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Every job has its ebbs and flows. When there isn’t a Goldilocks amount of work to do — which, let’s face it, is most of the time — employees often become overwhelmed or bored.
Workers who feel that there are never enough hours in the day may simply need some lessons in time management. Scheduling work and meeting deadlines are two things that everyone, no matter their role, needs to learn how to do.
Unfortunately, the boredom issue isn’t so simple to solve. There’s no sense in paying people for unnecessary work, but idle workers are bad for business. Not only are bored workers operating below their capacity, but studies show boredom can cut into morale and make them twice as likely to leave.
For better or worse, there’s always work to be done. The next time someone at your company says they have nothing to do, suggest one or more of the following tasks:
- Clean and organize the office.
“If you have time to stand, you have time to lend a hand,” is one of the sayings that stuck with me from my time in retail. Any time I wasn’t helping a customer or stocking a shelf, I’d clean glass doors, wipe down counters, sweep walkways, or check inventory.
You may not work in retail, but your office still has clutter. Encourage team members who are looking for work to check through old files. If it doesn’t need to be filed, should it be digitized and trashed?
- Get on top of email.
Believe it or not, the average worker spends more than a quarter of their working hours on email. Imagine how much time your team might save with an email color-coding scheme or more effective spam filters. Think about role-specific tasks, too: If it’s a salesperson who’s looking for work, why don’t they send an additional follow-up to each of their leads in the pipeline?
- Create content.
Regardless of its size or industry, every company needs content. Why not ask that bored employee to write a blog post? Can they schedule the next week’s social media posts? What about an email newsletter? Better yet, leverage their passion for podcasting or photography to bring multimedia into your marketing mix.
- Help with hiring.
Hiring is one of those business activities that could always use another hand. Not only can adding another brain to the mix lighten your workload, but it shows the bored employee that they’re a trusted part of the team. And while there are some standard questions you should be asking applicants, ad hoc helpers can come up with a few curveballs to check whether candidates can think on their feet.
- Make meetings less stressful.
Meetings are part of life when you lead a company. Especially if the employee who’s looking for work hopes to be a leader someday, ask her to draft the agenda for upcoming meetings. Better yet, invite her to take part: If she has experience with a new tool, why not have her give a tutorial to the rest of the team?
- Build company connections.
When you get home from a conference, concerns at the office tend to take priority. While those contacts are still fresh, ask a free employee to reach out. Something as small as a 10-minute call or lunch meeting can make you stand out from the other connections they made. After that, encourage the employee to schedule internal coffee or lunch chats. Getting to know one another better can only pay off.
- Study industry trends.
Thanks to the internet, trends in every industry change faster than they used to. Challenge the employee to find three in your industry that you weren’t aware of. Tell them to watch for new marketing opportunities as well. If they see a speaking opportunity or a relevant news story, for instance, they could earn your company valuable exposure in its niche.
- Run errands.
Does your office need more toilet paper? Snacks? Printer paper? Whatever it is, send the free worker out to get it. If you’re already stocked, think ahead: Would a catered lunch help an afternoon investor meeting go more smoothly?
- Pursue a certification.
Every employee in every role needs continuing education. If the bored team member is a marketer, why not pursue Hubspot’s inbound marketing certification? If he or she is a finance guru, what about a financial modeling certification? Not only will the individual gain a new skill, but your company will acquire another differentiator to discuss with prospects.
- Be a mentor.
As valuable as it is for a worker to learn a new skill, their time might be better spent mentoring a newer team member. Not only is mentorship key to a culture of servant leadership, but it passes on institutional knowledge. That single worker who knows how to code the company’s app, for instance, should pass on his or her skills sooner rather than later.
- Take a turn at the help desk.
Although tools like Intercom can automate responses to your most commonly asked questions, reducing median response time by 70%, employees should still know what’s being asked. Encourage someone with down time to take a turn at the help desk, ideally to answer the more complex, role-specific questions. Intercom even allows collaborative responses so they can jump into conversations started by other customer service personnel.
Slow periods happen, but they don’t have to grind your team to a halt. Give bored workers tasks when they ask, and they’ll eventually get the message: If you find yourself with free time, it’s your responsibility to fill it.
April 30, 2019 at 07:16AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs