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Do you know what rust-out means?

While I'm enjoying my career break and appreciating the freedom that comes with it, I often find myself thinking about work. After all, I worked full-time from the day I graduated to the day we left for China two years ago. I truly enjoy hearing about people's jobs and I've never lost interest in work-related topics.

Last week, while talking to a dear friend over lunch, I learned something new. If something so familiar sounding can be new, that is.

The sound of silence. When all you can hear in the office is your and your colleagues' fingers tapping on your respective keyboards to find something fun to watch - or something to buy on the internet. When no-one is tapping, you can hear a pin drop. Have you been there? I have. And I have had days where I would hang my coat on the coat hanger in the office at 8.30 am and take it down at 5 pm to go home after another day wasted. Yes, that's how I felt. That was years ago and it was, thankfully, for a limited period of time.

But for some, boredom at work is not a temporary problem.

And it can develop into rust-out; what psychologists call "burnout's boredom-based counterpart".

Although rust-out is more common among older workers and people who are no longer at the peak of their career, it also occurs in young, over qualified people. The enthusiasm and excitement they bring to the workplace, quickly fades away when boredom or the feeling of being unchallenged or uninspired kicks in. The symptoms of rust-out include boredom, underload (interesting word don't you think?), apathy, frustration, anxiety or feelings of tension.

In an ideal world, workplaces will help employees who feel like they are wasting away . Solutions such as rotation systems and mentoring programmes can be great - but what if you are left on your own? Or if you never find the courage to talk to your boss or colleagues about the problem?

It is true that full-time working people don't have much free time at their disposal - but in my opinion, every moment spent on activities that get your mind off work, will take you a step further from "rusting out". In my own case, I realised that, whether it was taking my coat down from said coat hanger to go out for lunch with colleagues, organising social gatherings and parties or spending time on my passions such as music and musical theatre, those activities were what kept my spirit high during my brief encounter with rust-out. But I was lucky - and I had the right support system. My story is just a short reflection on a serious topic. Rust-out can lead to depression and it is always a good idea to seek professional help if you suffer from the symptoms mentioned above over a long period of time.


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