Suppressing boredom at work hurts future productivity, study shows | News

Boredom is more common at work than in any other setting, studies show, and employees are bored at work for more than 10 hours per week on average.

Even astronauts and police officers get bored on the job. No occupation is immune.

Boredom serves an important purpose — it signals the need to stop an action and find an alternative project. But boredom becomes problematic when it’s ignored.

New research from the University of Notre Dame shows that trying to stifle boredom prolongs its effects and that alternating boring and meaningful tasks helps to prevent the effects of one boring task from spilling over to reduce productivity on others.

“Breaking Boredom: Interrupting the Residual Effect of State Boredom on Future Productivity,” forthcoming in the Journal of Applied Psychology from lead author Casher Belinda, assistant professor of management at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, along with Shimul Melwani from the University of North Carolina and Chaitali Kapadia from Florida International University.

The team sought to understand if, when and why experiencing boredom now might lead to attention and productivity deficits later. They tested these possibilities in three studies that examined the consequences of boredom on a task-to-task basis.

The first study drew on data from dual-career families working in a variety of industries. Participants responded to multiple surveys per day at different intervals, enabling the team to examine the relationships between boredom, attention and productivity over time. Follow-up studies used alternative methods to reach a broader audience and focused on how meaningful work…

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