Boredom: Is There a Silent Productivity Killer Loose in Your Workplace?

Have you ever been bored at work? Go on, admit it, every career has its moments, and that’s OK. A little quiet time can be positive, even restorative; it can help you to keep some balance amidst an otherwise hectic life. But just as too much excitement can be unhealthy, so can a surplus of dullness – and as we become more immersed in our work, with devices that ensure we are always connected, it is vital we pay attention to getting that balance right.

The Cost of Boredom

When the trend for playful workplaces emerged in tandem with the rise of the IT industry, many mocked. Such tactics were good for getting attention, but serious work was being done elsewhere. Or was it? An entire genre of comedy, ranging from Dilbert to The Office, focused on the notion of bored employees enduring the tedium of occupying cube farms for 40 hours a week. As with any good humour, there was a sizeable grain of truth fuelling the jokes.

There is also significant research done on the productivity loss associated with boredom in the workplace. While it makes less enjoyable reading than the comic strips, the research uncovers a common truth: bored employees are associated with lower business performance. Researchers Gallup found that in the USA alone, ‘actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion in lost productivity per year.’ Medical research found that bored employees are more likely to make mistakes, which in a field dealing with life and death is an alarming thought.

Quirky Workplaces

All sorts of organisations have begun to see value in those quirky workplaces that were initially derided. Employees need to feel part of a community. Part of Airbnb’s ethos is ‘no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, or who you worship, you deserve to belong.’ They created a workspace that allows connectivity anywhere, including in relaxed, tent-like meeting areas where employees can get comfortable as they dream up their next big idea. It is not uncommon for senior executives to be found hanging out with warehouse workers, and the collaborative environment means that the entire workforce feels more engaged.

The Role of IT

Don’t underestimate the importance of IT in driving employee engagement. In the internet of things (IoT) era, it pays to get smart about tackling workplace boredom. First order of priority is enabling connection everywhere, and that means very good wi-fi. Workplace experience is something that Stott Hoare partner and market leader Aruba take very seriously. Their wi-fi is designed to welcome employees and guests, recognising their devices as they enter the workplace, and linking into connected equipment. Imagine lighting and temperature automatically adjusting to your liking, and your desk and chair set to your preferences. This type of smart digital workplace is a reality in some organisations already.

Right Devices

Re-imagining everyday processes is another place for focus. In some cases that may mean automation, to save staff spending too much time on dull, repetitive tasks. In others, developing an app that simplifies, saves time, or just makes a task more intuitive and enjoyable, can help make the workplace friendlier.

One of the biggest enablers here is the new range of device types available. We see our customers using their new HP touchscreen and convertible laptops, tablets, even smartphones in ways we couldn’t have imagined just a few years ago. They are often managed through Stott Hoare’s BYOD program, another big change in which organisations avoid up-front costs, acquiring devices through a pay-as-you-go option that allows every user to always have the right device. The right tools make the job far more enjoyable and less stressful and allow for ready connectivity.

Boosting Morale

The immersion in work has risks if boredom levels are high. 40 hours of disengaged tedium can lead to low morale, and even contribute mental health problems such as depression. The reverse, though, is also true. Welcoming employees to immerse themselves in a world where they are engaged and feel valued won’t just boost productivity. Your employees will be part of a winning team where they feel personal satisfaction. Bring on the workplace playground!

Time to create IT foundations for a more engaged workforce? Stott Hoare applies IT knowledge to improve business performance. Talk to our specialists.

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