13 Boring Jobs That Make Work Feel Like Purgatory
When you imagine the most boring jobs in the world, what do you picture? Chances are, your answer won't be the same as your neighbor's or your best friend's. After all, what one person finds mind-numbingly dull could very well be interesting or even entertaining to someone else. (Apparently, some people even enjoy testing the temperature of frozen vegetables. Go figure.)
But here's something that isn't exactly a newsflash: Boredom is extremely common in the American workplace. In a 2015 survey of roughly 1,000 American workers between ages 25 and 64, almost half (45.5 percent) said that their jobs did not excite them.1 And a 2018 Gallup survey found that while employee engagement among U.S. workers was at its highest level in almost 20 years, it was still only at 34 percent.2
(Maybe we'd all feel more engaged if we got to work at The Boring Company, Elon Musk's tongue-in-cheek name for an organization that actually works on some insanely interesting projects.)
In any case, this article details 13 jobs that lots of people find boring (and probably less engaging than watching static on a 10-inch television). But it also suggests alternative jobs for each one that won't leave you trying to braid your nose hairs as a more interesting distraction. You'll also learn what makes a job seem boring, how to alleviate boredom in your job, and why being bored at work can actually be beneficial in some cases—really!
(Unless otherwise noted, the median salaries quoted below are based on national data from May 2017 and are rounded to the nearest thousand.3)
- What makes a job boring?
- 13 boring jobs (and 13 engaging alternatives)
- How to cure boredom: What to do when you're bored at work
- Why being bored at work can be a good thing
What Makes a Job Boring?
Any job can be a total drag if you aren't interested in the type of work that's involved. After all, if you find your job duties repetitive, tedious, or dull, you can become so bored at work that you may find it tough just to keep your eyes open. Even a job that starts off as compelling and engaging can become boring if you eventually master the tasks and aren't challenged with anything new.
It bears repeating that a job that other people find deadly dull might actually be an excellent fit for you. Also, keep in mind that some boring jobs can still be satisfying, overall, if they offer low stress. (Some people welcome the chance to perform mindless tasks for a set amount of time, then forget about it all when the workday ends.)
That said, here are some of the basic factors that can make a job feel boring:
- The work doesn't align with your interests
- You have little control over how you perform your tasks
- You have too much downtime
- You don't get feedback or any sense of accomplishment
- You have little or no interaction with other people
- Your tasks are too easy
- The work doesn't draw on your talents and skills
- You have no opportunity to learn and grow
13 Boring Jobs (And 13 Engaging Alternatives)
Boring jobs drain your energy and make the workday endlessly long. It can be hard to stay motivated (or even awake) when you aren't particularly interested in what you're doing. That said, everyone has a different idea about what the most boring jobs are. But here are some occupations that might qualify:
1. Assembly line worker—$39K4
Few jobs are more repetitive than those that take place on an assembly line. Whether you're picking broken vitamin tablets off a conveyor belt or wiping excess glue off of bike fittings as they come down the line, there generally isn't much variety in the work. Still, some people enjoy the feeling of contributing to the overall manufacturing of a product.
Possible alternative: Industrial machinery mechanic—$53K
All those complex machines that the manufacturing industry relies on need regular maintenance for optimum performance. As an industrial machinery mechanic, you could use sophisticated diagnostic tools to determine the cause of a malfunction and take steps to fix it. It's a job that requires both solid technical abilities and good problem-solving skills.
2. Data entry clerk—$31K
Entering endless amounts of information into a database, spreadsheet, or filing system can be extremely tedious. This type of work tends to be easy and not too stressful, but it's frequently monotonous, and it doesn't do much to stimulate the mind. However, you might be able to entertain yourself with music or podcasts to help pass the time.
Possible alternative: Court reporter—$55K
Creating a complete and accurate record of what is said during legal proceedings will keep you dialed in to what's happening around you. Court reporters must maintain a high level of focus and pay attention to every word that is spoken during trials, hearings, depositions, and arbitration sessions. You might also enjoy providing captioning for TV broadcasts or real-time translation services for hearing impaired people in classrooms and other settings.
Some people yawn when they think of sitting in an office calculating the costs of risks for insurance companies. However, the employment of actuaries is expected to grow 22 percent between 2016 and 2026.5 So even though this career may sound dull, some people like the opportunities it presents and actually find it endlessly interesting.
Possible alternative: Forensic accountant—$69K
Is accounting boring? Not if you're examining financial records with an eye to uncovering evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Forensic accountants play key roles in the investigation of fraud, bribery, and corruption allegations. They work closely with both law enforcement and legal professionals and often give witness testimony in court cases.
4. Toll booth operator—$27K4
If you are stuck in a tiny booth for hours on end with no one to talk to and nothing to do but collect fees from passing motorists (most of whom are not especially thrilled to be coughing up the cash), you may well end up thinking, "My job is boring." You might occasionally be asked for directions or something, but for the most part it's repetitive and often tedious work. On the upside, this job could potentially give you plenty of time to read a book, surf the Web, or get some studying done.
Possible alternative: Customs and border protection officer—$40K to $95K6
Instead of just assessing fees from drivers, you could be in charge of determining whether a vehicle's occupants can be admitted into the country. Customs and border protection officers check passports and other documents, inspect luggage, and interview travelers. They have broad authority to safeguard the nation's security.
While TV shows and movies would have us think that practicing law is dramatic and exciting, most lawyers will tell you that the reality is somewhat different. In fact, just over 80 percent of people working in the legal field find their jobs boring, according to one study.7 That could be because many of them spend the bulk of their time reviewing vast swaths of impenetrable text. The good news is that there are plenty of legal specialties to choose from, so there might be one that meshes well with your interests and keeps you engaged.
Possible alternative: Social worker—$43K to $62K
Do you want to escape document drudgery and really make a difference in people's lives? Social workers have hands-on roles that involve helping people cope with a wide range of hardships and challenges, from addiction and child abuse to unemployment and poverty. Notably, more than 80 percent of people in this profession believe their work is highly meaningful and makes the world a better place.8
6. Night security guard—$27K
Many people would argue that staring at a security monitor all night in an empty office building or other facility is one of the most boring jobs in the world. The main purpose of such guards is to keep watch over the premises and report any suspicious activity, but that mainly entails watching surveillance footage of nothing happening. However, patrolling your posted area on foot can at least get you out of your chair.
Possible alternative: Police officer—$60K
If you like the idea of protecting property and investigating wrongdoing, you may want to consider getting into law enforcement. As a police patrol officer, you could patrol assigned territories, arrest law breakers, and respond to emergency calls. You might deal with anything from burglaries to traffic accidents.
7. Highway flagger—$33K4
Holding a stop/slow sign to manage traffic at road construction sites can be both highly dangerous and mind-numbingly boring. You typically have to stand in one spot for hours, and it can be difficult to get bathroom breaks. You also can't distract yourself with something like a book because you have to avoid getting hit by drivers who aren't paying attention. However, you get to work outdoors, and you sometimes get a chance to chat a bit with motorists.
Possible alternative: Heavy equipment operator—$46K
Why not take a more active role in the building of roads, bridges, and buildings? As a heavy equipment operator, you could use machinery like bulldozers, back hoes, graders, excavators, or cranes to move materials and prepare a site for construction. You could also enjoy the satisfaction of seeing tangible results from your labors.
8. Document scanner—$24K4
Using a scanner to turn paper records into digital documents can be extremely repetitive work. You might have to remove staples or adjust a setting on the scanner, but the job mainly consists of scanning one piece of paper after another and making sure the end results are readable. There's very little social interaction, and if you're focusing on subject matter that doesn't interest you, the work can be very tedious.
Possible alternative: Archivist—$52K
Want to become a guardian of history? Archivists focus on preserving source material such as photographs, manuscripts, diaries, letters, films, and maps. They determine what materials belong in what collections and how those materials should best be stored for the future. They also help people access and use the archives effectively for research. Most of them have master's degrees in library science or history.
9. Waterpark lifeguard—$21K to $25K9
Sitting or standing at the top of a waterslide telling patrons when it's safe to go down can get very boring very fast. Even keeping watch over a pool can be pretty dull, since most of the time you're just staring at water (and maybe responding to questions from patrons). It's true that you are there to provide a vital service, but real emergencies are exceedingly rare.
Possible alternative: Paramedic—$33K
If you're intrigued by the notion of providing emergency care to the sick and injured, think about becoming a paramedic. These medical professionals respond to 911 calls, assess patients' conditions, and administer appropriate (often life-saving) treatment. It's fast-paced and challenging work—every call presents a unique problem to solve.
10. Long-haul truck driver—$42K
Some people find that spending hours on the open road is so boring that it almost lulls them to sleep. After all, big-rig truck drivers can go for long stretches without seeing anything interesting or even coming across a bend in the highway. On the other hand, some people enjoy the solitude, the scenery, and the chance to listen to music or audiobooks while behind the wheel. So, is this a boring job? You'll have to decide that for yourself.
Possible alternative: Motorcoach operator—$37K4
Transporting teams or groups of tourists on vacation might be right up your alley if you're hoping for a driving job that lets you meet and interact with new people. Motorcoach operators are transportation professionals with commercial driver's licenses who get to see different parts of the country and provide friendly customer service. You could drive a sports team to their away games or take a group of adventurers to different cities or attractions.
11. Hotel housekeeper—$21K4
Did you know that hotel housekeepers can expect to clean about 75 guest rooms each week? Routine tasks like cleaning shower tiles, scrubbing toilets, changing sheets, and vacuuming carpets don't provide much mental stimulation, particularly when every room you see is decorated and set up exactly the same way. The work can be tedious, strenuous, and repetitive, but some people relish the opportunity to be physically active.
Possible alternative: Disaster restoration technician—$38K4
Perhaps a job that involves cleaning up damage from fire, smoke, water, or mold would be more to your liking. Disaster restoration technicians travel to different job sites and use diagnostic tools to assess the extent of damage to walls, windows, ceilings, and furniture. You might dry out a flooded property or take care of soot or mildew stains. No two projects are ever identical.
Some people's eyes glaze over at the thought of poring over every single word, line, and space in the final draft of a document in order to root out errors in spelling, grammar, and formatting. You're not there to rewrite or restructure the content—you're simply looking for misspelled words, incorrectly used punctuation, and double spaces that shouldn't be there. This kind of work requires maintaining an intense level of concentration even if you're reviewing a 200-page transcript of a public hearing on raising electricity rates. It can be slow and extremely tedious work.
Possible alternative: Editor—$59K
Are you hoping to play a more substantive role in improving the overall quality of a piece of text? Editors evaluate the use of language, check for a consistent voice and tone, and give suggestions for improving the style and flow of the writing. They might move paragraphs around or rewrite entire sections. Many have a background in journalism.
13. Call center agent—$34K4
Many call center agents handle up to 100 calls a day in highly controlled environments where they must stick to scripts. That leads to impersonal conversations, and it's easy to get bored when you have to say the same thing over and over and over again. Depending on the type of calls you deal with, the repetition and monotony can be extreme.
Possible alternative: 911 dispatcher—$40K
Coordinating emergency services for people in crisis situations is far from boring. Dispatchers answer calls from distressed people who need help; then, they relay the situation to police, paramedics, and firefighters as required. You might also find yourself talking a caller through basic medical procedures such as performing CPR.
How to Cure Boredom: What to Do When You're Bored at Work
No matter what job you do, chances are you've had dull days where time just seems to stand still. Here are more than a dozen things to do while bored at work:
1. Set a new goal.
Sometimes boredom comes from not having a defined purpose. Rather than meandering aimlessly through your workday, come up with an achievable goal and write out a specific plan for how you will reach it. Studies have demonstrated that setting goals can elevate our interest and reduce boredom.10 So challenge yourself to do more than you have in the past. If you have an end goal in mind, you will be less likely to feel listless and dissatisfied.
2. Change your thinking.
Instead of focusing on how bored you are, think about how what you do positively benefits other people. For instance, if you work on an assembly line that produces medicines, think about how you are helping to improve people's overall well-being. You could also adjust your approach to your job to make it less boring. For example, if you work in a call center, try reciting your script as different characters.
3. Clean up.
If you have time on your hands, why not use it to take control of your workspace? Recycle useless papers and file important documents. Take your dishes to the kitchen. Wipe down your desk, keyboard, and monitor. Get rid of stuff you don't need and get everything else in order. Decluttering your work area can help focus your mind.
4. Take on a new project.
One of the most productive things to do when bored at work is to look for ways to add value to your organization. Identify a task that's not currently being done but that would provide a lasting benefit for the company. Then, step up and get started on it. You might need approval from your boss, but in some cases you may be able to jump right in and get going.
5. Listen to music.
Blasting your favorite tunes might be just the thing to energize you and add more fun to your workday. Plenty of mindless tasks can be made much less boring with the right playlist. Just make sure you plug in some earbuds so you don't disturb anyone nearby (unless you're completely alone, in which case feel free to crank it up).
Research has shown that taking short walks at regular intervals can boost office workers' moods and energy levels and even lessen their cravings for food.11 So go for a stroll around the office every hour or so or stop by the gym on your lunch break. Climb some stairs or do a few squats or butt squeezes at your desk. Even walking to the kitchen for a cup of coffee can help break up the monotony.
7. Drink more water.
Boredom can seem much worse if you're tired and sluggish from being dehydrated. Your body requires fluids in order to function properly. Most people need anywhere from four to eight cups of water each day, so make sure you take regular trips to the water cooler. Staying properly hydrated can help you stay more alert.
8. Play a game.
When you're bored at work, games that challenge your brain can be a lifesaver. Working on Sudoku or crossword puzzles can help refresh you and give you renewed energy to get through the rest of your day. If you have equally bored coworkers, challenge them to see who can complete a puzzle the fastest. Just be careful that you don't get so involved in a game that you neglect your actual job tasks.
9. Research industry events.
Are there conferences or seminars that would help you develop your network and expand your skills? Look around to see what upcoming events would benefit your role, then set up a meeting with your boss to make your case for why you should attend them.
10. Organize your email.
Like cleaning your desk, conquering your inbox can give you a feeling of accomplishment and control. Unsubscribe from newsletters that don't offer any value, check your spam folder, and delete any messages you no longer need. You might find it useful to set up new folders or categories and create rules to filter your incoming messages.
11. Volunteer to help someone else.
If there is literally nothing on your to-do list, think about lessening the load for your coworkers (or even your boss). Letting your colleagues know that you are available to lend a hand can enhance your standing as a team player and give you more insight into areas you might not be familiar with. Plus, asking your boss if you can help out with one of his or her projects is a great way to demonstrate your willingness to step up.
12. Learn something new.
It's always worthwhile to expand your knowledge and sharpen your skills. Focusing on a work-related area is obviously best, but the options are endless. Consider learning a new language or getting into computer coding. Take in a webinar, TED talk, or podcast. Exercising your brain can maintain your mental health and stave off boredom.
A little humor can go a long way toward banishing boredom. Find something that amuses you—like a funny book or a hilarious YouTube video—and spend a few minutes enjoying it. Laughing out loud is one of the best ways to conquer malaise.
Why Being Bored at Work Can Be a Good Thing
No one likes being bored, but it turns out that such an experience can be an effective impetus to initiate change. Being bored at work can be the catalyst that pushes us to refocus on our goals and create new solutions.
Did you know that boredom can actually kick-start your creativity? In one study, a group of participants was tasked with tediously copying numbers from a phone book, while another group was exempted from that boring activity. Both groups were then asked to think of as many uses for a pair of plastic cups as they possibly could in three minutes. The results showed that the participants who completed the boring copying-numbers task came up with significantly more uses for the cups.12
Train for a More Fulfilling Future
We all have different definitions of boring jobs. What strikes one person as exceedingly dull might be a perfect fit for someone else. Have you thought about what kind of training you need to go after the career that will keep you feeling engaged? Vocational colleges and trade schools offer skills-focused programs that can help you achieve satisfaction and success. Just enter your zip code below to generate a list of nearby training options!
1 GetVoIP.com, "Survey: Almost Half of the US Workforce is Bored At Their Jobs," website last visited on December 4, 2018.
2 Gallup, "Employee Engagement on the Rise in the U.S.," website last visited on December 4, 2018.
3 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last visited on December 4, 2018.
4 PayScale, website last visited on December 4, 2018.
5 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, website last visited on May 15, 2019.
6 U.S. Customs and Border Protection, "Pay and Benefits," website last visited on December 4, 2018.
7 Emolument, "Which are the most boring jobs?," website last visited on December 4, 2018.
8 PayScale, "The Most and Least Meaningful Jobs," website last visited on December 4, 2018.
9 Indeed, website last visited on December 4, 2018.
10 Applied & Preventive Psychology, "Motivation through conscious goal setting," website last visited on December 4, 2018.
11 International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, "Effect of frequent interruptions of prolonged sitting on self-perceived levels of energy, mood, food cravings and cognitive function," website last visited on December 4, 2018.
12 Creativity Research Journal, "Does Being Bored Make Us More Creative?," website last visited on December 4, 2018.