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Srinath Sridharan

Independent markets commentator. Media columnist. Board member. Corporate & Startup Advisor / Mentor. CEO coach. Strategic counsel for 25 years, with leading corporates across diverse sectors including automobile, e-commerce, advertising, consumer and financial services. Works with leaders in enabling transformation of organisations which have complexities of rapid-scale-up, talent-culture conflict, generational-change of promoters / key leadership, M&A cultural issues, issues of business scale & size. Understands & ideates on intersection of BFSI, digital, ‘contextual-finance’, consumer, mobility, GEMZ (Gig Economy, Millennials, gen Z), ESG. Well-versed with contours of governance, board-level strategic expectations, regulations & nuances across BFSI & associated stakeholder value-chain, challenges of organisational redesign and related business, culture & communication imperatives.

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Red-alert for India Inc. : ‘Boredom’...

While boredom isn’t depression, the feeling of boredom isn’t to be ignored. In fact, boredom deserves attention and working towards getting out of that feeling.

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Usually there are 3 dots (“...”) to indicate that the thought of the sentence is continued. If you noticed the title carefully, it has only two!

It is that level of boredom to even complete the sentence, let alone start writing this article ! Call it “writers block”. Call it “WFH-irritation”. Call it “need real-world back”. Call it “need F2F human interaction”. Call it “why this?”.   

This is a metaphor symptomatic of the “boredom” trend that most of us are observing of late, across various industries and social-economic segments, especially after many months of WFH (Work from home). Boredom can manifest in many ways including: 

  • Inability to relax
  • Feeling of “emptiness” or “listlessness”
  • Lack of interest in most of the routine activities
  • Not able to stay focused for longer time 
  • Difficulty in staying motivated

There are many reasons for feeling bored. Stress can also lead to a feeling of “boredom”. The WFH aspect of living for the past few months has severely impacted many individuals, teams and families.

Boredom is a state of mind in which the individual is not mentally stimulated by his/her surroundings. This causes them to be un-motivated or even demotivated to do any work.  

Boredom and workplace 

For Corporate India, “boredom” should be an alarm bell.  The workplace is one of the places where boredom acts as a toxic material and hurts the office ecosystem as well as business growth. There are research studies to showcase that boredom causes employees to quit or change their jobs. Such an attrition causes negativity across the organisation. Let’s look at some of the potential reasons : 

Employees don’t have enough work to keep them engaged

Boredom can be triggered when employees don’t have sufficient workload or the relevant type of work to match their competence. Research studies around Millennials & Gen-Z have shown that they get bored quickly compared to the older generation. This could also be linked to their ability to multi-task using digital tools.

Employees have too much work 

When employees feel that they have been overloaded unduly with work or that they are not being recognised for pulling heavier workload, they could feel disengaged with the work journey and feel bored at / with work. Most of above-average performers like to be challenged with stretched-performance-goals.

Missing sense of purpose 

If the employees don’t feel that they are working towards a purpose, they lose motivation and could feel bored with their role. That’s the reason why good organisations build their business with a clear sense of purpose (“profit with a purpose”). It is important to proactively communicate to the stakeholders the reason why the organisation exists. 

Employees are not learning 

Most of the individuals have a sense of urgency towards learning and unlearning. A corporate ecosystem, conducive for constant learning, helps in building a sense-of-wanting in employees to do more for the success and growth of the organisation. 

Social media & media distractions

With WFH and constant digital onslaught since the past few months, many of us use social media as a distraction. Working from home also allows for other media content to constantly keep popping up. These distractions, which start as a relaxing tool, end up taking up mind space and time in the daily schedule. 

Some changes in your routine that could help:

Redo your workspace decor 

Make changes to the space you work in. Declutter your work table and space around; and reorganise the layout of your work area - be it cubicle or cabin.

If your organisation rules permit you to shift the location of your work space or even exchange the cubicle / desk with a colleague’s, go ahead and do it.

You will find a positive difference.

Change your daily commute 

With WFH opening up slowly to “back to office”, there is a sudden shock of the daily commute (which was absent for so many months). 

If the self-driving is getting to you, try to car pool with someone living & working nearby. Once or twice a week, try and take public transportation (even a Uber or ola). The intent here is to keep you stress-free, so that you don’t feel frustrated with the traffic snarls etc. after all, you have to be in high energy and peak motivation when you work or when you return home to your family.

Get adequate sleep and exercise 

Lack of good quality sleep or even insufficient sleep levels can cause health issues as well as create a sense of boredom. It also hurts your ability to focus and concentrate for long duration. The same is with exercise. Without adequate exercise, the physical and mental fatigueness sets in.

Learning new skills

Don’t just waste your time, if you are bored at work. Learning a new skill to help you tackle the boredom at work with ease. By learning new methods and skills pertaining to your job, you will have better control over your tasks.

Watch some educational videos, or read new subjects to expand your knowledge. There are also many websites you can sign up for which provide easy online learning methods to improve your skills. Also, the more skilled (or reskilled) that you are, the easier it will become for you to be promoted.

Ask for newer role / challenges 

If you have no challenging tasks at hand to work on, your excitement levels will be low. Furthermore, the monotony of your job can take a toll on your mental health as well.

A simple way to solve this is to ask your manager for more challenging tasks or responsibilities. With new tasks and challenges, you will get the revamp that you want to fend off boredom at work.

Boredom vs Depression

Clinical depression is characterised by an inability to experience pleasure, insomnia, loss of self-esteem and negative thinking and behavior, among other symptoms. In boredom, the capacity for pleasure is totally intact, but it is thwarted by an internal or external obstacle — like being quarantined. (Boredom also produces none of the other symptoms of depression.)

While boredom isn’t depression, the feeling of boredom isn’t to be ignored. In fact, boredom deserves attention and working towards getting out of that feeling.

Cooped up in our homes, during the past many months of pandemic induced lockdown, we lost touch with our (Pre-COVID) normal routine and social network. Without those social interactions and despite getting used to the new normal, we yearn for things that were considered normal. It is this state of restlessness, without a way of achieving our goal (if we even know what it is) that is the essence of boredom. And Corporate India cannot afford its team members to get into this state!

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