A woman dealing with boreout while working from home

Boreout: how to spot the tell-tale signs and what you can do about it

Posted by for Life

Does your job leave you feeling underworked but exhausted all at once? You could be dealing with boreout – a condition that can be just as insidious as burnout.

Over the last couple of years, more and more people have woken up to the reality of burnout. The syndrome, which results from “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” has been on the rise partly due to the blurring of work/life boundaries many have experienced while working from home during the pandemic.

But what people don’t know is there’s another work-related condition that shares its symptoms with burnout: boreout. The condition, which results from feeling underworked and unchallenged in your job, may not be as well-known as burnout, but it can be just as insidious. 

“It can be easy to spot the symptoms of burnout: you may feel overwhelmed, exhausted or under pressure,” explains Pablo Vandenabeele, clinical director for mental health at Bupa UK. “But these are all tell-tale signs of another work-related condition that can impact your mental health: boreout.”

Vandenabeele continues: “Boreout and burnout are similar in the respect that they have similar symptoms, but the things that sets them apart is the workload that triggers them. Burnout occurs when you feel stressed or overwhelmed at work for long periods of time, whereas you may develop boreout if you don’t feel challenged enough. 

“Experiencing boreout can not only affect your work performance, but impact your mental health, too.”

A woman working from home
Boreout: being bored at work isn't the dream so many people assume it would be.

Although the term ‘boreout’ may not sound serious, the condition itself can take a massive toll on your mental health – in June 2020, a French worker was awarded a £36,000 payout after his lawyers successfully argued that he had suffered from extreme boreout which led to a nervous breakdown.

If you think you’re dealing with boreout, it’s important to remember that recognising the condition is a great first step – and there are things that can be done to help you overcome your boreout in the longterm. With that being said, we asked Vandenabeele to tell us more about the tell-tale signs of boreout, and recommend some ways we can begin to tackle this surprisingly common condition.   

What are the tell-tale signs of boreout?

A woman experiencing boreout
Signs of boreout include feeling anxious, sad or depressed.

As Vandenabeele has already established, the signs of boreout are remarkably similar to those of burnout – it’s just the situation which triggers those symptoms which differs.

“Experiencing boreout can not only affect your work performance but impact your day-to-day life and mental health,” Vandenabeele explains. “Early signs of boreout may include feelings of anxiety, sadness and depression. Boreout can be common in your job; you may find yourself feeling underwhelmed if your workload is repetitive, easy and there’s not much opportunity for social interaction, leaving you feeling disconnected from your work and colleagues.”

He continues: “With many of us working remotely still, it’s really important to understand the signs of boreout to watch out for.”

4 ways to overcome boreout

Talk it out

Two people talking to each other over Zoom
Boreout: talking to a close friend or manager about how you're feeling can help you to feel less alone.

“Whether you’re experiencing boreout in your work or relationships, it’s important to speak about how you’re feeling,” Vandenabeele recommends. 

“Opening up and sharing your thoughts – whether it’s with a close friend or your manager – can help. Ask yourself what’s causing you to feel this way: if it’s your workload, you don’t have to leave your job to improve these feelings. Instead, speak to your manager about what tasks are making you feel bored, and try to identify what kinds of new responsibilities would reduce your boreout.

“If you are struggling with feelings of boreout, speaking to your GP can help. They’ll be able to help you identify what’s causing you to feel this way, and to identify steps to take to improve how you feel.”

Strike a balance

“Over the last couple of years, many of us have adapted to working from home,” Vandenabeele says. 

“Perhaps your workload has relaxed during that time, or you’ve not had much interaction with your colleagues. Whatever the cause of your work boreout, it’s important to maintain a good work/life balance. If you look after yourself well and achieve a good balance, your relationships outside of work may improve and you’ll become a more productive worker.”

He continues: “Set yourself small and achievable goals, such as logging on and off at set times each day. The line between working from home and enjoying your life outside of work has become blurred; if you’re finding the balance difficult, try to work in a separate space away from where you’ll relax after you finish.”

Try something new

A woman doing watercolour painting
Learning a new skill can be a great way to boost your confidence and help you feel better about yourself if boreout is impacting your self-esteem.

“Trying something new – like learning a new skill or joining a fitness class – can help boost your mood and leave you feeling productive and motivated,” Vandenabeele explains. “If boreout has left you feeling anxious or experiencing low self-esteem, volunteering can be a great way to help you feel better about yourself, and it can help others feel good about themselves too.”

Find your motivation

“If you’re experiencing boreout, chances are you won’t feel as motivated to achieve your goals,” Vandenabeele says. “Take some time away to evaluate your goals. Notice how your body responds as you think of each of the goals you’re trying to work on: if your body feels tense, scrap that goal.”

He continues: “Instead, focus on the goals that make you smile and feel relaxed. Write down the individual steps that will be required to achieve this goal and tick them off when you achieve them.

“Don’t fret if you steer off-track, either. If you’re less self-critical and practice self-kindness, you’re more likely to pick yourself up and carry on if you slip up.”

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental health or emotional wellbeing, you can find support and resources on the mental health charity Mind’s website and NHS Every Mind Matters or access the NHS’ guide to local mental health helplines and organisations here.

If you are struggling, you can also ask your GP for a referral to NHS Talking Therapies, or you can self-refer.

You can also call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org for confidential support.

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.

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