When People Suffer Inwardly From Boreout
Let us begin with the morning of a typical workday, heralded by the ever-amiliar sound of the alarm clock. Anyone who suffers from boreout or is on the way there will sense a queasy feeling in the stomach shortly after waking up. It is a feeling of unhealthiness, triggered by the prospect of spending the whole day at work. It is not that the sufferers are sick to the stomach. But they think about what has to be done at the office, what will confront them during the day. They think about the problems and tasks, meaningless and always the same, and about how little they care about all that. They curse the monotony that has them in its grip: always the same train to work, always the same fellow passengers; always the same workplace, always the same people; and in particular a job that does not motivate them in the slightest, and whose most exciting times are long gone. This feeling peaks with the sigh: "ow tedious it is to have to go to work again today!"
That is how the sufferers feel as they go to work. How they feel once there we already know: miserable, helpless, bored, of course, uncommitted, under-tretched. On top of that, they feel they have to dissimulate, which is often stressful and tiring. They suffer as they struggle with dissatisfaction and frustration. When they are at work, they experience boreout most intensively, since in the end it is exactly this work that makes them feel so bad. They adopt the strategies and keep the tedious things at arm' length as much as possible. With time, it can get to the stage that even genuinely exciting activities no longer interest them, and they protect themselves from them with the strategies, as well. In this way, they count their days as wasted, and only the prospect of the evening after work or of the weekend (which is too short anyway) brings short moments of satisfaction.
It is after the day's work is over, however, that boreout shows its truly invidious character. Invidious because the symptoms of dissatisfaction can no longer be so easily attributed to boreout, and because it cannot be simply switched off at the touch of a button when the affected person leaves the office. At the early stages, sufferers may not yet realize that their malaise in the evening could be related to work. So, after close of business they go home. And although they have not done much work all day, although they are now free from work and can do whatever they want, persons affected by boreout tend to feel “under the weather.” This is expressed in various ways:
Sufferers feel tired, lackadaisical and depleted. They feel lazy and, for lack of energy, give in to this laziness. Let us make the point again: Laziness is not a cause of boreout, but much more a consequence of it. The affected person only wants peace and falls asleep in front of the television.
Sufferers easily get irritable, as they have brought the sense of dissatisfaction home from work. They feel sullen and overreact to every little thing. Their partners can suffer from their spiteful behavior while having no idea of the true emotional state of the sufferer.
The affected person has no desire to do anything, although he or she has already spent the whole day doing not much at all. After work or at the weekend would be the time to engage in encouraging hobbies. To start with, these help in blotting out the frustration pent up during the day. However, with time, the divide between free time and working time becomes blurred—and there is no sense of fulfillment in either sphere anymore, because of boreout.
If sufferers are naturally somewhat introverted, then they increasingly lock themselves away from the world. They are imprisoned in their dissatisfaction and bottle up the negative experiences of the day. If parents or friends bring them back to reality with the question:"“And? How are things at work?" they answer cagily: "Well, everything's OK, got a lot to do, as always!" And so they begin to construct a facade.
To conclude this section, let us briefly turn our eyes in a different direction and once again observe the fraternal relationship between boreout and burnout. The symptoms—much more than the causes—show similarities between the two phenomena. For the symptoms described above can also be observed in burnout, as can a feeling of inner emptiness, of uncertainty or even despair about whether one will ever find a way out of the dilemma.
However, some specific symptoms are primarily found in people affected by burnout, bringing the differences once more into the foreground. That can help us to better understand boreout, in that we can define the borders between it and burnout:
- People affected by burnout often devote much of their free time to work-related matters; those affected by boreout, in contrast, have no interest in anything to do with their job. They don’t waste a second outside working hours on worrying about the company's problems.
- Those affected by burnout feel overloaded by work, while with boreout, the sufferers are confronted by the opposite: They are under-stretched and feel not the slightest challenge. The person affected by burnout is stressed, while the person affected by boreout only acts that way.
- Burnout sufferers feel "drained"; people affected by boreout feel "bored." For them, time drags on in an unbearable eternity of emptiness. A moderate degree of boredom is not so hard to cope with—it seems long certainly, but one can conceive that it will pass. But if boredom simply carries on and on without end, then at some time or other, you are simply going to be bored out. Then you have reached a different level of misery.
In conclusion, boreout shows itself both during working hours and in free time. What can be observed of boreout from the outside is evidence of the problem—but only visible if you are aware of the phenomenon. The inwardly discernible symptoms are mostly suppressed to start with until, with time, the sufferer notices that something is not right. The invidious character of boreout leads to the affected person also feeling dissatisfied outside work, and then the malaise spreads to the home, as well. Signs of underlying depression show themselves. Of course, there are employees who can draw a sharp distinction between work and free time, and who simply forget about how they've felt all day at work. Most people, however, are about as successful at this as they are at simply leaving private problems behind at the entrance to their office. As soon as boreout also becomes obvious outside the workplace, then the time has definitely come to start thinking seriously about the work routine.
Philippe Rothlin studied law and business administration at the University of St. Gallen and holds an MBA from ESADE Business School. He has been working as a project manager in the banking sector for many years. He is co-founder of advertising agency Gruetzi, headquartered in Barcelona, Spain, and works as a business strategy consultant.
Peter Werder studied journalism, philosophy, and musicology at the University of Zurich, and he has a Ph.D. in philosophy. He has been working as a journalist and public relations consultant for many years. He is now in charge of the communications department of a major company in Switzerland.