Being bored at work, a blessing in disguise?

Being bored at work, a blessing in disguise?

No matter how much you enjoy your job, some job tasks are more uninteresting than others. But a study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, affirms that being bored at work is not as problematic as we imagine. It might even help us be more productive.

The signatories of this research work arrived at this surprising conclusion after carrying out three different studies. One involved asking dual-career couples to complete multiple surveys per day, so researchers could determine whether boredom impacted cognitive abilities and productivity over the long term.

It turned out that boredom can be good. This emotion can stimulate creativity by pushing us to observe our surroundings and seek new ideas to change the situation. This is why we should not try to fight it at all costs, according to Casher Belinda, associate professor of management at the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame and lead author of the study. “As in a game of cat and mouse, minimizing boredom during one task leads to deficits in attention and productivity that manifest themselves during subsequent tasks. Paradoxically, trying to banish boredom prolongs the lifespan of its harmful effects.“, he explains in a press release.

However, it is possible to minimize the negative effects of boredom so that this emotion does not become a source of professional suffering. Kosher Belinda and her colleagues say that you need to organize your workday so that boring tasks do not follow one another. “After a boring first task, employees are better off tackling other, more rewarding tasks to regain lost energy“, says Mr. Belinda. So, do not spend your morning answering emails if this activity does not stimulate you on an intellectual level. Devote a few hours to this activity before devoting yourself to missions which constitute more the heart of your job.

Attention au “bore-out”

Boredom is, above all, a consequence of our actions. This emotional state occurs when we struggle to be absorbed by the activity we are undertaking. The best strategy to adopt is therefore to think about what causes it in order to be able to act on the course of events, and avoid becoming locked into passivity. Because boredom is problematic when it becomes chronic. Employees who come to work every day with leaden feet may feel a feeling of helplessness and weariness which leads them to “bore-out”.

This expression, inspired by the word “boring”, is commonly used to refer to the syndrome of professional burnout due to boredom. This pathology is particularly difficult to quantify as it is taboo to complain about being paid to do nothing. Christian Bourion, author of “The Bore-out syndrome: When boredom at work drives you crazy” (Albin Michel, 2016), estimates that 30% of French people suffer from this syndrome. While the causes of bore-out can be diverse, employees who are bored at their job often feel a deep feeling of uselessness and demotivation. They tend to lose self-confidence, feel guilty and isolate themselves. Ultimately, going to work becomes a real torture for them.

As always in business, it is essential to talk about your discomfort to your superiors and human resources managers to prevent it from eating away at you. Boredom is the result of managerial failures which lock the employee into a falsely comfortable professional routine. It is entirely possible to overcome it by requesting new missions or by following training. Taking a skills assessment can also be very useful when trying to bounce back, whether in your current company or elsewhere.

Bore-out: 10 keys to regaining motivation at work

Slide: Bore-out: 10 keys to regaining motivation at work