Pablo Vandenabeele shares his tips and advice on coping with boreout in the workplace.
Whether you’ve ventured back into the office or you’re all working from home still, your team have experienced lots of change recently, and this can take its toll on their mental health. As a manager, you’re responsible for looking out for your team’s health, both mentally and physically.
Sometimes the demands of work can get too much for your employees – especially during these uncertain times – and this may leave them feeling overwhelmed, exhausted or under pressure; often resulting in burnout.
But these are all tell-tale signs of another work-related condition that can impact your mental health, too: boreout. If your team are experiencing boreout, chances are their work performance is impacted. An employee experiencing boreout may feel anxious, sad or depressed if their workload is repetitive or easy, and there isn’t much social interaction with their colleagues.
Fortunately, there are ways to support your team. It’s important to understand the signs of boreout, and how we can overcome it.
Burnout occurs when you feel stressed or overwhelmed at work for long periods of time, whereas you may have boreout if you don’t feel challenged enough.
How does boreout differ from burnout?
Whilst both of these mental health conditions share similar signs – such as fatigue, exhaustion or feeling overwhelmed – what sets them apart is the workload that triggers them. Burnout occurs when you feel stressed or overwhelmed at work for long periods of time, whereas you may have boreout if you don’t feel challenged enough.
Whether your team are working remotely or in the workplace, it’s really important to understand how to support your employees who are experiencing boreout.
How can you overcome boreout in the workplace?
Lead by example
It’s more important than ever to prioritise your health, both mentally and physically. Your team will look to you for guidance and reassurance, so make sure you’re leading by example.
Firstly, have a think about how you prioritise your wellbeing. Make sure you’re not overexerting yourself and you’re taking regular breaks across the day. If you aren’t, don’t panic; there’s lots of creative ways to focus on your health during your working week.
Set aside time every day to focus on something you enjoy, like gardening, reading or exercise. Block this time out in your working schedule and encourage your colleagues to do the same.
Mix it up
Where possible, prevent your colleagues from getting bored by repetitive tasks by splitting them amongst the team. For example, people might be able to work on weekly rotations, so that they’re regularly picking up new projects. It might also be that other teams in your business could use support, so be open with your fellow managers and encourage them to do the same.
Use the time to get ahead
Just because the workload is quieter now, doesn’t mean it will stay that way. If your team have free time, consider how they can spend it productively – not only to keep them engaged, but to help the business in the future. In many cases, this will look outside of their day-to-day role, in which case it’s important to try and pick tasks that suit their strengths.
For example, a detail-focused colleague might be well placed to review regular processes or suppliers, to seek efficiencies. Meanwhile, creative team members might seek more enjoyment from design-based projects.
Promote a clear work-life balance
It’s really important to promote a positive work-life balance, both for your team’s mental health and your own wellbeing. During these uncertain times, your team’s workload may have relaxed, or perhaps you’ve had to furlough some of your staff. A reduction in workload can result in feelings of boreout, so it’s really important to maintain a positive work-life balance.
You can promote this balance in a few, simple ways: ensure your team aren’t working any longer hours than required, set aside clear and challenging tasks for them to complete and encourage them switch off after the working day.
Be flexible with your team
We’ve all had to face individual challenges over the last few months during lockdown; perhaps it’s issues with childcare when working from home or feeling especially isolated if you live on your own. Be sensitive always – if your team are feeling fatigued or experiencing boreout, work with them to find a flexible solution that works for both.
This may be flexible working hours to reflect a smaller workload – make sure you approach it on an individual, case-by-case basis. A clearer working day can help your colleague spend more time on personal projects.
Set aside time for check-ins
Many workplaces have adapted well to working from home over the last few months. Whilst we may be not be meeting face-to-face, technology has enabled us to have regular, virtual catchups with our team.
Keeping in regular contact with colleagues can have a positive impact on their overall wellbeing; set aside time for regular check-ins with each of your team. Be sure to ask your colleagues how they are and make sure their workload is right for them. Catching up regularly should help you spot any signs your team may be struggling with their health.
Employees who are experiencing boreout may be missing the social interaction of the workplace, so why not plan a virtual social event? From online escape rooms to replicating the Friday after-work drinks, there’s lots of fun ways to still socialise with your team when you can’t meet face-to-face.
Share the support available
It’s really important to remind your team of the support that’s available through your workplace. If you have wellbeing support available through your business, share this information with your team regularly. Be clear on how to get in touch with these services, and reiterate that you’re here to support them, too.
Don’t worry if you don’t have these services available, just be clear on what support there is and where they can seek help if they need to.
There are free resources available on MIND and Mental Health and Bupa’s mental health hub.
About the author
Pablo Vandenabeele is clinical director for mental health at Bupa UK.