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New Academy of Management research shows boredom can boost employee creativity, motivation and productivity

11 Dec 2018
AOM announced the results of a new study that found boredom can drive employee engagement and other positive outcomes for organizations.

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y., Dec. 12, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — The Academy of Management (AOM), the largest global organization devoted to management and organization research, today announced the results of a new study that found boredom can drive employee engagement and other positive outcomes for organizations.

The study, “Why boredom might not be a bad thing after all,” by Guihyun Park of Australian National University, Hui Si Oh of Singapore Management University and Beng-Chong Lim of Nanyang Technological University will be published in the March 2019 issue of the Academy of Management Discoveries.

The researchers found that feeling bored can push employees to be more creative. While past research has shown boredom to perpetuate negative emotions – like anger and frustration – participants in this study did not experience a significant increase in negative emotions as a result of being bored.

The study also showed that being bored significantly increased creativity in individuals with specific personality traits – including intellectual curiosity, high cognitive drive, openness to new experiences and an inclination toward learning.

“We hope our research creates a better understanding of what it means to be bored at work that will be helpful for managers, employees and organizations,” said the researchers. “We believe there is an opportunity to improve employee engagement and organizational performance by designating boredom periods for employees during the workday. Organizations like Google and Salesforce are already implementing similar concepts by encouraging employees to nap, disconnect and recharge at work and we believe these practices will expand throughout the corporate world in the coming years.”

The research concludes with discussion about how organizations can employ boredom to better stimulate employees for positive results. The findings suggest that boredom could potentially be an unconventional source of human motivation in the workplace especially. Further, the authors propose that managers can positively leverage this latent energy to benefit their work teams and organizations as a whole. For example, when bored, some people engage in activities that ultimately hamper their job performance, like surfing the internet during work hours. If managers can enhance and cultivate bored employees’ desire for variety and novelty, the outcome of bored employees may not be negative. The researchers recommend that managers and organizations should be more nuanced in how they manage boredom in the work environment.

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