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Don’t get boredout. Here’s what to do when you’re bored at work

September 10, 2022 - 13 min read

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What is boreout?

Signs you’re bored at work (and what to do about them)

Boredom isn’t always a bad thing

“Is it Friday yet?”

You start every workday at 9 am, take an hour lunch break, then you’re out the door by 5 pm. Despite being busy all day, you somehow can’t remember what you accomplished at work.

If you can relate, you’re probably bored at work. And you’re not alone: less than one-third of American workers report being “engaged” in their jobs. And 20% of people who job-hopped in 2021 cited boredom as their main reason.

You probably wanted an exciting job full of interesting challenges and opportunities. It’s nice to wake up excited to dive in and get your hands dirty.

If you're bored at work, you might feel guilty for not appreciating your current position. After all, if it pays well and has good benefits, why would you complain? But boredom at work can have serious consequences for your mental health and well-being.

In addition to job dissatisfaction, it can lead to depression, stress, and anxiety — symptoms of what some experts call “boreout.”

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Boredom is a symptom. It is influenced by the situation, but the person experiencing boredom plays a role, as well. This is an opportunity to investigate why you’re bored, what you need to feel engaged and motivated, and how to make your work meaningful.

 

What is boreout?

Boreout is a funny word that describes feeling chronically bored at work. Several factors can contribute to chronic boredom:

  • A demoralizing physical work environment. Working in a gray cubicle with little opportunity to step out and socialize can compound feelings of boredom and isolation at work. It’s important to have a workspace that facilitates engagement and collaboration.
  • Feeling under-challenged. Eustress occurs when you find the perfect challenge to your skillset. It pushes you to broaden your abilities and grow as a person. But if you aren’t being challenged at work and don’t feel like you’re growing, it can contribute to a lack of focus and control over your emotions.
  • Meaningless work. Maybe your boss hired you before your position was fully developed, leaving you with meaningless tasks to keep busy until management defines your role and responsibilities. It’s easy to become bored and lethargic if monotony defines your work. 
  • Lack of autonomy. Some jobs are repetitive and strict, with little room for creativity or innovation. This kind of work can be intolerable and demotivating, making you feel like a robot rather than a human being.

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Boreout happens in any industry. Whether working at a fast-food joint or a giant tech firm, boredom can strike just about anyone.

And when you’re bored at work all the time, you may start to experience an existential crisis. Wondering if your work is meaningless might make you question whether you’re meeting your full potential.

When this happens, it’s important to remember that you’re not helpless. It’s time to find a new purpose in your work life.

If you’re unmotivated at work because of boredom, we encourage you to try working with BetterUp. Our coaches can help you redefine your career, find your passion, and fight boredom. Together, we'll identify your dream job and make a plan to get there.

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Signs you’re bored at work (and what to do about them)

If you’re bored working at your current job, it’s tempting to ignore it. After all, you might be in a stable, well-paying job — complaining about boredom might feel pretentious. Other people would love a job like yours.

Don’t let this negative self-talk get to you. You deserve to be happy and find purpose in your career. And the sooner you switch jobs, the sooner you’ll find joy. Plus, you’ll open your current position to someone who really wants it.  It’s a win-win.

If you’re ready to make the change, it’s time to practice self-awareness and reflect on your values. Turn your attention inward and listen closely. Your boredom is trying to communicate what you need to be happy.

Here are some common thoughts associated with boredom, what they might be trying to tell you, and what to do when bored at work:

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1. “Does my work even matter?” 

This thought has several dimensions. Perhaps you’re wondering how your work adds value to your organization or society, broadly. Does your daily work add meaning to someone’s life? Or even yours?

Your boredom is challenging you to identify your work values and figure out what “meaningful work” means to you. If you truly admire your friend who works as a social worker, perhaps it’s because you value public service. Or, if you deeply respect your CEO, you may have an entrepreneurial spirit

What to do about it:

  • Network with professionals you admire and learn about their work. Ask questions to determine whether you’d want to do something similar. Cold-connecting on LinkedIn is a great option if you’re interested in an industry where you don’t have any mutual connections.
  • Once you know what you want, start your job search to find work that aligns with your values and interests. Your new network can help point you in the right direction. 
  • If you lack the necessary skills for your dream job, look for training opportunities. Your current company might have a professional development budget you can use.

2. “There’s a lot more I can offer”

You may be leaving some skills on the table. If you were hired to write social media posts but trained in content marketing strategy, you might get rusty. 

You may have pigeon-holed yourself at your current job, and your boredom reminds you of that. You need space to spread your wings.

What to do about it:

  • Volunteer for new projects and tasks where you can practice your skills. Even if you’re not playing a central role, it’s an internal networking opportunity and allows you to flaunt your other aptitudes.
  • Talk to your boss — perhaps they’re unaware of your extra skills. If you remind them of what you have on offer, they might find new challenges for you to take advantage of your full potential.
  • Use your abilities and experience to perform more efficiently. Your unused skills could help you work smarter to do more in a day, freeing up some time.

3. “How did I get here in the first place?”

You might have graduated college dreaming of working on film sets. But now you’re shooting corporate videos for a local tech firm. At the time, the job was a way to pay the bills. But now it’s all you’re doing, and you’re drifting further and further from your goals.

Your boredom is telling you to refocus on your dreams, goals, and aspirations. Maybe you’ve been so focused on your current job you forgot about your original plan. It’s not too late to change course, re-discover your passion, and pursue your goals. 

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What to do about it:

  • Think back to what drew you to your career. What were your favorite classes in school? What made the field exciting? This can help you align with your original goals and head in the right direction.
  • Quitting your job to pursue your passion might not be an option right now, but it’s not time to give up on your dreams. Find ways to reach toward your desired industry while you’re in your role and saving up to make the jump. This might be volunteering, networking, or joining a relevant club.

4. “I should be doing more right now”

You might be used to long to-do lists, endless emails, and working until 7 pm every night. If that’s the case, you may feel restless during your downtime and struggle to relax. You’re so used to running 100 mph that slowing down is hard.

If your first reaction to slowing down your workload is boredom, you might need to rethink your work-life balance. Otherwise, you risk burnout or other health issues related to chronic stress and being overworked.

What to do about it:

  • Your free time might be limited, so take advantage of the opportunity to rest and recharge. Watch TV, listen to podcasts, or pursue other hobbies. It could be the refresher you need before things get busy again. You might be busy again soon enough. 
  • When you’re out of the office, let your imagination run wild. Your mind is free to make new connections when you’re not worried about work. Your next burst of creativity might come when you least expect it.
  • Conversely, if free time is a regular part of your job, consider a side hustle. The rise of remote work makes it easy to earn extra cash from home. This could be a great way to learn new skills and expand your budget to start saving or treat yourself.

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Boredom isn’t always a bad thing

Life has a funny way of telling us something is wrong. Neck pains might be a sign of bad posture, irritability can be a symptom of stress, and boredom is a precursor to the next stage of your career development.

You have all the information you need — you just have to look for it. Being bored at work is an opportunity to re-evaluate your current position. You have the power to make changes to find a job you love.

Let BetterUp help you make your next move. Whether you’re looking for a new job, trying to develop new skills, or need career advice, you can talk it through with one of our coaches. 

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Published September 10, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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