From the Burned-Out Worker to the “Bored” Worker

7 de January de 2022
4 min

From the Burned-Out Worker to the “Bored” Worker

Have you ever heard the term boreout?

Have you ever felt bad because what you were doing didn’t interest or stimulate you in the slightest?

From burnout to boreout

As you probably know, burnout is a syndrome characterized by physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion resulting from work.

It’s one of the 12 work-related syndromes and a cause of work leave in recent years.

But today, we’re not going to talk about burnout. Today we’re going to talk about a syndrome that might be on the other extreme: boreout.

Boreout is defined as “a syndrome encompassing a series of symptoms that result in extreme boredom, underactivation, and a feeling of being ‘switched off.’ That is, being at a level of activation below what we should be. And also, feeling emotionally ‘disconnected’ or ’empty.’ Just like burnout, this syndrome is associated with the work context, so it must be related to work and its characteristics.

Causes of Boreout

Just like in burnout, in boreout we talk about causes external to the worker. That is, causes that come from the work context, type of task, or any other trigger that is not the person themselves. Only if it is the worker who is unmotivated and passive, could it be said that it is not solely the result of something external to them.

Some of the reasons a worker may develop boreout are the following:

  • Constantly monotonous tasks: such as copying data from one Excel sheet to another for several hours, every day.
  • Tasks whose level of training or skills is much lower than that of the worker: imagine you are a teacher but you can only correct spelling mistakes all day, every day, for a long time.
  • Lack of stimulation from the company: if there is no feedback, we don’t know where our work goes once we finish it, or we don’t receive a response from superiors, we can feel detached from the task.
  • No clear distribution of tasks and roles: when we are not clear on what we have to do or feel that our specialty or knowledge doesn’t matter.

The Why of Purpose

When all these circumstances (or some of them) occur, it’s very easy for the worker to enter a phase of underdemanding. That is, they don’t feel motivated, what they have to do doesn’t seem useful, and therefore, they adopt a passive attitude. This further increases the feeling of “extreme boredom” and further detaches them from their role.

That’s why purpose is so important. When we talk about purpose, we need to consider several aspects:

Knowing why you do what you do: what’s the meaning of the tasks you perform.

Understanding the journey or path of the service or product once you’ve done your part.

Feeling that you’re part of a team, something bigger than an individual working alone.

Seeing that you have a future in the organization, not just doing what you’re doing now but that you have the option to move forward.

Seeing that you can improve and grow professionally, that you won’t stay in the same place, doing the same thing, under the same conditions for 20 years.

How to Prevent Boreout

There are certain tricks to prevent the boreout syndrome. Here are some of them:

  • Offer positive reinforcements and feedback on the work done. This encourages us to see “sense” in what we do, and therefore, it has a purpose.
  • Try not to overload a worker or group with the same monotonous tasks always, as it tends to be the main cause of boreout.
  • Promote teamwork, as it improves cohesion and facilitates intrinsic motivation towards a task.
  • Offer training to workers.

Let’s remember that offering an emotionally safe work context is necessary. And not just to keep workers more or less happy, but for a matter of mental health.

The causes of many of these syndromes are classified as psychosocial stressors, so a prevention plan in the company is necessary to mitigate them.