Why work must also be boring

The Allure of the “Challenge”

Everyone is looking to be challenged in their job, right? Otherwise it would quickly get boring. On the other hand, imagine a pilot for whom a landing would be a challenge… How do we deal with a concept that is ubiquitous in the working world and is used more frequently than any other to describe potential new opportunities?

The word “challenge” is often connected with the ideas of stimulation and learning. But an ideal working life should be a mixture of routine and challenging tasks.

Work can sometimes be dull. Very dull. This is a necessary construct, however. Imagine if our work days consisted exclusively of exciting challenges – we would always push ourselves to the limit. Our days would fly by with drastic consequences, not only for our health, but also for our jobs. Without routine we wouldn’t have the ability to consistently produce good results. A pilot looking at take-off and landing as a challenge in the job? A doctor for whom surgery is a challenge? Not really a pleasant thought, is it?

Quite the Buzzword

Nevertheless, today’s workplace is dominated by the buzzword “challenge”. No job advertisement, job description or task needed is listed without the word “challenge” or “challenging” somewhere within. In the course of a normal working day, however, these constant aforementioned challenges turn out to be not so constant.

Routine = Expertise!

The absence of constant challenge will lead to routine, but don’t make the mistake of equating the notion of being stuck in a routine to being “stuck in a rut”. According to best-selling author, Volker Kitz, we love routine in others and hate it within ourselves. This kind of comfort zone can be equated with a professional standstill, according to Kitz. This is not necessarily the case, however, as the act of perfecting a routine leads to expertise. The more experience you have, and the more you have completed a task “routinely”, the more of an expert you are in that area.

Routine + Challenge

According to HR specialist and career coach, Karin Tegtmeier, our search for new challenges comes about because of our need for stimulation, learning and development. We often grow into our new challenges, and our knowledge base and skill sets expand. New challenges are intellectually stimulating, but constant challenges can be overwhleming. Tegtmeier describes three “zones” in which we work, with the most attractive including a mixture of routine and challenging tasks:

  • Comfort zone – complete control of tasks, security, predictability
  • Learning Zone – new tasks, more complexity, broadening the horizon
  • Panic zone – too much complexity, overburdened

Tegtmeier states that some time in the comfort zone can be quite relaxing and meaningful, but don’t stay there too long! The interplay of complex and routine tasks is ideal for well-being and development. If you only ever experience the same situations on the job you are at a standstill, and your chances on the labor market are stagnating. In this isntance, you should try and actively move into your learning zone. This can at first be uncomfortable and stressful, but you will be rewarded by expanding your skills, knowledge and desirability.

Embrace Balanced Challenge in the Workplace

The ideal is a mixture of challenge and routine. To develop harmony between these two concepts in your work-life, Tegtmeier suggests considering the following 3 things:

  1. Look at your job from above – try and see the big picture
    Ask yourself “What is important to me? If I continue to do the same work for the next three years, will I move towards my goals, or will I stagnate? Do I want to change?
  2. Consider your work-life balance
    Where do you want to spend a bit more time, at work or privately? Which currently has a higher priority?
  3. Consider your sustainability
    If you stay put, will you still be happy and healthy in five years? What are your health risks? What are the frustration risks? Is there anything you want to change?

Feeling like you could use a few more challenges? A few less?? Check out our open positions at Experteer jobs.

About the author

Jörg Peter Urbach is the author, editor and blogger of Sprachleidenschaft. He has been writing for more than 25 years, for print and online. Concepts. Stories. Journal articles. After studying musicology and German language and literature, Jörg Peter worked as an editorial manager in the classical music business. As long-time chief editor of the portal wissen.de, he knows how to inspire readers with clever topics.

If the native Kieler is not writing, he is walking through the Alps. Or listening to the opera. With mindfulness.