PARIS — Are you bored at work? Do you stare blankly at your screen wondering what to do with the rest of your day? No doubt, you are a victim of "boreout," which describes persistent boredom and disengagement in your work. What causes this listlessness and how can you solve it? Frédéric Méduin, a physician and occupational therapist, offers some insight.
Many situations can lead to boredom at work. The first is an insufficient workload, both in terms of quality and quantity. Overly repetitive tasks can be the source of boreout, even when they are time-consuming.
Company reorganizations or a transfer to a new unit can also give rise to this feeling because not all workers adapt easily to new workplace configurations.
It's also true that people are rarely equal in terms of job efficiency. Even with similar qualifications and experience, no two people are going to achieve the same results in the same amount of time. So it's inevitable that certain people will become bored more quickly.
Boreout is also linked to inadequate social interaction. A job itself may be interesting, but lack of engagement with co-workers or geographic isolation, such as working at home, can be sources of boredom and frustration.
People whose skills and expertise aren't being sufficiently tapped are most at-risk of this toxic office ailment. Hyperactive adults also experience this phenomenon at a disproportionate rate, even though they often are deeply involved with their work. It can happen even when their qualifications and workload are in sync. They often need to compensate for workplace boredom by adding professional side projects or investing themselves more in personal activities.
The great workplace taboo
It's rare for people in workplace environments to openly express their sense of boredom because it's taboo. And variations in the workload over time can make it hard to combat this pernicious feeling. An employee who is bored during a lull may find themselves stressed and tired during a busier cycle.
The situations in which workers might feel more empowered to voice their problems of boredom are typically temporary — during a restructuring, for example, or when a new work unit is created.
One solid strategy to combat the problem is to address the sense of isolation rather than boredom. Instead of complaining about an insufficient workload, someone might express a desire for tasks that are more collaborative.
Taking on additional training and education can also be a solution, with the added benefit of sharpening and growing professional qualifications.
An evolved practice of open performance reviews and check-ups between managers and employees can also resolve boreout. After all, avoiding boredom and disengagement requires a certain quality of management. An effective division of labor can often keep the doldrums at bay in the first place.
Finally, a workplace culture that values individual well-being also makes a big difference.