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Move over burnout: boreout is the new disease affecting employees. Claire Jollain explores how Gen Z is remedying this malaise through vocational studies.
When I ask my hospitality students how many of them want to become a general manager after graduation, very few hands go up. Why is that? It may well be linked to the fear of ‘boreout’. Twenty years ago, when I was a student, my classmates and I wanted to become leaders - manage teams, run meetings, read statistics and reports, and drive decision-making… However, as I write this, I realize that in reality, our ambitions were not very inspiring!
While you’re probably familiar with the term burnout, "boreout" is a new one to add to your vocabulary, coined in 2007 by two Swiss business consultants, Peter Werder and Philippe Rothlin. Over the past decade, ‘burnout’ has been used to refer to an overload of work and long work hours that have a negative impact on work-life balance. This prolonged stress causes physical and mental health issues, including loss of self-confidence, anxiety, and depression. Boreout has the same consequences, but is caused by being bored by your work, even though you might still be struggling under a massive workload. It is based on the feeling of boredom caused by the lack of expectations in the workplace.
How is that possible? Maybe you are spending your time in endless meetings, filling out Excel spreadsheets or slaving away on PowerPoint presentations – and questioning the point of all your hard work. The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns have exacerbated this feeling of boredom by adding the loss of belonging to the mix.
Life goals are very different for Generation Z, which is broadly defined as people born between 1997 and 2012, many of whom are now undertaking tertiary studies and entering the workplace for the first time. Gen Z do not dream of becoming meeting experts, creating loads of Power Point slides, or continuously analyzing metrics. This new generation wants, above all, to feel useful and to contribute something concrete to society.
At the same time, in many instances, higher education is losing momentum and meaning. There are many graduates of prestigious universities who struggle to find their first job. They are often overqualified or, conversely, they lack professional experience. While they might be excellent at methodological research required to write a 20,000-word dissertation, they often feel unfit for business life after graduation. The courses they have taken are often too far removed from the reality on the ground. Simply put, there is a growing mismatch between what is taught and what is needed.
As a result, a growing number of young adults are turning to vocational education, whether it is through an apprenticeship or a bachelor's degree. When I first started lecturing at Culinary Arts Academy Switzerland in 2014, I had a class of six students. Today, classes often exceed 100 students. These students graduate with a bachelor's degree after three years spent in the classroom as well as in the kitchen.
Although it is too soon to speak of a post-COVID world, in September 2021 I welcomed nearly 200 new students from 40 different countries to the campus of our hospitality school – Swiss Hotel Management School. Are they crazy? No. Generation Z is characterized by its pragmatism – or some might even say, fatalism.
Studying online has been a very difficult experience for most students around the world. We have seen the majority of our students returning to campus as soon as lockdown restrictions were relaxed. While faculty and institutions have done their best in terms of online teaching, nothing can replace human contact, peer learning and the informal teaching that takes place outside of the classroom.
The age of YouTube and social media means Gen Z are extremely receptive to visuals and process data quickly. Similarly, this generation learns new information quickly when learning activities incorporate movement and person-to-person interactivity. Our event planning and fine-dining programs exemplify this through hands-on, stimulating learning, which alleviates boredom. These students will be looking for this same stimulation once they graduate and enter the workforce.
Generation Z needs to make sense of the tasks they carry out and see how their actions contribute clearly to the company goals. Welcoming a guest, organizing an event, or creating a culinary experience are clear and purposeful tasks. Generation Z dislikes uncertainty and vague goals – instead, they thrive when given clear pathways and objectives, and meaningful evaluations of their performance.
Vocational studies have once again gained the spotlight due to many businesses raising concerns about graduates’ lack of skills when they join the workforce. As pragmatists, Gen Z know that thanks to vocational studies they will be employable after graduation.