By Caroline Castrillon
Experiencing professional boredom is not uncommon. And given that the most recent Gallup State of the Global Workplace report revealed that 69% of employees in the US and Canada are either not engaged or actively disengaged at work, it’s not surprising. Compared to burnout, a response to overwork, studies suggest that feeling bored at work results from a lack of job stressors. This work-related condition has become so common that there’s an informal term for it called boreout.
Boreout, which can be even more insidious than burnout, results from feeling unchallenged and underworked. Some of the telltale signs include dissatisfaction, fatigue and irritability. In extreme cases, individuals might even experience panic attacks and other physical symptoms. If you think this is just another passing job trend, think again. The mental strain resulting from this condition can be significant. In France, an employee won a €40,000 payout after he proved his former employer gave him so many mind-numbing tasks over a period of several years that it pushed him to a nervous breakdown.
It’s normal to feel bored at work occasionally. But if the monotony and fatigue continue for months or even years on end, it’s a serious problem. These strategies will help you address it head on so you can find joy in your career again.
Reach out for support
The last thing you want to do when you are bored at work is to isolate yourself. Instead of trying to cope with these feelings alone, reach out to trusted family, friends and colleagues. Getting an outside perspective from a coach or mentor can also be helpful. In addition, discuss your thoughts with your manager. They may be able to help you reprioritize your workload or identify new, more challenging projects. It may even be time to explore other opportunities internally that are more satisfying.
Seek meaning in your work
Would you be surprised to learn that workers want meaningful work badly enough that they are willing to pay for it? In a BetterUp Labs survey, more than nine out of 10 employees admitted being ready to trade a portion of their lifetime earnings for greater meaning at the office. Meaningful work benefits both the employee and the company. Employees who find their jobs meaningful are more satisfied, productive and loyal. Finding meaning also counteracts boredom because you are more stimulated and passionate about your work.
Learn a new skill
Another way to combat boredom at work is to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Make a list of areas you want to develop and challenge yourself by learning a new skill. Once you start using these new competencies on the job, set more ambitious goals. Over time, you’ll gain more confidence in your abilities. Of course, skill development isn’t limited to the workplace. You can also embrace this approach by starting a hobby or side hustle. For example, if writing is your passion, create a personal blog, start a daily journal or begin crafting a book outline. If you enjoy physical activity, enroll in a new fitness class or sign up for a half marathon. You’ll be surprised at how developing yourself outside of work can put the spark back in your career while promoting self-esteem.
Develop your personal brand
A powerful personal brand can increase your exposure to opportunities internally and externally. That’s because suddenly, your network expands significantly, giving you access to people who can recommend you for job openings. Having an intentional and consistent personal brand also positions you as a thought leader, which allows you to gain credibility. At that point, the additional exposure can lead to jobs, speaking engagements, media coverage and more. Over time, you can make building your personal brand a fulfilling part of your daily routine.
Explore outside opportunities
If all else fails and you continue to feel bored at work, it might be time to look for external positions. But it takes more than just mindlessly applying to online job postings. Anywhere from 50% to 80% of positions are filled through networking. So, take an active role by updating your LinkedIn profile and proactively growing your network. By putting yourself out there, you’ll eventually reap the rewards. Most importantly, making a career or job change could benefit your long-term physical and mental health.
You don’t need to settle for being a work zombie. In fact, your job should energize you, not suck the life out of you. So, if you find yourself pulling your hair out each day because you are bored to tears, do something about it. Your future self will thank you.
Caroline Castrillon is a career and leadership coach who helps professional women navigate career change.
This article first appeared on the Forbes website