Boreout at Work – What Does It Represent and How Can We Prevent It?
In the more recent years, workers have become more aware of the importance of mental health in their work. Therefore, job satisfaction is a crucial element for employee well-being. However, the opposite of this notion has been felt in the labor market very often. For example, burnout is one of the most common health and safety issues at work because it affects both people and the organization itself. On the other hand, nowadays most employees know how to identify the occurrence of a burnout episode, but few people recognize the notion of boreout at work.
What boreout at work is?
To begin with, having various tasks that are not very complicated and consequently, not doing too many things at work is an ideal situation. On the other hand, things are different in reality. Being forced to follow a work schedule without a clear purpose can lead to demoralization. Moreover, HR experts point out that the boreout syndrome can trigger the so-called “presenteeism“, i.e. the act of employees who continue to work as a simple performance measure, despite low levels of productivity or negative consequences.
Identified by Philippe Rothlin and Peter R. Werder in 2007, the syndrome is the opposite of work-related exhaustion, being in fact characterized by “chronic boredom.” Basically, burnout and boreout are two sides of the same coin, which can negatively affect the health of employees.
For example, according to a study conducted by Udemy, approximately 43% of employees who perform “office work” in the US are bored at work. At the same time, the same study highlights the fact that boreout affects women more than men (48% -39%), and millennials are twice as likely to experience the boreout at work compared to baby boomers.
How does this syndrome manifest?
According to the same authors, the boreout syndrome is characterized by the following three behaviors:
- Heavy and repetitive, monotonous tasks. Fulfilling professional tasks without a certain purpose generates the feeling of being overlooked, i.e. the feeling that you can offer more within the company, an opportunity that is denied to you,
- Boredom, defined as a state of reluctance, apathy and doubt, because the employee does not know what to do with his spare time during the working day,
- Disinterest, due to lack of identification with the work done.
Also in the book “The New Boreout Work Syndrome” published in 2009, Philippe Rothlin and Peter R. Werder discuss the causes of boreout syndrome, including:
- The employee is overqualified for the job
- The employee carries out an activity that does not meet his expectations
- Lack of planning or superficial definition of corporate position, leading to role ambiguity
- Assign interesting tasks to superiors or colleagues with more experience, leaving repetitive tasks to other employees
- The organizational structure that prevents workers from participating or developing their potential within the company
- No pay rise and lack of stimulation or recognition from superiors, work effort not being associated with the results achieved
How can organizations limit the emergence of boreout among employees?
Boreout syndrome results from a lack of care and attention towards the well-being of employees, with significant consequences for the company’s development. Even if there is no “recipe for success”, employers can consider the recommendations below.
Mix work tasks
To prevent the development of boredom with professional tasks, choose to distribute them throughout the entire team. For instance, employees could work in shifts to ensure a steady stream of new projects.
Promotes work-life balance
It’s vital that you lay the groundwork for a workplace that is balanced between professional and private activities, both for the mental health of your team and for your well-being. In order to encourage this you can use a few simple ways to put it into practice:
- Make sure employees do not work longer than necessary
- Sets out clear but also motivating tasks
- Respects the “right to disconnect“
Adopt a flexible work schedule
If you notice that your team is tired and or lacking in motivation, talk to them to find a flexible solution that works for all.
Meetings have a role to play
Many organizations have easily adapted to the remote or hybrid working model in the last two years. Even if you do not meet face to face, maintaining regular contact with employees can have a positive effect on their well-being. Therefore, it’s more than essential to organize regular check-in meetings with each team member.
Listen to your employees
Not paying attention to the needs of your employees can affect the company productivity. To avoid this, it’s recommended that you ask for feedback to find out exactly how employees perceive their work and possibly what you can do to stimulate their motivation and professional development.