A number of years ago Philippe Rothlin and Peter Werder coined the phrase ‘Boreout’ in their book ‘Diagnose Boreout’ which became a finalist for the Business Book of the Year Awards.
They identified ‘Boreout’ as being the opposite of ‘Burnout’, where as a consequence office workers spend part of the day pretending to work but end up demotivated and frustrated because of the lack of stimulation and challenge. The authors claim that this can have a similar impact to overwork, causing irritability, stress and ultimately absenteeism.
The scenario is fairly straightforward. A newly promoted manager may not learn how to delegate effectively, or perhaps doesn’t trust their staff with the “important “stuff. As a consequence, the manager gives their teams the easy, routine or boring tasks to do. While their staff may ask for more interesting or challenging work, if the manager doesn’t respond they will fill their time with other activities, defined as ‘Boreout Strategies’ by Rothin and Werder. These strategies are designed to make the individual look busy to their boss and others, and the authors claim that up to 15% of office staff employ these strategies. ‘Boreout’ is exacerbated by the huge range of alternative activities available to those who are under used. Most office workers needs a PC for their job and have access to things that can keep themselves amused by surfing the net, playing online games, shopping or even updating their Facebook status, with “I’m bored”!
So what should be done in these circumstances?
Firstly managers need to be clear with their staff that ‘Boreout Activities’ (surfing the net, using Facebook etc.) for non-work related activities may constitute disciplinary action. Secondly managers need to ensure that their staff are engaged in worthwhile and interesting activities. Finally, managers should set their staff targets and measures that clearly set out what’s expected and provides the mechanism for monitoring progress. In short managers need to manage their staff more effectively.