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Bored at work?

Recent reports underscore the grave reality of widespread employee disengagement. And the threat is closer than it seems

Devina Joshi 

around the world are struggling with the phenomenon of Worldwide, actively disengaged workers continue to outnumber engaged ones at a rate of nearly 2-to-1 (source: 'The State of the Global Workplace', a 142-country study by Gallup).

Further, a 'Global Privacy Crisis at the Workplaces' report launched by Steelcase in collaboration with Ipsos and Gallup shows that 69 per cent of people working around the globe are not fully engaged and are most dissatisfied with their work environment, while 31 per cent employees are the most satisfied with their work environment. A mere 11 per cent say their workplace allows them to concentrate easily/work in teams without being interrupted. The issue is compounded by the fact that 85 per cent of workers are dissatisfied and can't concentrate easily in the office, and another 31 per cent of them need to go outside of their office to get work done.

What has caused this widespread disengagement? Perhaps it can be pinned to the fact that we are dealing with more information than ever before, and it is coming to us faster too. Our thinking is interrupted, on an average, every three minutes. Even brief interruptions of just a few seconds cause us to make twice as many mistakes, and once our focused work is interrupted, it can take up to 23 minutes to get back into flow - the state of being deeply absorbed in our work. Multitasking doesn't help solve the problem; rather, it reduces our cognitive capability to the same degree as losing a night's sleep.

It is interesting to note that the reasons people seek privacy at their workplace vary from market to market. People in Western countries seek privacy at work most often to manage distractions, whereas in China the primary motivation is to keep information and one's self outside of others' sight. But India is relatively better off compared to some of its global counterparts. Dale Carnegie Training's flagship 'Employee Engagement in India 2014' report (respondent base: 1,200 executives) shows that 46 per cent of Indian employees are fully engaged than their global counterparts when compared to the global average. Overall, 9 per cent of Indian employees are dissatisfied with their jobs, compared to a higher percentage for Asia Pacific and global employees.

It is noteworthy that employee engagement varies vastly from industry to industry - healthcare scored well with 50 per cent of employees from that sector being fully engaged while the corresponding figure for those in the accommodation and food service industry was just 29 per cent.

Disengagement also varies by size: large companies in India with more than 100,000 employees tend to have the lowest amount of disengaged employees (5 per cent) while 14 per cent of employees in smaller companies (500-1000 employees) are actively disengaged. Engagement levels were seen to steadily increase with longer tenure with a solid 76 per cent of those working for 20-25 years at the same organisation being 'highly engaged'. A closer look at the employee-supervisor relationship highlights 13 per cent of Indian employees reported major dissatisfaction with their immediate supervisor while another 45 per cent were neutral.

With more than half the respondents (55 per cent) as managers and with 8 per cent of them disengaged, there is a need for companies to ensure this group doesn't sink from partial engagement to complete disengagement. For companies striving to build a high performing culture, there is an urgent need to invest in this employee segment by developing specific engagement initiatives.

To track problems related to employee stress and boredom, the Dale Carnegie report advises companies to redesign mundane tasks and employ learning and performance tools to drive engagement. Targeted interventions, which assess the need gaps and then design programmes around that specific engagement requirement (be it leadership, teamwork or communication), tend to have far greater impact than non-customised solutions. And it goes without saying that developing open communication and feedback mechanisms are crucial to improve the employee health of an organisation.

First Published: Mon, January 12 2015. 00:08 IST