A study of civil servants conducted by researchers from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College, London, found that "those who had high levels of boredom were 37 percent more likely to be dead from any cause, including heart disease, at the end of the study than those who were not bored."
It's not the actual boredom that killed them, but that they were more likely to indulge in unhealthy habits like drinking, drugs and smoking as an escape.
Being bored might shorten not just your life, but your career as well, as you resort to playing online games, taking longer lunches, and potentially isolating yourself more and more from your co-workers. One former colleague I worked with years ago was caught reading a book at her desk, and never lived down the reputation that she was a slacker even though I believed her to be one of the more capable people at the company (notwithstanding this particular lapse in judgment).
Whether you have too much time on your hands because business is slow, or you're finding ways to escape from job responsibilities you really don't like, you're the only one who can keep from sliding down that slope that could damage your career and reputation.
Asking your boss for more work is always an option; but if you want more control over how you spend your time, try one of these ideas instead:
1. Expand your skill set.
Take classes at a local college or through a professional association to brush up on the basics like communication and presentation skills that could help in any job. Or look into areas that could groom you for the next level up, such as managing, sales, or finance.
2. Have lunch with your co-workers.
Fight the tendency to eat lunch at your desk by yourself every day and spend one day a week, or a couple of days each month having lunch with your colleagues. This will give you a chance to expand your knowledge of your company and learn what others are working on. You might even find a way to contribute to projects and initiatives that interest you.
3. Make time for yourself.
Just because your work may be boring, it doesn't mean you have to be. Set aside regular time to exercise, develop a new hobby, or expand your network outside your office. Take a cooking class, or use a site like Meetup.com to find a local group that meets around a specific interest you have, whether it's hiking, travel or reading.
You may not be able to change what you do 9-5, but you can take responsibility to fill some of your off-time with activities that strengthen your skills, your network, your body and your mind.