If excessive stress results in burnout, what happens when people are under-challenged? More and more often, the media are talking about the bore-out syndrome, a state of being bored. This downside of burnout causes high internal stress for those affected and can make them physically and mentally ill. The consequences include a lack of drive and physical complaints. Of course, a certain amount of challenge is essential for the human psyche. Still, in many jobs, such as assembly line work or other monotonous activities, employees often feel chronically under-challenged. Why bore-out is becoming more and more of a problem and what you can do to combat dangerous boredom on the job can be read in today's article from zweikern.
When boredom makes you sick
The term became popular through the book "Diagnose Bore out" by Werder and Rothlin, published in 2007. The symptoms mainly include sadness, listlessness, depression, back pain, headaches, tinnitus, sleep disorders, and gastrointestinal problems. Thus, they are very similar to burnout symptoms, but the causes are at opposite ends of the same spectrum. The development of bore-out is primarily promoted by a lack of variety in work and a feeling of meaninglessness in combination with little exchange and feedback. Those affected often feel unappreciated by chairpersons and are professionally under-challenged. Boredom is also often suppressed and concealed from others since boredom is often associated with laziness in our meritocracy.
People who also experience little meaning in their private lives are particularly at risk of bore-out. Combined with fear of change and shame about the productivity they experience as unsatisfactory, many of those affected suffer in silence. That creates a vicious cycle: nothing is done about the boredom, which creates a feeling of powerlessness and depressive moods, which further depress the motivation to change. According to psychologist Elisabeth Prammer, it therefore takes both a combination of disinterest, boredom, and underachievement and an effort to hide them to be affected by bore-out. The result is dissatisfied employees who quit internally and withdraw more and more from the company. The employees' true potential is often overlooked, which causes additional financial and personnel damage to the company.
Remedy for bore-out
Companies can create basic conditions that enable employees to develop further. Be it through further training, job changes within the company, or acquiring new skills - bore-out only happens where there is a standstill. Recognizing and valuing employees' achievements increases satisfaction and commitment. Supervisors should set realistic goals and integrate feedback loops. People suffering from bore-out themselves can also become proactive. Sufferers often find it difficult to break free from the frustrating state of being under-challenged. Just knowing that under-demand can make you just as sick as over-demand can provide relief. The task now is to find a way out of boredom gradually.
As a first step, it should be recorded what exactly the current state looks like. What activities are performed when, what the working atmosphere is like, and whether support from the company is perceived can be recorded in a kind of diary. In this way, it is possible to identify exactly what the problem points are. Once this has been done, the perceived grievances should also be communicated. In discussions with superiors, it can be clearly stated that new challenges would be gladly tackled. Companies are often happy to have proactive and creative minds that initiate change on their initiative. If there are specific qualifications that the company does not perceive or activities that particularly interest you, these should definitely be addressed.
The dose makes the poison
If work becomes more exciting, but leisure time and private life are still not very meaningful, the way out of the bore-out can be arduous. Numerous hobbies can provide physical, mental, or emotional compensation. In addition, if the social component falls by the wayside, sports classes, book clubs or more frequent contact with friends could be stimulating. A fulfilling work-life balance looks different for everyone, so there are no general guidelines here. Monotonous activity at work can be found satisfying if the remaining hours of the day provide balance. Likewise, strenuous work can be balanced by a restful, quiet evening at work. Meaning, time and money should be in a relationship that is personally felt to be enriching.
If all else fails, a change of employer may be a solution. However, if the destructive thought processes behind the bore-out are not improved in parallel, the situation in the new company could quickly resemble that in the old one. In addition, due to a lack of motivation and energy, those affected usually find it difficult to initiate changes without outside help. Classical psychotherapy, as well as counseling and coaching, can assist here. Psychological symptoms such as depressive disorders are not taken lightly and can have severe consequences if they are not treated. A combination of meaningful activities, more variety in the job, and more positive thought processes offer a safe way out of the bore-out.
Conclusion on bore-out
Just like too high a load, too low a demand can also cause stress and suffering. In working life, therefore, care should be taken to ensure that employees' individual stress limits are respected. Bore-out is characterized by symptoms such as depressive moods, disinterest, and physical complaints. Various approaches can provide relief, but first and foremost there must always be an understanding of the problem. Companies can also help to reduce bore-out by offering appreciation, feedback and further training. Even though this syndrome is not yet an established scientific disease, it can still cause considerable suffering for those affected.
I would rather die of passion than boredom.
by Vincent van Gogh