The True Value of Boredom – a HR Tale

The True Value of Boredom – a HR Tale

Written by Marta Gaczynska

Marta discovered her passion for People & Talent working in retail in the UK. Since then she has followed her calling to engage and motivate people to achieve great results. Marta is comfortable wearing 17 hats at the same time and will always strive to grow, never shying away from a challenge. Her favourite quote is “Jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down - Ray Bradbury"
Back in the day, I worked in a retail shop full-time and was studying for my MSc in HR part-time. Sufficed to say, I had no life and zero time to be bored. It was intense.

After I finished my course, I would catch myself almost panicking. I would think ‘Hey, you are not being productive, surely you have something to do!’. So, I would find something to stay occupied. To stay busy.

Working in HR in rapidly scaling companies has taught me pace and agility. When there are seven million things to do (definitely not an exaggeration), you need to be able to juggle priorities. Jump from strategy to operations, move from HR to recruitment and back again.

It really is a skill to be able to adapt to persistently changing work and wearing 17 hats in one day. Not everyone is cut out for it.

You see, there is no time for boredom. When you have a spare moment, you jump into yet another arising priority. In my opinion, most HR people have a service-oriented personality. Our satisfaction comes from improving the companies and people’s lives.

According to the literature, our work is ‘emotional labour’. Which, in Arlie Hochschild’s words, means having to

“induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others”.

You suppress your feelings and emotions and, sometimes, you just go full-on ‘orchestra on Titanic’. While sometimes, you just put your brave, neutral, listening hat on although you may be boiling inside. But, as always, there is a cost to this self-regulation, both mental and physical. It also makes it even harder to be bored.

That was my default state. Chasing productivity, outcomes, and results at work and at home until I broke. Do not get me wrong, I always got the results, but I never really stopped. Now I had to stop. I had spare time and I felt out of balance. This is when I discovered the true value of boredom. And I don’t mean scrolling through social media posts or watching Netflix all day. I mean allowing my mind to relax. To wander off. I was able to get in touch with my feelings, emotions and my ‘why’. I was bored for the first time in a long time and I loved it.

There are so many theories about human existence. My favourite is Professor Emmy van Deurzen’s layered ‘Four Worlds Model’:

According to her, we exist in the four worlds and

“problems in life often occur when we get out of balance. When we neglect one of the four worlds because we have become increasingly and exclusively absorbed in another”.

I was out of balance, and I knew I had neglected my inner self and my values. I sought help and started working with a coach.

Harriet Waley-Cohen was everything I aspired to be. She was her true self, honest and powerful in admitting her vulnerabilities. Throughout the sessions I loved her, I hated her and, sometimes, I felt uncomfortable. It was a journey of self-discovery, depicting limiting beliefs, triggers, archetypes, modus operandi, and all that. I felt whole.

It is not surprising that in a world obsessed with productivity, boredom is viewed negatively. Having stuff and looking happy is the norm. We try to be busy or appear busy as if it was a true measure of success. As if chasing our authentic inner self was somehow selfish. We do not let ourselves to just be and feel.

But if there is one thing I have learned in this journey is that there is a value in stopping and thinking. Surrendering yourself to the boredom, increasing your self-awareness. It provides a conscious understanding of what is and what should be. It allows us to redefine our path with a holistic view of our skills, abilities, needs and values.

Focusing on self may not be comfortable, at first. We are taught to think about others first. However, with a bit of boredom, we can all enhance our dimensions of existence and feel whole.

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