Boreout is the new burnout: here’s how you can cope to keep your job

Can being bored at work become a problem just as big as burnout? Expert weighs in on how to cope with the latest wave of job dissatisfaction

15 May 2024 - 15:12
By Thango Ntwasa
While boreout is not as serious as burnout, it seems to play a role in some employees jumping ship. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/s While boreout is not as serious as burnout, it seems to play a role in some employees jumping ship. Stock photo.

While many of us may be familiar with burnout, which happens due to extreme stress, exhaustion, and overload that can dramatically affect your work, personal life and wellbeing, what has been labelled as boreout is quickly spreading in workplaces. 

Boreout is characterised by low motivation, low challenge, and low interest resulting from having too little to do, too much routine, too little autonomy at work or simply having become too comfortable with the daily work at hand. While it is not as serious as a burnout, boreout also has a significant negative impact on quality of life and career prospects.

“Boreout can lead to reduced productivity, performance, and satisfaction at work, and will most likely affect your happiness, wellbeing, and fulfilment in life, leading to feelings of dissatisfaction, frustration and despondency,” says Advaita Naidoo, Africa MD at Jack Hammer, a leading executive search firm in Africa.

The Africa MD at Jack Hammer, Advaita Naidoo.
Image: Supplied The Africa MD at Jack Hammer, Advaita Naidoo.

“Boreout happens when you are not optimally using your skills, talents and passions at work. Thankfully, recognising that your lack of engagement at work could be a result of you not living up to your full potential, and is not necessarily a result of other, more challenging problems, is the first step to embarking on a new path towards success,” she says.

While boreout can easily be managed, Naidoo says managers and leaders can take an active role in ensuring their teams are more engaged in the workplace. She adds that this time of the year also sees many employees going through performance reviews.

However, these reviews are typically retrospective and focus on performance improvement rather than placing emphasis on the engagement an employee needs. Naidoo warns that it is important to prevent boreout, as employees who experience it are more likely to get bored and work slower, which would see them “make more mistakes, or waste time on irrelevant activities”.

“It can also lead to employee turnover, as disengaged employees tend to feel dissatisfied, unhappy, or unmotivated at work, and may look for other jobs that offer more challenge, variety, or meaning. Additionally, boreout can affect the morale, culture, and reputation of the organisation. So as the year winds down, this is a perfect time for leaders to assist their teams in formulating a positive vision,” Naidoo says.

To overcome boreout, individuals need to identify new challenges, and leaders can assist in this regard, says Naidoo.

“You can do this by seeking new opportunities, learning new skills, or taking on more responsibility, and asking for ongoing and strategic feedback. The first and biggest hurdle for those who recognise themselves as being in a state of boreout, is to get the ball rolling and build up momentum again.

“Recognising what’s going on and getting out of your safe and comfortable, yet frustrating place, by seeking out new opportunities and challenges, is very likely to set you on a new path to success and fulfilment.”