensure that talent isn’t trapped in a dead-end job. Develop a skills training programme or offer apprenticeships around the role.

Get in Touch with Jump

If you need help, or you answered yes or unsure to any of the questions in the assessment tool, then Jump Business Solutions can help you. Phone us on +64 6 754 8987 or +64 27 450 5271 or email and Jump will come to you, discover your needs, and develop a solution that will create real, long-term and positive change for you and your business.