The notion about “work” varies from “it’s just a job”, “it is a necessary evil that you have to bear to provide yourself with money”, “it is a way to gain prestige and a certain status in society”, “it gives you perks that attract the opposite sex” to “it gives life a purpose”, “it makes me feel useful and of service”, “it is my calling”.
Most people agree that when someone’s income is too low, that causes them stress and anxiety. Most people would also agree that working excessively to the point of exhaustion or burnout is a huge threat to your health. And many studies have provided evidence that this lifestyle takes its toll on person’s body and mind.
However, not many people are aware of the studies which explore the effect of job boredom and the lack of fulfilling purpose and meaningful tasks at work on both the physical and mental health of people.
There is a story about an experiment with two frogs – one that was put in a pot with hot water and another that was put in a pot with pleasantly warm water that was gradually being heated to the boiling point. The frog in the first pot immediately gathered all strength and jumped out to save its life. The second frog stayed in the water until it died from overheating.
Boredom is something like what happened in the second pot – it has a destructive effect but at such a slow rate that people do not realize it. The cumulative negative effect of long-term working in an unfulfilling job in your 20s and 30s can be seen in your 40s. This is what a scientific study has shown.
Researchers from The Ohio State University say their work shows that happiness on the job (or lack thereof) appears to have the biggest impact on midlife mental health. Dirlam, one of the researchers, recommends:
“While income is important to consider when you’re first launching your career, it may be more beneficial for overall life satisfaction to take a job with slightly less pay if that job will give you higher job satisfaction. Most people spend almost half of their waking life at work and it’s important that you are able to find some joy during this time.”
Another study that involved 87 Finnish workplaces investigated the correlates of job boredom. It examined the associations between job boredom, health outcomes, and job attitudes. They concluded that job boredom is a phenomenon that concerns a wide range of industries and found a clear link between job boredom and negative health- and work-related perceptions. The results support the notion that job boredom can be harmful to employee health.
In the article “Bored to Death” published in The International Journal of Epidemiology (A. Britton & M.J. Shipley), research shows that people who are bored at work are almost three times more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases. Faced with boredom, harmful habits can quickly take the place of meaningful work: continuous snacking, more smoking breaks and sometimes even alcohol abuse at work.
Job fulfillment or its lack has a big impact on your personal life and relationships too. A negative mood state in one situation will result in a negative mood in a subsequent situation. This is what researchers found out:”a depressed mood experienced at work will spill over to the home domain and affect employees’ depressed mood in that part of their lives as well.”
Ian Macdonald of MAC Consultancy in London tells that when he worked with New Zealand Aluminium Smelter, getting people work that fit all through the company, social services reported a concurrent 30% drop in domestic violence.
So your job is not “just a job”, or a source of prestige that feeds your ego or “a necessary evil to bear to get a salary at the end of the month”. It has a powerful effect on your health and wellbeing.
If you feel bored at work not just from time to time but on a daily basis, you should take the matter seriously and think about what your true interests are and what you really care about in life. Consider jobs that are connected with your core values. You will feel useful to society. If you need help to decide what you truly want, invest in career consultations or books and seminars to get to know yourself better. It’s worth it.
When you are occupied with work that seems meaningful and valuable to you, you will forget the Sunday afternoon anxiety and the Mondays’ bad mood that used to torture you. You will experience a boost in your energy and will sleep better. You will be a better partner and parent because the happiest children are the children of happy and healthy parents.