The Upside of Having Bored Employees

By William Vogeler, Esq. on May 30, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Albert Einstein had a boring job.

He was working at a patent office in Switzerland, and he would stare at the clock tower outside and daydream. It was during those days that he conceived of a theory that changed the world.

There was only one Einstein, but there are workers everywhere who are bored with their jobs. There is an upside to that for employers.

Boredom Can Work

Counter-intuitively, science says that boredom can be a good thing. It can lead to innovation, like Einstein in his job, and everybody knows that is a good thing.

Like pain receptors, boredom sends a signal to the brain that something is wrong. If not for boredom, we might not be motivated to do anything new.

"Boredom is both a warning that we are not doing what we want to be doing and a 'push' that motivates us to switch goals and projects," writes Andreas Elpidorous, a philosophy professor at the University of Louisville.

Of course, it depends on how we handle boredom. If we persist in it, we are in a rut. Or as Einstein said: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results."

Elevate and Repeat

Writing for Forbes, David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom offered some ways to overcome boredom on the job. They say people can achieve great results by:

  • Embracing the feeling
  • Thinking about others
  • Elevating the challenge
  • Witnessing the results
  • Repeating until bored again

It's not exactly a rinse-and-repeat cycle, which could be boring itself. An employer should make it more of a discovery cycle, leading to new vistas.

Like Einstein. After he figured out special relativity at the patent office, he developed a theory of general relativity. That's the one that really rocked the world.

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