Why bother going to work? That's the question I repeatedly asked myself after reading the results of three separate studies about work: one that concludes being bored at work is a good thing, another that suggests meetings can actually lower a person's IQ and still another that finds gossiping among work teams is positive.

The first study, conducted by a psychology professor in the U.K., concludes that completing boring tasks at work helps us become better problem-solvers, because our brains use daydreaming time to think creatively.

In the second study, after administering IQ tests to groups of college students, a researcher from Virginia Tech found that the students' scores on the tests dropped when they were told how they compared to their peers when they answered the questions - even though a baseline IQ test showed the students were of similar and relatively high intelligence. The researcher connected the results to the workplace, in that if a co-worker says or does something in a meeting that makes her seem smarter than you, your brain function can decrease.

Thirdly, a Ph.D. from the Netherlands suggests that gossiping among co-workers may boost work output. Since no one wants to be whispered about as the team slacker, team members therefore will work harder to avoid being known around the water cooler as the weak link.

If being in meetings lowers my brain function, and the only good things being in the office has to offer are being bored and/or talking behind my teammates' backs, what in the holy heck is the point? Can I just stay home?

I was a pretty Gloomy Gabby about going to the office - that is, until I met Carrie Brandes, director of people and culture at The Online 401(k) in San Francisco. I interviewed her for this month's Communication & Engagement section ("You get what you give," page 18) about what it really takes to keep its employees engaged, happy and focused.

The Online 401(k) is a retirement plan provider that works almost exclusively with small businesses across the country, so they know a thing or two about the value of employee benefits.

The firm encourages frequent RAWKs: Random Acts of Workplace Kindness. For example, someone brought in ice cream and sundae toppings to share with the entire office. The company also recently held what it called a "Zen RAWK," complete with zen music, healthy snacks, Numi organic tea and even a masseuse for all employees to enjoy.

In our chat, Brandes said RAWKs - along with a commitment to four "pillars of happiness" - make for a rousing and engaging culture at The Online 401(k), and I'm betting it's a place people are fired up to get to in the morning, despite the occasional boredom and gossip.

Next time I'm feeling down about heading in to the office, I may decide to RAWK my way out of my bad mood. What about you: Do you/would you RAWK out at work? If so, how?

Send letters, queries and story ideas to Editor-in-Chief Kelley M. Butler at kelley.butler@sourcemedia.com.

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