Boreout Is the Workplace Syndrome That Can Be Just as Damaging as Burnout


The concept of burnout is woven into the cultural zeitgeist. The notion that feeling overworked, exhausted, and stressed with little downtime can lead to anxiety, sleep problems, and mental health impacts has been widely discussed. But have you heard of burnout's lesser-known companion? Extreme daily boredom, or boreout, is the result of continuously working in an environment that is underwhelming, unchallenging, and unrewarding, and experts say it is just as damaging to our mental health as burnout.

This syndrome is the result of chronic boredom, an emotional state that leads to sufferers experiencing "mental numbness", an inability to focus, and feelings of worthlessness. And it seems to be on the rise. As the country was put into lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic, many employees were forced to work from home. According to data from the Opinions and Lifestyle survey, it is estimated that around 40 percent of people were still working from home in 2023.

Yet, a huge 85 percent of employees currently working from home want a "hybrid" approach of both home and office working in the future, according to The Home Office Life statistics. The growing train of thought is that working remotely offers little social stimulation with less pressure to perform "in person", contributing to a sweeping feeling of burnout.

And it's not just another media buzzword. Back in June 2020, a French perfume designer was awarded a £36,000 payout after lawyers successfully fought for his case that he had suffered extreme boreout at work, leading to a nervous breakdown. According to the Daily Mail, the worker explained how he was given mind-numbing tasks for four years after the firm lost a big client, and described it as a "slow descent into hell".

So how do you know if you are suffering from burnout? What are the symptoms? And how can you break the cycle? Read on as experts to reveal how to recognize burnout and what to do about it.

What Is Boreout?

Unlike boredom, which is a temporary state of feeling understimulated, boredom is the result of being subjected to an understimulating environment both mentally and socially for a long period.

"Lots of different factors can lead to chronic boredom. Working from home with little or no social interaction is a big one as workers not only miss out on face-to-face stimulation, they also lack things like praise for their work, nerves from having to speak in meetings, and excitement from the buzz of a competitive office environment," Andrea Trethewey, life coach and head of mindset change at RWL, tells POPSUGAR.

"Feeling under-challenged is another. For example, if the work is uninteresting or too easy, or even if there isn't enough work to do to fill the hours a person is expected to work, is another. And simply being led to believe that their contribution to the workplace is pointless and they are of no value. As a result, sufferers are left feeling like their working lives are meaningless."

You may have even found yourself unintentionally quitting. The TikTok-favoured phrase involves coasting through work without asking for extra responsibilities. While this is often an informed decision as an antidote to burnout and to set better boundaries, you might find yourself quite quitting due to a lack of motivation, passion, and apathy.

Studies into boreout have found that chronic boredom in employees significantly increases the likelihood of stress symptoms. A 2020 study published in the Business & Management Studies: An International Journey, also found that those who suffer from burnout became depressed and suffered from anxiety both in and out of the workplace. Physical health also took a hit with high blood pressure, insomnia, and headaches all common in those chronically bored at work.

Boreout vs. Burnout

They sound similar, they are both the result of a negative work-life balance, but what is the difference between boreout and burnout? Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, says: "A lot of the symptoms are the same but the causes are complete opposites. First of all, it's usually easier to identify the symptoms of burnout. Sufferers feel overwhelmed, mentally exhausted, and like they are running on adrenaline as they attempt to work under high pressure to meet impossible workloads."

However, boreout can be harder to identify. "We are not familiar with associating doing nothing with negativity," Dr Touroni adds. "We are so used to thinking that doing nothing is a luxury, a rest, but in reality, we are not designed to sit and do nothing for long periods of time. Humans thrive on feeling valued and, in fact, having a purpose in life is what helps most people achieve happiness. Without this, people experience sadness and stress. Where burnout is overwhelmed, overstimulation, and overload, burnout is underwhelmed, under stimulation, and complete lack of motivation."

How to Know If You're Suffering From Boreout?

Does all the above sound a little too familiar? "The best way to tell if chronic boredom is impacting you is to look at your health," says Trethewey. "Are you struggling to sleep? Have you noticed your mood changing outside of work? Are you unable to motivate yourself to do even basic things like get dressed in the morning? Make yourself something to eat? Or leave the house?"

Feeling unmotivated is dangerous because it impacts our lives 24/7 and very quickly takes its toll on our health and our personality. "Check in with yourself and notice if you have become a recluse who has lost interest, not just in their work, but their life too," Tretheway adds.

Persistent feelings of boredom, dissatisfaction, disinterest, and lack of engagement in your work are all tell-tale signs. Other feelings that you might carry with you outside of work include general frustration, being easily agitated, feeling stuck in a neverending rut, lethargy, low mood, anxiety, and depression.

How to Overcome Boreout?

Talk About How You're Feeling

"Whether you are experiencing boreout in your work or personal life, you must talk about how you are feeling with those who can make changes to help you," Trethewey advises. Share your feelings with your manager or coworker and voice that you want to and are willing to do more.

While your manager should already be doing their job and making sure you feel fulfilled and are being worked to your potential, it could be that they have no idea how bad things have become for you. Tell them you are looking for new projects or a bigger workload and something as simple as this can help you break out of the cycle of boredom.

Change Your Environment

"If possible, change your physical work environment. If you work from home, choosing a location that requires you to leave the house can be enough to snap you out of a chronic boredom cycle by exposing you to natural light, other people, and things that interest you," Dr Touroni says.

Working from a different location, like a cafe, a co-working space, or even a different room in your house can actually help improve concentration because your mind is more active and therefore less likely to become idle. "Being around others, even if you don't speak to them, can also make you feel happier and more sociable, helping lift feelings of worthlessness."

Switch Up Your Daily Routine

"Humans love routine as it makes us feel safe, but getting stuck in a monotonous routine that leaves you on auto-pilot can numb the mind," Tretheway says. "Try to introduce different things each day. For example, go for a walk on Monday before work, go out and get a takeaway coffee on a Tuesday, or do a pub quiz on a Thursday night. This will help each day have a little purpose outside of work."

Invest in Self-Care

"You might not feel it, but you are in a state of extreme stress. To bring down your cortisol (the stress hormone) and give yourself some dopamine (the happy hormone) you need to introduce some self-care activities," Dr Touroni advises. "Enjoy a long soak in the bath, curl up on the sofa with your favorite film, go for a long walk, or even spend time baking a cake. These things can help reset your emotions and give you a bit of independence back."

Set Your Own Goals

"Sit down and write down every goal that you can think of, even if it feels too big or even silly at the moment. Once they are all there written in front of you, take a moment to realize that you do have drive, and you can get excited by ideas. Use these to think about jobs you can apply for or areas of your current job you can move into," Tretheway says.

And, above all, if you feel like you can't cope and it is having an impact on your mental and physical health, speak to your GP. Alternatively, seek out career counselors and life coaches for some practical advice.

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