Those are the two words every parent has heard their child mutter. While the world today offers smartphones, Xboxes, and iPads to engage and occupy a child’s time and attention, many parents still subscribe to the philosophy that being “bored” as a child can be a good thing.
Many recognize that a child’s most creative and fulfilling experiences are manifested when they find themselves having to pass the time using their ingenuity—building a fort, having an imaginary tea party, writing a story, or drawing a piece of art. These activities help a child develop and enhance skills that cannot be substituted by a Play Station or other external distractions. The act of being resourceful, using one’s mind and surroundings are the very things that transform children into productive and creative adults (no surprise there).
Fast forward to today’s pandemic and its projected impact on the future workplace. Companies are debating workplace policies and employee requirements while assessing health and safety factors and remote working effectiveness. While the call for “100 percent virtual” workforces seems to be waning, there is a growing consensus that hybrid work models providing employees with some flexibility to work remotely part of the time may be the right solution.
The office then becomes a destination where employees can come to check-in, interact, collaborate, meet, and generally take their environment’s pulse before returning home.
However, what doesn’t fit into these models is “unstructured” office time with room for impromptu brainstorming and collaboration. The office will no longer be a place to come and be bored, which may actually be a problem.
According to Dr. Sandi Mann, a senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire in the U.K and the author of The Upside of Downtime: Why Boredom is Good, “Boredom at work has always been seen as something to be eliminated, but perhaps we should be embracing it to enhance our creativity.”
For many people, their best work may result from being forced to work on something in the absence of other options. Remote working is often full of options. Champions of remote work argue that “employees get their work done” away from the office and then have the ability to determine how to use their time once their work is complete. Finished writing that spreadsheet? Time for a bike ride. Wrapped up that key report? Let’s shift gears to managing our household chores.
And while the concept of giving employees more agency of their time and physical work location certainly has its merits and has earned a place in corporate culture, it is important not to lose sight of what is often accomplished at the office simply because you are required to be there. Instead of darting out for that bike ride after completing your required work task, being at the office may enable you to start tackling new ideas or assignments. Or, even better, foster spontaneous and unstructured collaboration opportunities with your colleagues.
Virtual and remote work philosophies are based on efficiencies, not necessarily productivity and creativity. Yes, employees can often complete much of their work in remote environments and often more efficiently than if they were in the office. But as companies contemplate how best to implement hybrid work models, they would be remiss in overlooking employees’ value just being at the office without specific a specific agenda or reason.
When building a successful company at the enterprise level and cultivating a fulfilling career at the individual level, there is more to it than just “getting our work done.” There are moments of ingenuity and progress that occur simply by being in an environment dedicated to an overall goal and limited external distractions.
I’ll see you at the office!
Craig Wilson is an executive vice president at Stream Realty Partners in Dallas.