Feel Like The Work Slog Never Ends, With No Reward In Sight? This Is For You

Tired man with wind up key has run out of power
Tired man with wind up key has run out of power

Tired man with wind up key has run out of power

Another workplace label just landed, and you’re probably going to relate to it: rust-out.

Somewhere between boredom and burnout, rust-out isn’t a case of being fed up with your job but more about how you’re being treated within that role.

If burnout is when you push yourself too far, rust-out is when you’ve effectively been forgotten by your manager – leading to frustration, exhaustion and just... a desire to quit. You’re stuck in a position, and can’t go anywhere else.

Teena Clouston, author of Challenging Stress, Burnout and Rust-Out, told Cosmopolitan: “Rust-out is a lot deeper and more profound than boredom.

“It’s where people don’t feel they’re don’t anything purposeful or being recognised.

“They often feel blocked – as if there’s nowhere for them to progress to, and it can be a much harder issue to address than burnout.”

Burnout is already recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an occupational phenomenon, but it’s worth putting rust-out on your radar too.

After all, not everyone joined the Great Resignation during the Covid pandemic – there are bills to pay (and they’re only getting more expensive thanks to the cost of living crisis).

Analytics company Gallup found in 2022 that just 21% of respondents were engaged with their jobs around the world.

And a Workforce Hopes and Fears survey from PwC in 2022 found that Gen Z and millennials were the most likely age group to switch employers in the next year in the search of a more fulfilling job.

This is pretty evident just from what is going round online, too.

The famous term “quiet quitting” went seriously viral before, and involves people doing the absolute bare minimum at work, diverting the rest of their energy into searching for something else.

But with rust-out it seems like motivation is gone altogether.

Clouston explained: “The mental impact of rust-out can be quite dark. You can feel depressed – like you’re stuck in the mud, unable to move.”

She claimed this then had a domino effect on the rest of our everyday lives outside of work, too.

And rust-out doesn’t help anyone, including your employers.

“As a general rule, once someone starts to rust out, the quality of work goes downhill, as the employee loses interest, finding the job unfulfilling,” Clouston said, leading to cynicism.

But Clouston said that experiencing rust-out doesn’t mean you have to quit completely.

She suggested speaking to your manager to see if you can amplify the parts of your role you really enjoy, or create a progression plan for your role.

“This can help you review what you want in the workplace and help you find that opportunity for change,” she explained.

Clouston advised moving the focus back onto your wellbeing too, and remembering the pastimes which gave you joy before.

But if this doesn’t help, and it doesn’t seem like you can develop at work even when you try, you might want to start looking for a new job.