"Bored to death", "killing time"... It can happen to be bored at work but when it becomes chronic, bore-out can occur and cause great suffering to the individual who is the victim.

Although less publicized than burn-out, the consequences of prolonged absence from work are just as deleterious. When there is an imbalance between the time spent at work, intellectual stimulation and the feeling of usefulness, the emotional, cognitive and behavioral spheres of the individual are damaged.

Interview with Claire Petin, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist in Paris

Bore-out: symptoms, definition and solutions

Bore-out

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1. What is the role of a clinical psychologist?

"Clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, I receive adult patients in my office for individual or couple consultations, on a one-time or regular basis. I intervene on issues related to personal or professional life difficulties. Through my practice, my encounters and my personal and professional experiences (I worked in marketing and communication), I naturally turned to work-related issues.

With speech as a tool and the analysis of what is communicated during the session as a method, it is a matter of spotting signs and bringing out certain unconscious dynamics at work that keep the patient in a state of psychological suffering and accompanying him/her in the understanding of his/her symptoms.

I always say it's not about making the patient change, but about allowing the patient to tame themselves."

From the English"to bore": to bore, the "-out" was added by analogy toto burn-out.

2. Bore-out, what is it?

"Bore-out" or "boredom burnout syndrome" is the final phase of the stress process related to chronic boredom at work.

From the English "to bore", the -out was added by analogy to burn-out. This syndrome was conceptualized in 2007 by two Swiss management consultants, Peter Werder and Philippe Rothlin.

To date, bore-out is not recognized as an illness. That being said, from a regulatory perspective, it is recognized that "If boredom at work results from deliberate "putting down", constituting moral harassment, the specific regulations regarding the prohibition and prevention of such hostile conduct apply (Articles L. 1152-1 et seq. of the Labor Code)."

The same burnout syndrome,
but different causes

Burn-out = overworked
Bore-out = underworked

3. Burn-out and bore-out: what is the difference?

"If the two syndromes present a similar symptomatology, their causes differ. Burn-out is a syndrome of professional exhaustion by an overload of work. Bore-out is a syndrome of burnout by underwork."

Signs
  • Boredom, lassitude
  • Anxiety

4. Bore-out: the symptoms

"Because of this wear and tear of boredom and lack of psychological and physical stimulation, the employee gets bored and depressed and this has consequences on his physical and mental health. A study has shown that employees who are bored at work are 2.5 times more likely to have a stroke than those who have a stimulating job (study conducted in 2010 in England on 7500 public service employees). Furthermore, because stress weakens the immune system, the development of certain pathologies can occur.

Anxiety disorders, depression... Bore-out causes a "devitalization" of the individual. At work, we observe a slowing down of tasks (they are stretched over time), a disengagement, a decrease in performance, absenteeism and a withdrawal into oneself. Motivational paralysis keeps the employee in a form of inertia by waiting for a change from the outside: he or she is bogged down by boredom.

Boredom sets in insidiously over time and its symptoms are both psychological and physical and vary from one person to another. It is important to pay attention to the warning signs.

5. What are the causes of boredom?

Bore-out can occur if, over a long period of time, the employee is confronted with an underload of work, repetitive, boring and uninteresting activities, associated with a loss of meaning.

According to the INRS,(National Institute for Research and Safety) there are three causes of bore-out:

work organization: the way the workload is distributed
know-how: the adaptation of the tasks assigned according to the employee's skills
Motivations: the adequacy between the employee's aspirations and the answers provided by the work.
These causes are related to the employee's personal history, values and ideals. Thus, the same causes do not have the same effects depending on the individual.

Bore-out can also be caused by a "sacking": the job is emptied of its content and the employee is pushed towards the exit.

6. What to do if you are bored?

For fear of the social gaze and out of shame, the employee tries to hide his condition because even if he is bored, in a society where the unemployment rate remains high and where professional identity greatly conditions social integration, he does not feel legitimate to complain about his boredom. It is therefore not easy for him to talk about his discomfort. This difficult communication reinforces the employee's depreciating self-judgment, devaluation and withdrawal.

However, you should not remain alone and make your situation known.

Confide in your family and friends, ask your hierarchy, colleagues and human resources to improve your working conditions by trying to reorganize your work and find intellectual stimulation.

It is also recommended to be accompanied by health professionals, whether it be a general practitioner, an occupational physician or a mental health specialist (psychologist, psychiatrist). Medication, psychological support and/or time off work may be necessary.

If the working conditions do not improve, it may be appropriate to consider changing jobs or thinking about a career change.

Work is not the only thing in life and it is important to put into perspective the place of work and to invest as much, if not more, in what gives meaning to one's personal life.

Thanks to Claire Petin for writing this article. Clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, she practices in her office in Paris in the 15th district.

Sources

Bataille S., "Le bore-out, nouveau risque psychosocial ?
When being bored at work becomes painful", INRS, 2016

Britton A., Shipley M.J. " Bored to death?", Int J Epidemiol,
2010, 39(2), p. 370-371.

BORE-OUT or boredom at work: untangling the real from the fake,
Occupational Health & Safety, p.6-9, No. 247, June 2017

Rothlin P., Werder P. R., Diagnose Bore-out, Heidelber,
Redline-Wirtschaft, 2007

Your expert

Claire Pétin
Clinical psychologist

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