The idea of burnout at work has been with us for decades. But recently, executive coaches and business psychologists have started talking about “brownout”, which is a sort of junior sibling. Staff affected by brownout become disengaged, demotivated and lose interest in their jobs.
As the name suggests, brownout is not as serious as burnout, but it is much more prevalent. Brownout can be fairly mild and is usually reversible, but in the long term can cause serious problems.
The more usual symptoms of brownout tend to be disengagement, discontent, and lethargy. You’ll turn up for work (and may even put in very long hours) but your heart isn’t in it. You’re not interested in new ideas, you’re not proactive and you’re less communicative and sociable. You’ll use any excuse to not show up. A cold becomes flu.
The causes of brownout are very much linked with the new world of work and changes that have taken place. One of the main factors behind it is very large amounts of rather dull work. Technology has played a role too, by allowing work to eat into our home lives. With smartphones, we are often never truly not at work. Our evenings, weekends and holidays are no longer our own and so we never switch off and recharge.