When your job's a yawn
PSYCHOLOGY: Many people complain about the stress of having too much work to do. So it might surprise you to learn that not having enough to do can also be stressful.
French manager Frédéric Desnard took his employer to court earlier this year because he said his job was so boring. Desnard claimed that his company, perfume makers Interparfums, gave him too little to do. He suffered from depression and even had an epileptic seizure.
Most people do not have such a dramatic reaction to boring jobs, but so-called “bore out” can lead to symptoms that are similar to burnout. “When we are bored, time appears to slow down,” says British psychologist Dr Gary Wood. “So a seven and a half hour day seems never-ending, which can be incredibly tiring and frustrating,” Wood told The Guardian.
US psychologist and life coach Dr Steve Nguyen adds that lack of work can influence people’s feelings of self-worth. “Critical to mental health are feelings we have about ourselves as a person,” Nguyen says.
Wood explains that workplace boredom can lead to a sense of powerlessness. “It’s important to look at how we might regain some control over our day,” he says. “Both being overworked and being bored contribute to feelings of powerlessness.”
"Both being overworked and bored contribute to feelings of powerlessness." Dr Gary Wood
So what should you do if you feel bored at work? Wood suggests taking a closer look at tasks you’ve been avoiding. “Are there things that could improve work for yourself and others?” he asks. “It’s also an opportunity to think about your CV and look for opportunities to further your career. Are there courses you could attend?”
Nguyen says that it’s important to find a balance at work. “There’s a sweet spot in which we perform best,” he explains. “It’s where our goals stretch our abilities slightly. If our goals are set too high, we suffer stress and feel overwhelmed. If set too low and we are not challenged enough, we get bored and lose motivation.”