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Last updated 16 January, 2023

How to stop feeling restless at work

A new year signifies a fresh start – and for many of us, it’s the perfect time to evaluate where we’re at in our career. Do we feel motivated and inspired? Are we fulfilled? Or are we unhappy, feeling restless and dissatisfied? 

This self-reflection helps to provide us with insight and clarity; it may steer us towards rethinking our goals and exploring our options, and even towards taking drastic action such as quitting a job.

Why restlessness at work could be a problem

A common human emotion that many of us will experience from time to time, feeling restless – or bored – can make us feel frustrated, tired, unmotivated, miserable, anxious and stressed. Boredom in the workplace typically happens when autonomy is low, tasks are too simple (or too hard), or our work lacks personal meaning.

Chronic feelings of restlessness at work lower our productivity and engagement; and researchers have found it also leads to high dissatisfaction and may be associated with the intention to quit. 

So, should you quit your job – or should you stay put?

If you’re thinking of quitting, you’re not alone. The Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed 1.3 million people changed jobs last year, and recent research from Allianz Australia showed that 2 million of us are getting ready to resign within six to 12 months. In addition, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce: 2022 Report, only 21 per cent of employees are engaged at work, and workers are feeling more stressed than they did in 2020 (the previous all-time high). 

But before you rush into resignation, Hello Coach CEO and Master Coach Victoria Mills suggests you ask yourself these questions: 

1. Am I feeling fulfilled in my current role? 

2. Am I feeling inspired?

3. Is there a clear career path for me?

4. Do I feel valued, and that I’m providing value to the organisation?

5. Are there learning and development opportunities to stretch myself?

6. Am I being paid appropriately?  

If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to at least four of the above questions, you should seriously rethink your decision to quit. Just because you’re bored, frustrated or feeling stuck doesn’t mean you’re in the wrong job or at the wrong company. Ask yourself what you’ll be giving up by leaving – a familiar and comfortable environment, work friends, benefits, proven stability? Perhaps all you need to do right now is to make some personal changes, reframe your mindset, or simply speak up – being upfront with your boss might go a long way towards securing what you’re looking for, such as more responsibility, the opportunity to upskill, or better pay.

9 Signs you may need to quit your job

If, on the other hand, you’ve answered ‘no’ to three or more of the above questions, look out for further indicators that it might be time for you to move on:

  • You genuinely dread returning to work after the weekend.

  • You’re constantly stressed or anxious.

  • You’re no longer motivated to complete your daily tasks.

  • You often talk about how much you hate your job.

  • You’ve developed unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as excessive drinking or drug use.

  • Your physical health is suffering.

  • You don’t like who you are at work.

  • You’ve reached a dead end, with no opportunity for growth.

  • Your job no longer fits your life purpose.

How to find a role that fits

Once you’ve decided quitting is the only way forward, follow these tips to help you find a role that fits who you are:

  • Assess yourself – be honest as you consider your strengths and weaknesses; think about your ideal work conditions; and reflect on your goals, motivations, values and purpose.

  • Ask  yourself what didn’t work for you in your previous role. Do you need more flexibility? Better work-life balance? Better pay? More responsibility or opportunities to grow?

  • Ask a trusted manager, mentor, co-worker or family member for their feedback. What do they think you’re really good at? What makes you light up? Which skills are lacking / which areas do you need to work on? Be open-minded and willing to take their input on board.

  • List your job must-haves, and the deal breakers. For example, you now know that you must have a great deal of autonomy, you thrive on complex problem-solving, and you enjoy working in a collaborative team. You also know that a long commute is unacceptable, and that you don’t perform well working with a micro-manager. Check your list often as you search for a new role to ensure you stay focused on your priorities. 

5 Ways to beat restlessness at work

Of course, it’s not always possible to quit straightaway. You may have to work through a lengthy notice period; or it may take longer than you expect to land your dream role. Or you may simply not be sure yet whether you should stay or go. 

In the meantime, to help you stop feeling restless at work, try these strategies:

1. Make positive changes in your current role. Talk to your team leader, HR manager or boss about any problems you’ve identified. If they value you, they’ll be willing to consider your suggestions and work with you to resolve any issues. Open communication may also open the door to job crafting, allowing you to better align your role with your talents, strengths and values to make work more meaningful.

2. Reframe your mindset. Thinking that there’s ‘no point in trying anymore’  or focusing on your frustration can make you feel more bored and restless. A positive outlook will help you stay productive and give you a feeling of accomplishment. Reframing your role may add meaning. For example, if you’re a sales manager, you could describe your job as creating sales plans, hitting quotas and analysing data; you could also describe it as mentoring sales staff and helping your company succeed, which may give you a stronger sense of purpose.

3. Take a break. Mundane or overly challenging tasks will affect your physical and mental energy levels. If you find yourself flagging, pause what you’re doing and take a breather. Try the Pomodoro Technique, which is designed to help you fight boredom, manage your time and improve your focus. 

4. Connect with your colleagues. Building connections with fellow employees can make work more fun and give you something to look forward to each day. Make an effort to start personal conversations, ask a co-worker to join you on a coffee break, or bring in a treat from time to time to share with your team.

5. Prioritise your wellbeing. Hating your job may harm your mental and physical health. If you’re experiencing chronic restlessness at work, It’s vital to get enough rest, eat well, stay physically active and practise regular self-care while you implement the above strategies. 

How coaching can help you find career satisfaction

Chronically feeling restless is a red flag you shouldn’t ignore. If you let it continue unchecked, you may harm your wellbeing and put your career at risk. 

Working with a professional career coach can help you:

  • Identify your boredom triggers

  • Understand what is getting in the way of your career progression

  • Clarify the aspects of your current role that are dissatisfying

  • Evaluate your options

  • Prepare for interviews and negotiate your pay

  • Provide you with tools and strategies to upskill

  • Develop a career plan, and set your short- and long-term career goals.

The upside of bouts of boredom

It pays to remember that most of us will experience feelings of restlessness occasionally; and no matter how much you love what you do, there will be times when you find tasks tedious, feel a little jaded or play around with What if…?

Listen to what your boredom is trying to tell you; and see it as an opportunity to reconnect with your inner self, increase your self-awareness, and set new goals that are more meaningful. If you’re stuck, seek professional support.

Need help to feel inspired again, find career fulfilment or land your dream job? 

Book a session now to connect with one of our expert coaches.

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