Bored employees engage in personal activities – study reveals

An Australian university study has found workers who have a lower emotional intelligence (EI) or are bored in their surroundings are more likely to disengage from work.

Researchers from Melbourne's Swinburne University looked at 184 full-time employees to investigate what people do while they are at work and why. The results suggest presenteeism – described as workers who arrive at work only to waste their time procrastinating or bored – is prevalent among Australian businesses.

It has been reported that this costs enterprises more in lost productivity each year than absenteeism. While the employees researched didn't display presenteeism because they were stressed, it was blamed on boredom and managing their mood.

Professor Con Stough, Professor of Psychology at the university, said the top five non-work related activities including reading the newspaper, scanning social media, organising post-work activities, getting food and talking about non-work topics.

"More emotional intelligence competent employees may be more likely to use more adaptive coping mechanisms when faced with problems or stressful situations in the workplace, rather than surfing the net or spending a lot of time on Facebook, which could constitute a form of mental distraction or poorer form of coping with work issues," he explained.

This would suggest that businesses with sufficient workflow automation or an emotionally intelligent workforce could be more productive in the long term.

"Employees high in emotional intelligence may cope better with stress, boredom and procrastination, which could lead to higher productivity, reduced turnovers, and non-work related presenteeism," he said.

Businesses could investigate giving staff training in emotional intelligence to help boost productivity and make them more of an asset to the team. During the recruitment process, it would also be a good idea to ask questions about how they cope in different situations.

The university is continuing to look into the relationship between achievement, non-work productivity and productivity.

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