20 April 2021: There is now a ‘Boredom Button’ that can save you from endless work video calls by faking the sounds of a delivery or a barking dog, and even sends someone to your door to create a distraction.
The brand-new device has been created and trialled by neighbourhood operator Get Living, which rents homes to thousands of residents across London and Manchester, and has already been tested by volunteers.
The 20cm button boasts a variety of different sounds so that those working from home can create their preferred ‘get-out-of-work’ excuse. During a resident trial earlier this month, the button was also used to page a member of the on-site Get Living team to create a more convincing in-person distraction, such as a special delivery, a surprise outdoor personal training session, a dog petting experience or even sending someone to ‘check the meter’.
The technology was developed following a nationwide poll of people working from home as a result of the pandemic, which for many is expected to continue until 21 June 2021. The survey found that 42% feel they have too many video calls, with more than half (51%) of people admitting to creating a distraction to get out of a video meeting. Excuses such as ‘the internet’s not working’ and ‘my laptop battery has died’ are the most popular.
According to the poll, the average WFH professional experiences a lull in their productivity at precisely 1.27pm, which is when Get Living is expecting to see the biggest use of its clever boredom button amongst those trialling it.
Although over half (56%) say their employer is doing their best to support a healthy work-life balance, 53% claimed they’d felt overwhelmed at least once a week, with those aged under 24 and those living in London the worst affected. The main gripe around working from home for almost half (47%) surveyed was struggling to ‘switch off’ after work and 44% claiming there’s too little separation between their work and home lives.
However, it was clear that working from home has brought with it many positive features, with 70% of people preferring it overall to going into the office.
Ian Gibbs, Director of Neighbourhoods at Get Living, said: “Many of us are seeing huge benefits when it comes to working from home. Those surveyed said they’re able to take more exercise, while many feel they can ‘escape’ from their screen in a way they couldn’t in a traditional work environment by taking a walk in their neighbourhood and spending more time with family, friends and their pets.
“In fact, despite the pressures of working from home, a majority of 70% prefer it to being in the office, and we’ve helped a massive 75% of those who have a spare room in our neighbourhoods to convert it into a home office. Creating the button was our playful way of giving people a reason to take a five-minute break from their screens to help them find more balance in the working day.”
The button trial is the latest initiative introduced by Get Living to make working from home more enjoyable. In addition, Get Living has updated its virtual assistant, EVIE to offer work from home advice and signpost to local Mind services for those in need of extra support as well as entering them into a prize draw to win an annual subscription to Calm, to help with unwinding after the working day.
The neighbourhood operator also runs a series of virtual events and covid-safe experiences to support residents, including giveaways whereby residents can collect freshly prepared treats and meals from local cafes and restaurants provided for free by Get Living.
Alastair Smith-Agbaje, Chief Executive of Lambeth and Southwark Mind, said: “The results of this survey are clear: we need to be more forgiving of ourselves in what is an incredibly tough situation for everyone. Some 69% of people report feeling overwhelmed at work, so there’s no need to feel alone.
“While the button might seem silly, it’s an important reminder that we all need to make time and space to concentrate on ourselves, and how vital it is that we look after our own wellbeing and mental health.”
Lambeth and Southwark Mind will be launching a programme to support employers and employees who are challenged with similar experiences – Mental Health First Aid at work – from April 2021. Please refer to Mind’s website for further information.
The button has already been trialled by residents, including Antony Hewitt who lives at Get Living’s Elephant Central in Elephant and Castle.
Antony, 32, said: “I’m definitely not used to being home this much as I’m usually performing on stage, so lockdown has been a big adjustment for me as I get used to more of a desk-job life. Having the button to hand was a really good reminder for me to not get sucked into a whole day sat at the laptop. I was delivered a box of doughnuts, a ‘self-care’ package and had 15 minutes getting active with a PT outside. Without that, I would have likely stayed at my desk all day and not had the space to step away from the screen.”
Another Get Living resident in the trial, Sophie Hinton, 25, who lives at New Maker Yards in Salford, said: “It was so fun to take part in this trial and the various distractions really helped break up the day and the monotony of working at home on my own! I was particularly excited by the hula hoop which was a fun way to get away from my desk and feel like I’m at least getting a little bit active. It’s so easy to end up sat down in the same position all day so having the button helped remind me to get some time away from the desk.”
*Censuswide surveyed 2,000 UK adults in March 2021.