Human Resources

Career insights: Is stress or boredom worse?

Everyone talks about stress in the workplace but what about the other silent killer? Boredom. And in the ‘fast-paced’ ‘always-on’ world of global business, workers aren’t even meant to admit this is a problem. In this short piece we consult a variety of experts to find out which is worse for your health and career… and what difference technology makes.

Way back when I was a student I did some pretty appalling temp jobs. But it was a two week stint in an office that was by far the biggest kicker. This was because there was nothing to do aside from a tiny bit of filing, yet it demanded a punishing regime of pretending to busy every second of the day. And any attempts at tedium-crushing proactivity received sharp shrift. I knew I would soon leave… but what about those who face this malaise longer term?

“When experienced over a prolonged period boredom leads to a kind of ‘rust out’ rather than high stress ‘burn out’,” says Independent Chartered Occupational Psychologist, Gordon Tinline. “Like corrosion it slowly but relentlessly seeps in and has a weakening impact on your psychological wellbeing.” 

The enervating tedium of a compulsory environment is hard to top. The sheer drain of having nothing stimulating to do can be excruciating. It means you dwell on the silliest things and after a while it can prove so debilitating you’re still numb when you leave the office.

“Boredom can be just as harmful as stress,” suggests Jayne Carrington, managing director of Right Management Workplace Wellness. Though stress and boredom are “jarringly opposite situations, each in its own right can be extremely damaging”.

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