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Why employers need to address chronic boredom before it even happens

October 21, 20223 min read

*This article was first published in Frederic Joye’s LinkedIn newsletter, Culture-Focused Outsourcing*

We need to talk about how “feeling bored at work” is just as bad as “feeling overworked”.

I know what you might be thinking–wouldn’t toning down the workload make my company more attractive to great talent? What’s so bad about that? 

Now, I am in no way trying to nudge employers to overexert their software development teams nor am I trying to justify long hours of work or glamorizing “hustle culture”.

What I am saying is that prolonged boredom can cause burnout, too. 

Chronic boredom, or “boreout” as termed by researchers, is a phenomenon that results in employee health problems, disengagement, and increased company turnover. 

This phenomenon is not just prevalent in specific industries. Developers can experience boreout, too.

Typically, boreout is caused by cognitive dissonance, or when developers feel that they have so much to offer but do not get the opportunities at work to showcase their fullest potential. It could be because of:

  • A misalignment in expectations
  • The lack of exciting projects and avenues to learn new skills
  • Unrelated tasks and distractions which get in the way of productivity
  • The mere shortage of tasks

Boreout, quintessentially, is just as mentally draining as being overworked. And it manifests the same signs as burnout—it has the capacity to make an employee feel empty, frustrated, stressed, and anxious.

In general, it’s the feeling of being overlooked, dispassionate, and absolutely separated from a job. 

It’s when employees feel that work is so painfully mundane that it doesn’t spark any ounce of motivation or enthusiasm. 

It’s when developers remark that they don’t believe in what they’re building or don’t produce any code worth talking about.

It leads them to feel unfulfilled and demoralized because they end up believing that they are unimportant and that their efforts do not contribute to the company as a whole. 

Developers experiencing boreout may chronically feel that their work is aimless, repetitive, and elementary; and that opportunities for lateral or financial development are being withheld.

And isn’t that the saddest part—the team loses out because a team member is not given the opportunity to impart their expertise at all.

To make sure that we nip this experience in the bud, we take several serious precautions:

  1. We don’t do legacy projects. We aim to partner with tech innovators with modern and technically challenging SaaS projects to keep developers interested, engaged, and constantly learning.
  2. We take our time to sift through which companies we want to work with. Our decisions are also based on a cultural match—if a potential client possesses the same values and long-term vision.
  3. We offer continuous and paid training to all our engineers so they can learn the skills they prefer.
  4. We stick to biannual evaluations to get first-hand feedback from the developers themselves and assess if projects are still within their expectations.

As employers, we need to step up and shift our thinking about employee well-being in terms of addressing stress and burnout. 

We need to understand that fixing this issue doesn’t just fall on the employee. 

A huge component of giving meaning to a job or position needs to start with us. It starts with creating a culture where projects are interesting and foreseen to expand, and where every member of the team is equally visible, heard, and rewarded.

We need the type of culture where employees feel safe and empowered to communicate their likes and concerns while trusting that leaders are hearing them out. We need to consistently create ways to make everyone’s experience in the company a positive and growth-oriented one.

As an employer, what do you do to address boreout before it even happens? Feel free to share your insights or get in touch.

Frederic Joye

Frederic Joye

Arcanys co-founder

Frederic Joye

Arcanys co-founder

Fred had been working on IT and operational projects in the finance and software industry in Switzerland for 10 years before co-founding Arcanys in 2010. With nearly 20 years of experience in the industry in Switzerland, Hong Kong, and the Philippines, Fred is now leading the worldwide sales and marketing efforts of Arcanys.

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