Many of us can relate to that familiar sensation: you find yourself amid your fourth Zoom call for the day, and your eyes are irritated, your head throbs, and your body feels as if it’s laden with rocks. The question arises: is this the notorious burnout, or is there a possibility that you’re just bored?
In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially classified burnout as a “syndrome,” coincidentally aligning with the onset of widespread mental exhaustion due to the impact of COVID-19. The WHO’s definition characterizes burnout as “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” emphasizing its association with work-related stress. Despite this specific definition, the term has taken on a life of its own.
Distinguishing between burnout and boredom is crucial, as each requires a distinct approach for resolution. It is essential to avoid labeling everything as burnout, as this oversimplification does not contribute to meaningful improvement.
Recognizing the disparity between temporary pressure, stress, and the persistent condition of burnout holds significance. Career expert Jill Cotton highlights the profound nature of true burnout, stating, “It can leave you with crippling exhaustion and cause a total disengagement from both your colleagues and the role you were hired to fulfill.” To differentiate, she proposes a straightforward test: “If you still have mental space for other thoughts, it’s likely that you’re simply not being sufficiently challenged and may be experiencing boredom rather than burnout.”