Being bored at work linked to creativity - study

Being bored at work could have positive results. Photo / Thinkstock
Being bored at work could have positive results. Photo / Thinkstock

Being bored at work could have positive results, including an increase in creativity as it gives us time to daydream, according to a new study.

The findings of the study, by Dr Sandi Mann and Rebekah Cadman, have been presented at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society Division of Occupational Psychology.

Dr Mann, from the University of Central Lancashire, and student Rebekah conducted two studies. In the first, 40 people were asked to carry out the boring task of copying numbers out of a telephone directory for 15 minutes. They were asked to come up with different uses for a pair of polystyrene cups, a task which gave them a chance to display their creativity.

Those who had copied out the telephone numbers were more creative than a control group of 40 who had just been asked to come up with uses for the cups.

To see if daydreaming was a factor in this effect, the researchers conducted a second experiment. It involved an even more boring task than the first, with 30 participants reading rather than writing numbers from the telephone book.

The researchers found the control group were again the least creative, but the people who had just read the names were more creative than those who had to write them out.

Dr Mann said this suggested more passive, boring activities, like reading or attending meetings, can lead to more creativity - while writing, by reducing the scope for daydreaming, reduces the creativity-enhancing effects of boredom.

"Boredom at work has always been seen as something to be eliminated, but perhaps we should be embracing it in order to enhance our creativity," Dr Mann said.

"What we want to do next is to see what the practical implications of this finding are. Do people who are bored at work become more creative in other areas of their work - or do they go home and write novels?"


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