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Tackling Boreout: What to Do When You Are Bored With Your Job

As we move towards a new world of work, the changing patterns at the workplace are beginning to shed light on a phenomenon called “boreout”. Termed as being chronically bored at work, the concept centres on the lack of meaning in one’s role. We break it down below.

While we understand the causes and impact of burnout at work, the recent dialogue around boreout may lack clarity.

According to Lotta Harju, assistant professor of organisational behaviour at France’s Emlyon Business School, boreout, in essence, refers to “chronic boredom” where feelings of meaninglessness lie at its core.

An employee experiencing boreout is so bored at work that they no longer find any meaning in doing it.

“The experience”, Harju says, “that work doesn’t really have any purpose, that there’s no point” in everyday tasks is the main indicator of boreout.

Is boreout real?

Just as burnout brings about psychological effects on one’s health, being chronically bored at work has an impact.

Boreout doesn’t mean an employee just feels unenthusiastic about their job — it is attached to a larger psychological manifestation.

A recent study in Turkey on 186 bored out government workers revealed they experienced depression, stress and anxiety. The consequences of work-related boredom also spill over to physical ailments, which can include insomnia, frequent headaches and weakened immune systems.

And when boreout strikes, employees leave. A McKinsey report published in September 2021 revealed that 40% of employees across five countries, including Singapore, are planning to resign in three to six months. Around 36% of these individuals are willing to do so without any new job secured.

As such, boreout is, indeed, a real phenomenon that needs to be addressed. But what are the tell-tale signs?

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Signs of boreout

Some common signs are:

  • Avoiding work by doing non-work tasks during office hours
  • Distancing from colleagues and loved ones at home
  • Experiencing fatigue, feelings of worthlessness and irritability

These signs are pretty similar to that of burnout — the onset of anxiety, depression and sadness. Yet, you can differentiate the two by focusing on the cause.

Burnout is often due to overwork, which could even lead to physical exhaustion. Whereas boreout is a result of a strong lack of interest or motivation in the job. This causes an employee to increasingly distance themselves from the job itself.

The causes can be triggered by a combination of factors, which can include:

Recognising the signs of boreout is important to tackle it.

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How do you deal with boreout?

Addressing this phenomenon lets you gain control of your career again.

If you’re figuring out what to do when you increasingly feeling bored at work, try these tips:

1. Talk

An important step in the recovery process is talking about how you feel. By communicating with your direct superior, you allow them to be aware of your situation. They can relook at your tasks and the concerns around them.

Instead of leaving your job, says Pablo Vandenabele, clinical director for mental health at Bupa UK, speaking to your superior to discuss ways you can feel challenged again is a more effective way to reduce boredom at work.

The conversation is your time to reflect on what can inspire you. Hopping into a new role without understanding where your motivations lie would prove counterproductive.

Outside of work, speaking to your GP will let you sieve out “what’s causing you to feel this way, and to identify steps to take to improve how you feel”, advises Vandenabeele.

2. Reorganise your priorities

Sometimes, the best way to find meaning in your job is to understand what its role is. Do your responsibilities play a significant role or do the culture underpin a major part of your job experience?

Understanding your priorities helps you put the focus on what you really want out of your job. You learn what is important to you — communicate this to your manager or look out for it in your next role.

3. Establish a balance between work & life

Sydney-based psychologist Nancy Sokarno suggests seeking stimulation outside of work. This can be anything from buying your breakfast tea from a new cafe to volunteering at a charity organisation.

“There are some small things a person can do to make their day feel different,” she shares. “These small gestures can make for memorable moments in an otherwise boring day.”

At work, you could try something new too. Plan weekly lunches or maybe organise more team activities.

These may seem like a temporary fix, but they can help you reduce day-to-day boredom while bringing some relief to feelings of anxiety. Eventually, you will be better able to make sense of your situation and think of what needs to be done.

Recognising the signs of boreout and finding the steps to overcome it will be important not only for your career but also for your mental health. Reflect and work on yourself!

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