A new book by Phillipe Rothlin and Peter R Werder suggests that up to 15 percent of office staff are on their way to something they call ‘Boreout’, because they are simply not challenged enough at work.

Their book entitled ‘Diagnose Boreout’ was published earlier this year and has been selected as a finalist for Business Book of the Year Awards 2007.

The authors describe ‘Boreout’ as being the opposite of ‘Burnout’, where as a consequence office workers spending part of their day pretending to work but end up frustrated and demoralised, because of the lack of stimulation and challenge.  This can have a similar impact to overwork and stress causing irritability, poor levels of concentration, and ultimately absenteeism.

The scenario is straightforward enough.  A manager might never have learned how to delegate properly or perhaps simply doesn’t trust others with the ‘important stuff’.  As a result the manager gives their staff the routine, easy or just plain boring tasks to do.  Their staff may ask for more responsibility or more interesting work but eventually give up and fill their day with other activities.  Rothlin and Werder call these activities ‘Boreout – Strategies’, the purpose of which are to make the individual look busy.

Interestingly, the authors work is also backed up by a recent job satisfaction survey by disability insurer Unum who surveyed over 1000 workers.  If concluded that only two out of three people were satisfied with their job, and the biggest drop in the level of employee satisfaction was in the amount of autonomy they had in their work.

‘I have seen ‘Boreout’ at first hand’ for example, I used to work with a Sales Manager who would leave his jacket over the back of his chair, with his laptop running on his desk.  He would disappear for several hours at a time but his boss always thought that he was chasing orders in another part of the factory.  I then worked for an accounting firm where I discovered a new recruit who had so much time on his hands that he used his ‘spare time’ to complete a dissertation!’

The problem of ‘Boreout’ is exacerbated by the huge range of alternative activities now available to those who are under worked.  Not only can staff email each other, they can surf the net, download games to keep themselves amused, or buy their weekly shopping from Tesco!

What can be done about this?  While the authors provide a few hints and tips of their own, we will give our own thoughts on this issue in a forthcoming news item in October.