x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

It might be boring but perhaps the lesson is get a life

If boredom was a result of having nothing to do it could be eradicated by giving more tasks to employees. Nonetheless, this is only likely to work until employees realise what they are asked to do does not contribute to something bigger than themselves, writes Manar Al Hinai.

I went out for an after-iftar coffee with nine of my girlfriends last weekend. They included engineers, an interior designer and a renowned TV presenter - but not one of them said they were excited by their jobs.

In fact they complained about how bored they were and how meaningless they felt their work was, even though they were busy for the eight hours they spent at the office every day.

But, just like a heavy workload, boredom is also stressful. And when we are busy at work but still feel bored, that means even more stress.

By the looks of things, my own working life should be very exciting. I have a busy and non-routine job at a government organisation. I write articles and columns for national publications. I run my small fashion business. I get to meet interesting people from different walks of society. I have been lucky enough to win prestigious awards. I volunteer at various community causes. I have more upcoming projects in the pipeline. I am fully occupied - and yet sometimes I, too, feel bored.

Unable to shake off this terrible feeling from time to time, I often introduce a new challenge to my personal business, or suggest something new to work on at my office and that really helps.

However, I realised the boredom my friends suffer from is not a result of having nothing to do but from having nothing worthwhile to do.

The thing is, if boredom is a result of having nothing to do it could be eradicated by giving more tasks to employees. Nonetheless, this is only likely to work in the shortterm, until employees realise what they are asked to do does not contribute to something bigger than themselves.

In another situation, if boredom is a result of having to do too much of a good thing, with a consequent loss of excitement, then it could be solved by giving people something new to do. This situation is common with high-performers who get the job done quickly but are easily bored and feel unchallenged. It is like giving a middle-school maths student a first-grade maths problem to solve.

Obvious fixes to such situations include job rotation, new training programmes and larger responsibilities to handle.

But how do employees fix the ironic situation of having more than enough to do in the office yet still suffering from boredom?

I am lucky as my job is a far from routine one and I always have something new to work on. But for my friends, and some of you, that might not be an option.

And so it seems the only solution to boredom is to give people something more meaningful to do.

As a chief executive of an organisation or an owner of a business, ask yourself this question: if your organisation went bankrupt, who would really care about it besides you and those who depend on it? But when you empower your employees to make them feel what they do, however small, is important to the organisation, not only will they feel less bored, they will be more productive.

Coming back to you as an individual, if meaningful work is too much to ask at this point, why not develop a passion?

Many high-achievers have "other lives" or talents besides their daily job. From my own social circle, I know a vice president who owns a successful gymnasium, and a government officer who is an abstract artist and an art curator.

After volunteering for different community causes, I also found the ultimate key to a meaningful life - at work and elsewhere - lies in turning our focus from ourselves to others. We can do this by creating opportunities for those we work with, aiding them when they need help, or by supporting a community cause.

Boredom should not be underestimated. After all, the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard described boredom as the root to all evil and the major task for mankind is to overcome it.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning fashion designer and writer. She can be followed on Twitter: @manar_alhinai