Is Boredom the Opposite of Engagement at Work?

Boredom and Disengagement at Work

Associate professor of Strategy and Organization and blog writer for the Harvard Business Review Mark de Rond asked the question “Are you Busy at Work, but Still Bored?” He indicated that he has a job that many of us would probably envy, at least I would, yet he is bored with it. In reading his ensuing points it made me ask the question “Is boredom the opposite of engagement?”

Employee Boredom at Work

He notes that boredom in his case was not from a lack of things to do. He feels that much of employee boredom is not from a lack of things to do. I agree, in many cases we all have too much to do. Yet that does not keep us from being bored with our work. His contention is that what many people want out of work is to do something meaningful, something that provides something that really engages them. Often high achievers have areas of interest outside their work. They work at something that gives them a sense of accomplishment that they cannot get at their work.

Now when I read that my first thought was “What a waste of energy“. What could the company or organization do that could capture that “engagement” these employees have in other pursuits? While de Rond was able to take a year-long sabbatical to pursue something, most of us do not have that opportunity. So how can we solve this?

Workplace Motivation 2.0

We often talk of employee engagement and have measures for employee engagement, but do we measure boredom? I think they are on the same continuum. If we can reduce employee boredom will we then increase their engagement? I think so. The question becomes what can we do? I think the clue for this comes from Pink’s ideas of Motivation 2.0. He suggests that you can motivate people by giving them time to work on things they want to work on, not something that was assigned to them. It doesn’t always need to be work-related. In fact in this scheme perhaps much of it should not be. We could allow employees to work on something that provides meaning to them. It could be something societal, it could be something in a totally different line of work, it could be almost anything.

By allowing your employees to engage in something meaningful while being supported by the organization I think you would get much more engaged, much more loyal employees who as a result become much more engage in their other work. Would the return on the increased engagement offset the cost of time spent away from their work? I think the literature would support that it does, if it is structured correctly. The alternative is that we let them continue to be bored in their work and looking for the end of the workday so they can pursue the more meaningful passion.

Take a look a de Rond’s article and see what ideas it gives you. Click here.

Are employees bored at work or are they just disengaged in general?  How do we increase the productivity and passion in our current employees at our workforce?  

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Mike Haberman

Michael (Mike) D. Haberman, SPHR is a consultant, speaker, writer of HR Observations, and co-founder of Omega HR Solutions, Inc. After over 30 years in HR he got tired of the past and focuses here on the Future of HR. Connect with Mike.

Reader Interactions


  1. Marcy Twete says

    Great article, Mike! I think it’s Google that mandates employees spend something like 10-20% of their time working on a project that has nothing to do with their job description. How incredible! I try to give my staff the leeway to always work on passion projects as well as those they’re assigned. It keeps them excited about growing the company and innovating.



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