Bored at work? Maybe that’s a good thing


When I worked in an office, man, it was hard to stay focused.

I usually get my work done pretty quickly, then I have nothing to do. So I look around for something — clean the office fridge, re-arrange my desk, un-jam the copier.

But sometimes there’s just nothing to do.

Being bored at work is uncannily common. Just about everyone can relate to that feeling of sheer boredom. You’re stuck with tedious, maybe repetitive tasks, you’re reading annual reports or pouring over statistics or — worse! — you’re stuck in a meeting.

Believe it or not, being bored could actually be a good thing.

According to new research presented at the annual meeting of the British Psychological Society Division of Occupational Psychology in January, boredom often leads to daydream, which can then lead to an increase in productivity. (As long as you’re not daydreaming about Chris Hemsworth. Not very productive.)

“Boredom at work has always been seen as something to be eliminated, but perhaps we should be embracing it in order to enhance our creativity,” study researcher Dr. Sandi Mann, of the University of Central Lancashire, said in a statement.

“What we want to do next is to see what the practical implications of this finding are,” Mann added. “Do people who are bored at work become more creative in other areas of their work — or do they go home and write novels?”

I go home and bake, apparently.

So what do you do when you’re bored at work? And does playing “Angry Birds” seem to enhance your creativity?

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7 Responses to “Bored at work? Maybe that’s a good thing”

  1. David Jackson February 20, 2013 at 5:56 am #

    Pet topic of mine… prepare for long winded diatribe.

    I work from home primarily and the productivity difference is really quite enormous. I’d also say I am more creative at home than in an office. Don’t get me wrong here… I do like hanging out with other people. It is just better if I get to choose who they are. At home I put meeting calls on mute and play guitar. Yes, I can recall everything that was discussed. And I’d add I remember more than the people taking diligent notes… and these notes are usually filled with politically correct jargon and are pretty useless. Most workplaces resemble ‘Survivor Workplace’ than a real office. All the BS is stifling. I used to have people say I had adult onset ADD. Guess what I might have been thinking…

    Some people can’t work from home. They need that Survivor environment to feel like they are being productive. To each his own or her own. Recently i wrote a DB program to run a warehouse, multimillion in inventory with lots of rules and interrelated tables. It took me two months. Installed it and they ran the warehouse from it. Fortunately there were few errors, none serious, after a week or so none. NEVER EVER could I have gotten that much done that quick in an office. Someone would have wanted daily meetings reviews etc. It would have taken a year. And I would likely have spent a lot of time wondering if I should close my door and hang a DND sign on it.

    And BTW, I was at home in Ewa when the idea for Confidant hit me. It is now Confidant Hawaii but that product was born in a hammock in Ewa.

    So if you ask me being bored at the office sucks life from the universe. Most are thinking of Miley or Liam or in my case maybe … nah too personal. It is time society found a way to work smarter. Because it needs to get a clue some of us are way better at home.

    Exhale, breath deep now… Aloha.

  2. M February 20, 2013 at 6:27 am #

    Guud morning Cat!
    I have a great bunch of co-workers, never a dull moment, but if I do get bored I just surf the internet.

  3. WildeOscar February 20, 2013 at 8:32 am #

    I heard it from a productivity guru 20 years ago, and I’ve found it to be absolutely true: we get our best ideas about work when we’re not working.

    Boredom is an essential ingredient for success, in the right amount, at the right time, faced with the right problem.

    I know that administrative assistants are disappearing from the modern American office, and have been for 30 years, but there’s a good rule for utilization – the 70 percent rule. You can’t have your admin fully occupied and at 100 percent utilization, or there’s no reserve when something unforeseen needs to be done right now. What happens to that other 30 percent? Anything to replace boredom. It’s easy to politely interrupt a personal conversation between two co-workers born out of boredom though. It’s a win-win. Something more interesting and useful to do, likely to result in a big sincere ‘thank you’ and rescued from a conversation with someone he or she doesn’t really like about an awards show or plans for the weekend.

  4. Paco February 20, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    Thank goodness for and! I am also our family travel agent so I do a lot of our vacation planning at work!

  5. Tania February 20, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    I never have nothing to do at work, my project and task list are always a mile long. That said, I do sometimes tire of sitting at my desk all day long. When I was in Honolulu I worked either in downtown or in Waikiki so I could take a quick walk outside but I’m now located in a more remote area.

    When I find my attention lagging though, usually doing something more physical like cleaning or filing is helpful to free up my brain a bit.

    Since I blog in my off hours I totally agree you need some nothing on the agenda time for creativity. It’s why I don’t fill up my social or volunteering schedule. I go out or to an event once in awhile but I leave time to just chill and relax on most weekends and after work. To write I do believe one needs to be fairly introspective and curious and you need to downtime to explore that.

  6. M February 20, 2013 at 11:40 am #

    When I get bored at work I go to this blog to read your post and comment. :lol:

  7. Pomai April 7, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    I WISH I had that “problem”. Which actually makes those rare times we do have “down time” that much more appreciated… kinda’ like weekends.

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