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Burnout's Little Brother "Boreout"

Updated: Jan 23

boreout boredom employee disengagement

Mental fitness and burnout are top of mind for both CEOs and their leadership teams. People are breaking down, burning out, quietly quitting and essentially rotting on the vine. It's a thing. And it's not good.

Burnout has a little brother that is fast becoming a threat to well-being at work. "Boreout" is a condition caused by chronic boredom at work leading to stress, mental fatigue, anxiety and depression. Think of it as a related but opposite relation to being burned out by having too much to do. It's staring off into space and not knowing why. It's that question of why am I doing work that really doesn't matter.

Boredom is a leading cause of why people leave their jobs. And we can only imagine that remote work isn't helping. No, many of your employees no longer want to come in to work. But they don't want to be bored out of their minds either. There's only so much laundry to do and Fido is fed up with all those walks.

Boreout is what Organizational Psychologist and Professor Adam Grant has referred to as "languishing." It's a sense of stagnation and "what's the point" on steroids. People are romancing the dream of making millions with a side hustle by becoming an Influencer on TikTok and by posting inane videos on YouTube. Instead, they are compiling spreadsheets and reports that they wonder if anyone ever looks at, never mind questioning whether they make a difference.

What can the CEO do?

  1. Encourage active scheduling: Unfortunately, those repetitive mundane tasks may have to be done. Encourage those tasks to be scheduled between creative activities or just prior to breaks. This limits the feeling of a long and winding road leading nowhere.

  2. Ask. So many companies routinely ask their customers how likely they are to refer the business to others. Why not ask your employees on a scale of 1-10 how exciting and engaging is the work they do? Managers and CEOs should routinely be asking "What can we do to make your job better?"

  3. Passion Projects. Google invented the concept of allowing their employees to spend up to 20% of their time on "passion projects." Think about encouraging employees to spend that much time on an innovative project of their choosing that they think could have a positive impact on the company. Could make spending 90 minutes a day on the DR-2719 Report a lot more bearable.

  4. Outsource. Consider outsourcing some of those tasks to a virtual assistant. Chances are a VA could accomplish those tasks far more efficiently and at less cost.

  5. Job Share. Every so often move some of those tasks around so that no one is saddled with a boatload of busywork.

Boreout is likely to show up when employees feel like their time is being wasted on menial, low-priority tasks. Everybody wants to be part of the "New Initiatives Team" rather than the "Admin Brigade."


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