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Bored at work? Read this

By DAVID BARNETT Time of article published May 5, 2016

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London - If you're bored at work, chances are you'll sneak in a few games of Candy Crush, make more coffees than is strictly necessary for your colleagues, and find new and time-consuming ways to reorganise your emails.

But trust good old French militancy to take it to another level. Frédéric Desnard, a 44-year-old Parisian, has not only publicly spoken out at the mind-numbing boredom he felt at his former job working for perfume company Inter-Parfums, but is taking them to court.

Mr Desnard wants £283 000 (about R5.9-million) compensation after, he told French news agency AFP, he was sidelined from his managerial position in a restructuring after the firm lost a big contract and fell into an insidious descent into hell, a nightmare that left him with epilepsy, ulcers, sleep problems and serious depression.

We're used to people complaining of “burn out” in high-stress jobs, but if Mr Desnard is successful his case could open up a whole new opportunity for those at the other end of the spectrum, people who are suffering “bore out”. Still, don't put your feet up on your desk and wait for the money to roll in just yet, says Kevin Poulter, head of employment at London solicitors Child & Child.

“''Bore out' is a term that is unlikely to be familiar to many employers, and to the Employment Tribunal in the UK,” says Kevin. “That said, a campaign to sideline an employee, to diminish their duties and responsibilities and, in effect, take steps to make their role redundant may lead to a reasonable claim for unfair dismissal. There is an implied term in all employment relationships that any work provided by an employer will be appropriate for the employee, taking into account their role, status and relevant qualifications. In addition, many employees will reasonably expect their career to be supported by their employer and to see some progress as they continue in work, either professionally or in terms of role or responsibility.”

Dr Sandi Mann, senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire knows a lot about boredom - in fact, she wrote the book on it. It's called The Upside of Downtime: Why Boredom Is Good, in which she argues that although being bored has its obvious downsides we need a little of it in our lives, just like we need some stress to motivate us.

“Though,” she says, “perhaps not as much as this Frenchman has had to contend with! Boredom at work is a growing problem for many reasons - for example increased bureaucracy, automation, meetings, paperwork, over-skilling, routinisation -and it must be taken seriously by employers because boredom is stressful. This case might be a landmark in forcing employers to take account of boredom as a mental health issue. I have conducted research myself that suggests a link between boredom and depression. They can reduce boredom in various ways such as job rotation, empowerment and by helping employees find meaningful work.”

Poulter agrees that employers need to tackle the problem of boredom. Employers should be encouraged to support their employees and, where issues of performance or capability arise, these should be addressed as soon as possible. “There is a responsibility on employees to raise concerns, either formally or informally, about their work - whether burn out or ''bore out''.”

However, a bigger problem than boredom could be “presenteeism”, says Kevin, which is the proper way of explaining the old gag “How many people work here?” “About half of them.”

According to him, “Employers have recently reported that employees who are disillusioned with their jobs but unwilling to leave them are also causing a problem in the workplace.

“Lack of direction, reduced opportunities for promotion and a period where pay rises have been minimal or non-existent have all impacted on a generation of workers who are not fulfilled in their working lives. The increasing range of distractions, such as Google and social media, means that employees may look busy, but are simply not productive. It is essential for employers to engage with their employees and, where necessary, carefully but effectively monitor productivity where this may be an issue.”

Hmm. Hopefully the time spent reading this has killed a few minutes of your work-day - you could even argue that it's legitimate research. And now? it's probably time for another round of coffees, yes?

The Independent

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