Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Beware: Idle minds at work

Some time ago, I would tell a popular joke about 'fun' working in the UAE. We have three month holidays in a year....the whole month during Ramadhan, one month when the boss on vacation and another month when the staff/employee him/herself on vacation.

This joke still holds true for some fortunate people during the current downturn when job cuts, company bankcruptcies, countries into (technical) recessions are part of daily breaking news. They are still employed but nothing much to do except be in the office and pretending to work.

I know some friends who are physically in the office but their minds are somewhere else, mostly wandering in the cyberworld. They blog, facebook, email, SMS, youtube, picasaweb, Internet messenger and play games during working hours...

I have to admit that some times I do get bored in the office. I am a morning person, come early in the morning and will complete my tasks as soon as possible. I have some templates for certain tasks which can be recycled and reformatted into new 'products' which enable me to fast-track some assignments.

By the way, I love my current job and have fun with a lot of new challenges as well as new knowlegde and experience to enhance my professional career.

The below article By Marilyn Gardner, The Christian Science Monitor.

Nicole Haase would like to work harder than she does. But as a receptionist and payroll administrator for a manufacturing firm in Milwaukee, she finds limited opportunities to take on more duties.
“Work is slow. We’re a small company, so it’s not always easy to find other things to do,” Haase says.
To fill empty moments, she e-mails friends and works on freelance writing assignments. “The internet is my friend — anything to make the time pass,” she says, adding that the strain of having too little to do creates its own kind of burnout.

Pervasive problem
There’s a name for this kind of underemployment: boreout. In Boreout! Overcoming Workplace Demotivation, authors Philippe Rothlin and Peter Werder call it a pervasive problem.
Studies show that one third of workers in the United States do not have enough to do. Underchallenged employees spend more than two hours a day on personal matters.
Employers waste over $5,000 (Dh18,369) a year per worker on boreout.
The authors, business consultants in Europe, explain that boreout consists of three elements: being “understretched”, uncommitted and bored at the workplace.

Strategies to look busy
Many underutilised employees ask for more work after starting a new job, says Werder, of Zurich.
“But after one year, although they hate boreout, they stop asking because no one takes it seriously.” Aware that they cannot just sit at their desks and stare into space, many workers devise strategies to look busy.
That often involves technology. “Mobile phones, the internet and e-mail make it much easier to pretend to work,” Werder says.
For Haase, the road to boreout began after she graduated from college with degrees in journalism and Spanish. Saddled with student loans, she took her job two years ago.
“When I was hired, they saw my skill set and said they would use it,” she says.
“But I’m in my receptionist bubble and they’re not willing to let me try to do anything more.”
Megan Rothman, a marketing copywriter, describes herself as underchallenged.
“I took this position because I was told we would all wear many hats because we are a small, private company,” she says. But after she was hired, that never happened.
“I have asked to take on additional responsibilities or projects that may be outside the typical range of my job description. But my boss doesn’t seem to be willing to accommodate me,” Rothman says.

No work at the workplace
She divides her idle time between productive tasks, such as reading marketing blogs or doing writing exercises.
As unemployment rates soar, Haase, Rothman and others who feel underworked are quick to express appreciation for having a job.
At the same time, workplace specialists emphasise the importance of remaining committed and connected to their employer.
“These days, with the economy, it behooves people to notice their boredom and think about what they can add to their job,” says Daisy Swan, a career strategist in Los Angeles.
Werder advises employees struggling with boreout to ask: Is this really what I want to do? “Some people are in the wrong job, though not the wrong company,” he says.
A worker can also ask: Do my bosses know about my ability? Do they know I don’t have enough to do? Do I communicate what I want to do? Sometimes businesses have too many employees for the work available.
Swan offers another reason for underemployment. “A lot of people take shadow positions to what they would like,” she says.
“They love to play music but they work for a music distributor.” The task is to see if they can increase the music in another area of their life.
Other times, she adds, “maybe the boredom is a real message that you need to make a change”.
For those eager for greater challenges, Steve Bohler, director, Oxford Programme for Career Change in Cooperstown, New York, suggests a first step.
“Daydream,” he says. “Mentally get yourself out of your job. It’s a good chance to envision what your best possible solutions are.”
For employers concerned about boredom on the job, J.B. Bryant, a business consultant in Orrville, Ohio, offers this reminder: “People don’t want to be bored. Given the opportunity, they’ll be productive to their fullest ability.”


Pentilium5 said...

on the contrary, economic downtime is where we need to strengthen the bolts, look for new opportunities, clean up baggages, re-write policies, and despite lesser businesses written, our time are fully occupied!

Aristotle said...

Successful people will always find beneficial ways to fill the time. The easiest thing to do is to READ - the first word of the Quran. I am quite concerned about the low level of general knowledge amongst youngsters nowadays, and I am talking about university graduates here...