We would like to thank Philippe Bouhours, a psychiatrist specialising in behavioural and cognitive therapies, for his help in writing this article.
In recent years, the world of work has seen the emergence of numerous psychological disorders and psychiatric pathologies. Working conditions are widely cited as the reason for their appearance. Recent studies have put a name to these new ills in the workplace: burn out or bore out.
What is boredom?
“I’m bored to death”; who hasn’t uttered this phrase at least once in their company? Suffering from boredom at work may seem surprising, but many people have experienced it.
Definition of bore-out
Bore out is still little known in France and is also known as the syndrome of professional exhaustion due to boredom. It is a psychological disorder linked to the world of work. It is a state of deep boredom and suffering created by the under-use of intellectual capacities. Dr. François Baumann defined bore out in his book on the subject:
Boredom means being at the end of your rope, due to a lack of work, motivation, or professional challenges.
The management and communication experts Rothlin and Werber estimated in 2007 that this syndrome affects three times as many employees as burnout in companies. This form of exhaustion can lead to serious mental and psychological disorders in employees.
Is boredom an occupational disease?
Bore out has no medical definition and is not recognised as an occupational disease. Like burnout, it does not appear in the INRS table of occupational diseases.
Recently, “lack of activity and boredom” at work was recognised by the French courts as a form of moral harassment. This is a first that could set a precedent. To be continued.
Difference between burn-out and bore-out
It is interesting to note that these two pathologies are both burnout syndromes. They have stress as a common factor. The accumulation of stress has negative consequences for the health of employees.
An employee suffering from bore out may present symptoms similar to those of burn-out. Indeed, this syndrome affects all biopsychosocial dimensions. It affects the physical, emotional, motivational, and social dimensions of the individual. Bore out can therefore be presented to the clinician as a form of burn-out. The distinction between these two pathologies is made possible by analysing the conditions of their appearance.
Bore out is in some ways the opposite of burn-out. In fact, we are talking about boredom at work, generally caused by an underload of work. Burn-out, on the other hand, is caused by an overload of work. On the one hand, the employee is not stimulated and no longer cares about his or her work once the office door is closed. On the other hand, the employee is over-stimulated and gives priority to his work at the expense of his personal life.
The symptoms and repercussions of bore-out
The bore-out syndrome is a long-term condition. It is unlikely that you will suffer from this pathology if the boredom you feel at work is a one-off and marks a temporary drop-in activity. Like burnout, boredom is not based on a single symptom but on the convergence of several physical, emotional and intellectual warning signals.
Stress at work can have negative consequences on health and lead to psychological and physical exhaustion. The most common symptoms are:
Emotional and behavioural symptoms
Professional inactivity generates anxiety in employees and presents risks of emotional suffering at work. There are several warning signs:
- Intellectual and cognitive symptoms
Boredom leads to a significant loss of motivation among employees. A feeling of shame may emerge as well as deep questioning. These symptoms can take the following forms:
- Concentration problems
- Professional questioning
The non-use of employees’ intellectual capacities creates suffering at work and generates numerous symptoms related to stress. This syndrome is favoured by professional situations and can affect different employee profiles.
Who is affected by bore-out?
Like all other mental illnesses, bore-out affects all employees in a company. However, some workers are more exposed than others to this illness. 3 profiles stand out.
- Employees who have been “put on the back burner” are the most affected by boredom. They find themselves unassigned and isolated from the rest of the team. According to psychologist Lionel Leroi-Cagniart, being sidelined is a form of moral harassment at work. The boredom syndrome at work is the consequence of pathogenic management that seeks to eliminate employees.
- Employees who are overqualified for their position are among those most affected by this pathology. Working in a job that does not match one’s skills is devaluing. It promotes frustration, loss of self-esteem, boredom and can lead to depression.
- Young graduates are the third most affected by this syndrome of boredom at work. Indeed, there is a gap between their expectations and the reality on the ground. Most of them have higher expectations than the company can offer them. This gap can lead to boredom and psychological disorders.
Prevention of bore-out
Boredom is a natural part of any activity. However, when this boredom is permanent, it can have serious consequences on the health of employees. It is necessary to put in place preventive solutions within companies to fight against this pathology. Collaboration between occupational medicine and company management must be institutionalised as part of an approach to preventing work-related mental illness.
Managing bore-out as an employee
If you are confronted with prolonged boredom within your company, you should talk about it with your manager, the Human Resources department, or the occupational health department. It is essential to establish this dialogue so that the company can find appropriate solutions. If despite the establishment of dialogue, the working conditions do not change, retraining or a change of company may be a solution.
Managing a case of bore-out in your team
When faced with a case of bore-out within one’s team and when this situation is unwanted, one must first of all question oneself and one’s managerial methods. Secondly, you must identify the causes that led the employee into a situation of boredom burnout before adopting a new management strategy. Favour a human approach by proposing an individual support plan and federating the team around common values and objectives. Do not hesitate to delegate your missions to develop their skills and value their work.
Preventing bore-out at the company level
The best way to prevent boredom syndrome at work is to establish a benevolent corporate culture based on feedback and listening to employees. Putting people back at the heart of the company’s strategy is a necessity. The quality of life at work (QWL) makes it possible to create an environment and working conditions that are conducive to employee satisfaction and fulfillment. The company must also develop the skills of its employees through continuous training. Finally, managers must be trained in PSRs to better understand the risks to employees’ health.
Bore-out is a syndrome of professional exhaustion through boredom. Employees affected by this syndrome are confronted with real suffering at work which can damage their health. This pathology is mainly due to a pathogenic form of management. Companies must give meaning to their employees’ work by favouring personalised support plans. Finally, they must also regularly develop their employees to help them evolve.