Boreout: countering career stagnation to reclaim your work mojo in 2024

Few people are unaware of burnout - the state of extreme stress, exhaustion, and overload that can dramatically affect one’s work and personal life and wellbeing. Less well-known however is another sub-optimal state which is prevalent in workplaces across the globe and thankfully much easier to address – the state of boreout.


Boreout is characterised by low motivation, low challenge, and low interest that can result from having too little to do, too much routine, too little autonomy at work or simply having become too comfortable with the daily work at hand. While it is not as serious as burnout, boreout also has a significant negative impact on quality of life and career prospects, a leadership expert says.


“Boreout can lead to reduced productivity, performance, and satisfaction at work, and will most likely affect your happiness, wellbeing, and fulfilment in life, leading to feelings of dissatisfaction, frustration and despondency,” says Advaita Naidoo, Africa MD at Jack Hammer, Africa’s largest executive search firm.


“Boreout happens when you are not optimally using your skills, talents and passions at work. Thankfully, recognising that your lack of engagement at work could be a result of you not living up to your full potential, and is not necessarily a result of other, more challenging problems, is the first step to embarking on a new path towards success,” she says.


Boreout is not inevitable or irreversible, and there are many ways in which you can course-correct to a more fulfilling career path. Additionally, managers and leaders can take an active role in ensuring their teams become more engaged, Naidoo says.


She notes that during this time of year, many employees would have been through a performance review. However these reviews are typically retrospective and focus on performance improvement rather than placing emphasis on how an employee might want to be engaged in the new year.


“Boreout might sound like a frivolous problem, but it is far from it, and employers should take note. It can lead to lost productivity costs, as bored employees tend to work slower, make more mistakes, or waste time on irrelevant activities.


“It can also lead to employee turnover, as disengaged employees tend to feel dissatisfied, unhappy, or unmotivated at work, and may look for other jobs that offer more challenge, variety, or meaning. Additionally, boreout can affect the morale, culture, and reputation of the organisation. So as the year winds down, this is a perfect time for leaders to assist their teams in formulating a positive vision,” Naidoo says.


Boredom is not often spoken about, but it sets in for many over the course of their careers. For burnout, the remedy is to reduce work. For boreout, it is to actively look for ways to ignite your mental flame again, and move towards something new. Even small changes can be energising. To overcome boreout, individuals need to identify new challenges, and leaders can assist in this regard, says Naidoo.


“You can do this by seeking new opportunities, learning new skills, or taking on more responsibility, and asking for ongoing and strategic feedback.”


“The first and biggest hurdle for those who recognise themselves as being in a state of boreout, is to get the ball rolling and build up momentum again. Recognising what’s going on and getting out of your safe, comfortable yet frustrating place by seeking out new opportunities and challenges, is very likely to set you on a new path to success and fulfilment.”


Jack Hammer Africa is Africa’s largest executive search firm, with on-the-ground presence in all of its major markets. These include South Africa (covering SA, Zambia, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Angola and Zimbabwe), Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Egypt. Since 2001, they have been helping companies, NPO’s and high-growth PE and VC-backed businesses to build and diversify their leadership teams and boards.