Bore-out: when workplace boredom becomes a mental health condition

4 min read

Bore-out is a term used to describe a mental health condition caused by extended periods of boredom and a lack of stimulation in the workplace. It's a relatively new concept that has emerged in recent years as more individuals experience professional burnout and other work-related stress.


According to a study conducted by the International Labour Organization, an ONU specialized agency based in Switzerland, over 30% of employees in Europe and the United States experience workplace boredom, with many reporting feelings of demotivation, disillusionment, and even depression. Another survey* by the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that over 13% of employees in Germany suffer from chronic workplace boredom.

When does It occur?

Bore-out typically arises when an employee is given tasks below their skill level or when assigned repetitive and uninspiring tasks. It can also happen when an employee lacks sufficient work, resulting in excess free time.

Common factors:

  • Lack or absence of meaningful work,
  • Repetitive and dull tasks,
  • Holding a position for which one is overqualified,
  • Working in a role lacking clear purpose or defined missions,
  • Stagnation of skills over time without access to training for new abilities,
  • Feeling sidelined or being relegated to a secondary role.

Symptoms of bore-out

Bore-out can manifest in various ways:

  • Persistent workplace boredom, day after day,
  • Self-doubt and a sense of undervaluation,
  • Leaving work early regularly,
  • A reluctance to go to work due to a lack of professional fulfillment and fear of inactivity,
  • Purposefully slowing down work to have tasks throughout the day,
  • Notable fatigue by the end of the day.


Like burnout, bore-out can have severe negative consequences on both mental and physical health. It can lead to feelings of frustration, anxiety, and depression, along with physical symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, and fatigue. Over time, it may also result in a loss of self-esteem and a feeling of purposelessness, which can be challenging to overcome.

How to avoid it?

Several strategies can help prevent bore-out, including:

- Reflection: regular self-reflection on one's state at work,
- Communication: open dialogue with superiors to discuss advancement opportunities,
- Adaptation: seeking opportunities to make work more engaging, like taking on new responsibilities or projects,
- Training: continuously improving or acquiring skills for potential role transitions or new projects.

How to heal?

For those already experiencing bore-out, several steps can be taken to address the issue, such as:

  • Seeking professional help: considering consulting a mental health professional if you experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues,
  • Engaging in hobbies and interests outside work: evolving in your career can sometimes be challenging and time-consuming. Engaging in activities outside of work can help better cope with this transition. This fulfills the need for engagement that your current role might not fully meet. It can be a source of joy and help rediscover purpose and maintain a sense of accomplishment,
  • Information gathering and sharing: research opportunities for career advancement within your current role, available positions, and training possibilities. Share your desire for career development with your employer,
  • Self-assessment: conduct a skills assessment or consider coaching sessions to build a career plan and define steps to achieve it,
  • Job transition: there might be instances where your current role no longer aligns with your interests or skills. In such cases, seeking a new job that offers more stimulating and engaging work might be the solution. Again, self-assessment and coaching sessions could provide clarity in this decision-making process.

Bore-out poses a growing challenge in the professional realm. Statistics underscore a concerning reality, with tangible risks to both mental and physical health, ranging from profound demotivation to physical symptoms like headaches and insomnia, leading to diminished self-esteem and purposelessness. Preventing or recovering from bore-out involves constant reflection, open communication with superiors, seeking stimulating opportunities at work, and ongoing education. For those already affected, seeking help, engaging in fulfilling extracurricular activities, or exploring new professional avenues may offer a path to recovery. Ultimately, recognizing and proactively managing bore-out are crucial for fostering healthy work environments that prioritize employee engagement, personal growth, and well-being alongside productivity.

* German Stress Report 2012