What to do when you're thinking 'I don't want to work'

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 4 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Going through a period where you don't want to work can provide you with the motivation to change your lifestyle. You can address feelings of not wanting to work by improving your personal satisfaction and work-life balance. If you think you don't want to work and are unsure of your next steps, understanding why you may not want to work and the options available can help you make positive changes. In this article, we explore some reasons you may not want to work, discuss how to manage these feelings and provide tips for improving your mindset and feeling satisfied professionally.

What to do if you think, 'I don't want to work anymore?'

If you're continually thinking 'I don't want to work', then reflect on what is happening in your professional or personal life to cause these feelings. Putting aside these thoughts may only provide short-term relief and, over time, your work performance and quality of life may become reduced. Acknowledging how you feel is the first step to improving the situation by exploring what you can do about not wanting to work.

Signs that you don't want to work

The development of work fatigue might be a gradual process rather than a sudden event. There are many actions and behaviours that might indicate that you're tired of working. They include:

  • finding it challenging to wake up in the morning

  • difficulty sleeping at night

  • fatigue during the day

  • a loss of motivation for your work tasks

  • irritability with colleagues

  • poor punctuality

  • increased illness

  • deterioration in work performance

  • poor concentration at work

Reasons you may feel you don't want to work

There are many reasons you may not be feeling like working right now. By identifying the underlying cause, you can find effective solutions that can help you feel better and get more out of your working life. Here are some common reasons people lose the motivation to work:

Burnout

Burnout is a real occupational phenomenon that has diagnostic criteria assigned by the World Health Organisation (WHO). There are multiple types of burnout that can cause exhaustion and a loss of motivation. According to the WHO, burnout has the following symptoms:

  • energy depletion and feelings of exhaustion

  • feeling mentally distanced from your occupation

  • negative or cynical feelings towards your job

  • reduced performance at work

Related: Coping with Burnout from Work (With Symptoms and Causes)

Boredom

Boredom and underemployment may diminish motivation, focus and performance in your career. If you're under-challenged at work, look for ways in which you can gain satisfaction in your activities and keep feelings of frustration at bay. Changing your work routine, engaging with colleagues or starting a group or initiative like volunteering could be great for providing yourself with an interesting challenge.

An unsuitable career

Not wanting to work may be down to being in the wrong career. If you're not interested in the work that you do, you can become demoralised and disillusioned. Feeling like this may be an indicator that you should look for a new, satisfying career in a field that motivates you.

A hostile work environment

You may not want to work because you're dealing with negative interactions with colleagues, bullying or harassment in your work environment. Problems at work can affect your quality of life and your personal time outside of work, which you can protect by doing activities you enjoy and meeting with friends and loved ones. Keeping a diary of your experiences and speaking with a trusted line manager or the leadership may be necessary.

Undiagnosed medical problems

A loss of motivation for work could be because of an underlying health problem. Health issues like thyroid disease, anaemia, depression or nutritional deficiencies can cause these feelings. Discussing health concerns with your doctor is key to identifying a medical issue that you can treat and getting advice on a healthy lifestyle.

Ways to address feelings of not wanting to work

Identifying a cause for losing your desire to work can help set you on the path to feeling better by making the changes you need. In the interim, you can use a variety of coping strategies to manage the problem and gain relief from your demotivation. Here are some ways to handle these feelings:

Protect your mental health and wellbeing

Problems at work can cause mental and emotional stress. Not wanting to do your job may be a symptom of a larger issue that may require help to overcome. Seek support from trusted friends or relatives or talk to a counsellor who can advise on how to manage your feelings.

Talk to your supervisor

If you're not motivated to work, talking in confidence to your manager or a trusted senior colleague can help you express what is happening and get advice and help. They're often the best individuals in your workplace to approach regarding any discrimination or bullying that may cause these feelings. If you're feeling under-challenged, your supervisor may provide you with additional work and responsibility or a new project that interests you.

Identify your feelings and consider actionable changes

If you can pinpoint what is causing you not to want to work, you could change your career to remedy the situation. Even changing one aspect of your work life could ease negative feelings and help you cope. Examples of simple changes you could make include:

  • reducing your hours or going part-time

  • changing your commute

  • applying for a transfer to a different office or department within your company

Think about your ideal life and set goals

You may have been so preoccupied with work that you have forgotten why you work. Reconnect with your aspirations and the things you care about and use them to motivate you to work towards goals. Think about any ambitions you may have, like learning new skills or travelling to other countries and explore employment opportunities that can help you achieve them. Making plans can really motivate you and lift your mood.

Take a break

A loss of drive or motivation for employed work may be a sign that you need a period of extended rest. Your Human Resources Director or a private Occupational Health Provider can talk you through your options for taking leave from work, a career break or sabbatical. This can give you time to rest and regain the motivation for a return to the workplace. Burnout can have significant negative effects on your mental and physical health, so this could be an excellent opportunity to rest and reset.

Related: How to avoid burnout in the workplace

Build positive habits

If you can't change your job or stop working because of income, you can still take control of the situation by incorporating small, positive habits into your work routine. Small changes can help you improve your outlook and build positive aspects of your work routine that you look forward to. Examples of changes you could make include:

  • visiting the gym or being active after work

  • having mid-morning refreshments

  • meeting friends after work

Search for a new job

If you're still not wanting to work after making some changes in your work routine or seeking advice and support, a change of job might be the best thing for you. If your career satisfies you, look for a new job with a similar level of seniority and pay. A new job provides a fresh start and the opportunity to build new, healthy work relationships.

Related: How to go about finding a new job

Look for an alternative career

Feelings of not wanting to work may be a sign that it's time to look for a completely different career. You can brainstorm what really interests you and devote time to researching how to start a new career. You may even want to consider going back to school or entering a training programme to gain new qualifications.

Related: How to change careers

Practise self-care

Treating or rewarding yourself gives you something to look forward to, especially when paired with workplace goals. If work is becoming a genuine struggle, reward yourself simply for getting through the day. By working on your personal happiness at work, you may regain motivation to achieve other workplace successes.

Consider self-employment

Self-employment could provide you with greater control over the type of work you do and your working hours. There are many options for self-employment, including remote working jobs where you can work from home. If you have specialised skills that are in demand, you can consider freelancing to work on a contract or as-needed basis.

Related: How to get a gig job

Try monetising your hobbies

Many people aspire to earn a living doing the things they love. If you have a hobby or interest, you may generate an income from your skills or hobbies. In time, you could start a small business that could become a viable alternative to employment.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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