A study from career builder showed that we all procrastinate at work – it’s just the flavours that are different, Whether it’s surfing around the internet (do we still ‘surf?’) chatting or undertaking ‘personal matters’ on a smartphone (eg memes, YouTube and that WhatsApp group that’s more high maintenance than your partner) – we procrastinate and it costs businesses hundreds and thousands of pounds.

What manager wouldn’t want to know how to make their employees work harder, more efficiently – with a smile, if possible?

There are plenty of articles that can give you handy hints and tips to help if you don’t know why your employees aren’t working. They might suggest that they don’t trust their manager, or sense a clear vision, or they feel scared, or overwhelmed or need easier targets, a lock down of certain websites to reduce distractions, chats about the company vision or regular check-ins from managers. All of this is true, but does it miss the one glaring reason for all disengagement and low work volume at some level – Boredom?

It could be the role, the business, or their outlook. They are bored. The work is boring, The company is boring. The next 5 years with your company looks boring beyond belief. If they looked up innovation in the dictionary there would be a picture of your CEO looking totally dazed and confused.

  • It’s not that they don’t like you or your leadership skills. (Well, maybe they don’t.)
  • They aren’t disengaged with the company vision.
  • They aren’t overwhelmed by their targets.
  • They don’t need more fresh air and breaks.
  • It’s not because the internet is there, calling to them to undertake some internet shopping.
  • The WhatsApp group chat they are in is not actually that thrilling.

Make the work engaging, and the distractions aren’t a big deal. Motivation increases.

A study by online learning platform Udemy.com, found that young Millennials (aged 21-24) are almost twice as likely to be bored at work (38%) than baby boomers (22%) and 80% of employees surveyed agree that learning new skills at work would make them more interested and engaged in their jobs.

A great journal ‘An employee who was not there: A study of job boredom in white collar work’  found that there are 3 types of work boredom –  inertia, acceleration and disrupted rhythm – and you don’t have to be on an assembly line to suffer. It’s 2016 research into boredom at work shows that ‘job boredom is a more nuanced phenomenon than earlier believed.’

You may already know of the description of ‘rust out’ as the workers who ‘waste away, unchallenged and uninspired’ at their desks – (Wylie) – and idea that has abounded since the early 80’s – yet still, the idea of increasing output is stuck in the ‘chicken and egg’ reasoning ‘how can we increase output’ – we never like to admit it could be boredom.

Perhaps it’s easier for companies to block internet sites, ban mobiles at desks, remove the radio and increase target visibility. It’s a problem easily solved, but it rarely works because the root cause is the same. Plus, don’t forget about Frédérick Desnard, who is suing his previous employers for over £200,000 for boredom, which he stated was the cause of depression.

This isn’t a problem that’s just a concern for lower level workers either. One of George W. Bush senior’s advisors admitted to The Washington Post that he was so bored that he often went to the cinema in the day to entertain himself – once, bumping into another senior official. (Washington Post, 10 August 2005)

If you think people should be crying out for more work – maybe they are, subtly. Have the suggested new ideas and methods? Do they re-do things to get them ‘just so’? If they aren’t asking for new projects and telling you they are stone cold bored – then you may have a culture where speaking up about being bored will result in a)redundancy or b)indifference – so they stay put.

So if you get a sneaking suspicion your employees aren’t working to full capacity – don’t lock down their perks and rewards, monitor them with the ruthless efficiency of a CCTV camera  – instead – open up. Ask how you can improve their day. What would make them excited to be there? What makes them so bored they can feel their whole passion wasting away?

These are critical questions to ask, so the next time someone suggests an ‘efficiency drive’ – dig a little deeper. The results may surprise you!