Let’s face it, no matter how much we love our jobs, most of us would much rather stay snuggled up in bed than face the workday. Between office politics, nonstop projects, and commitments at home, the 40-hour workweek can be a lot to handle. But sometimes, you hit a point where you simply do not want to work anymore, and at that point, what do you do?
As tempting as it might be to curl up on the couch and call it a day, many of us can’t afford to actually do that. Instead, here are some tips to make it through the workday when you don’t want to work, and advice from some experts on how to manage stressors.
Why don’t you want to work?
The first thing you have to do is figure out why exactly you don’t want to work. Are you tired of your job itself, or are there external factors at play? Maybe you have a toxic boss, unkind coworkers, or an office environment that doesn’t fit your style. Home life might be overwhelming, and maybe you feel like your partner isn’t helping you share the load. Identifying the problem is the first step to coming up with a solution.
1. You’re burned out
If you’re feeling exhausted at work, you definitely aren't alone. A recent study from Deloitte showed that a whopping 77 percent of people feel burned out at their current job. If you’re suffering from burnout, you might feel helpless, unmotivated, or depressed, and that feeling can majorly impact whether you enjoy going to work.
Although anyone can feel burned out, burnout often hits people with emotionally demanding jobs the hardest because they are expending so much emotional labor to make it through the day. Studies have also shown that women are far more likely to feel burnout than men, largely due to poor division of unpaid labor (ie. housework) outside the workplace. However, women who felt burned out because of office conditions often cited a perceived lack of respect in the office and lack of advancement opportunities as the reasons why. Degrading work environments, too, are exhausting and can make you loathe clocking in.
How to manage burnout
When it comes to fixing burnout, self-care is key. “If you are feeling burned out at work, you should stop and check on how you’re doing in two areas: self-care and self-compassion,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Sunni Lampasso. “When work and life get busy, our self-care strategies, such as exercise, getting regular sleep, talking to a friend, and participating in leisure activities are often the first things that get pushed to the bottom of the priority list.”
Be kind to yourself and give yourself a break--making a list of self-care strategies and prioritizing “me time” is key. If you can spare just 20 minutes to do some meditation, paint your nails, or go for a quick power walk, it can make a big difference in your mental state. Dr. Lampasso also suggests talking to a therapist if you can afford to do so.
And if you feel overwhelmed because of work? Don’t hesitate to bring up the issue with HR or your boss. Your leaders can’t fix what they can’t see.
Read more: 25 Tips for Dealing with Burnout
2. Stress from home is too much
Coming home to hours of household responsibilities after a long day of work is enough to make anyone feel exhausted. Stress from home can be a huge factor preventing you from enjoying your work, and studies have shown women deal with most of the household stress. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women spend, on average, 37 percent more time on housework than men, or an extra 14 hours a week.
How to manage juggling life and work
If you have a partner and you feel like your division of labor at home is inequitable, educational psychologist Dr. Richelle Whittaker, a mom herself, suggests having an honest discussion with your significant other. Before having the talk, she recommends examining any terms you’ve previously established regarding divisions of labor and thinking about what needs to change before devoting uninterrupted time to a conversation. “Allow yourself to be vulnerable and let them know how you're feeling about it,” Dr. Whittaker recommends. “For example, you can say, ‘I feel overwhelmed by the number of tasks that I have to do on a daily basis and need your help to do x, y, z.’”
If you don’t have a partner or are a single parent, think about who you can reach out to for help. Consider joining a local babysitting co-op or nanny share to alleviate some stress during your time off. If you don’t have local familial support or the cost of outside help seems out of reach, consider asking your employer if you can work remotely. Cutting the time of a commute will allow you more time to devote to your life work.
3. You’re bored
Let’s face it, some jobs are just downright boring, and it’s hard to want to go to work if you don’t like what you’re doing. Maybe you have too much downtime at the office, or alternatively, have mounds of busywork that just doesn’t feel meaningful.
The first step to solving this problem is talking with your boss. “Talk to your manager about more challenging tasks, or more diverse tasks,” suggests career coach Patricia Ortega. “Consider drafting a proposal (or making note of it in your mind) to share what you might work on and/or what you might delegate to another team member, even if only temporarily.”
If you feel like you don’t have room to grow at work, you aren’t getting the recognition you deserve or your skills are being underutilized, voice those feelings. If you have too much downtime at work, pitch an idea that you’re passionate about and offer to tackle it in addition to your regular responsibilities. Not only will it help you to feel excited about work again, you’ll likely impress your boss with your initiative and innovation in the process.
Read more: How to Find Your Work Motivation…and Keep It
4. The workplace is toxic
Yikes! Nothing makes you want to skip work like an office full of toxic coworkers or bosses. If your workplace feels unhealthy, identifying the problem immediately is important. You’ll want to talk to your boss (if they aren’t the issue themselves) or HR if you feel like racist, sexist, or ableist ideas are being perpetuated at work, or if you feel unsafe in any way.
If the problems are more subtle or don’t warrant immediate intervention, finding a work ally (a work wife, maybe) can be your saving grace. Seek out someone who ignores the drama who you know will have your back.
Read more: Mean Girls in the Workplace
5. This career isn’t for you
If your work-life balance is solid, the office environment is challenging but healthy, and you still don’t want to go to work, try taking some time to reflect before making your next step. It might be that your job just isn’t the best fit for you anymore.
If you can afford to take days off, use that time to clear your thoughts. “Contrast creates clarity,” says Dr. Kristin Miller, a family physician who helps patients struggling with stress and anxiety. “Sometimes taking either a day or a few days off to do some self-care or take a vacation can help you remember why you loved your job in the first place.”
If after some reflection you can’t identify a specific problem with your job and you still don’t want to go back to work, it might be because your job isn’t the best fit. That’s okay, and you definitely aren’t alone! Seventy-three percent of women want to change careers. Welcome to the club.
Even if you don’t have experience in another industry, making the switch is completely possible. You might have to do a bit of planning. Figure out what industry you think would be a better fit, and make a list of transferable skills you can bring to your new career. Utilize LinkedIn and college alumni associations to look for new opportunities and expand your network. Reaching out to a career coach or resume expert can also be a great investment to help you score your new dream job.
About our sources
Dr. Sunni Lampasso is a psychologist, executive coach and the founder of Shaping Success LLC, a coaching and consulting practice. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and serves as an Executive Board Member of the Organizational, Consulting and Work Psychology division of the New York State Psychological Association. Dr. Lampasso is also a Fellow of the Institute of Coaching at McLean, Harvard Medical School. She holds a BA in psychology and spanish from College of New Rochelle and a Psy.D. clinical psychology from Alliant International University, San Diego.
Dr. Richelle Whittaker is an educational psychologist, parenting coach, maternal mental health expert and the CEO of Providential Counseling & Consulting Services, PLLC. Her specialties include maternal mental health in women of color, behavioral disorders, applied behavioral analysis and learning disabilities. She holds a B.A. in psychology from Grambling State University, a M.A. in clinical psychology from Sam Houston State University and a Ph.D. in school psychology from Texas Tech University.
Patricia Ortega is a certified life coach and founder of She Stands Out, a coaching & life success company dedicated to helping women navigate their careers. She specializes in helping women in the corporate world, education, STEM and engineering. She holds a M.S. in counseling and has spent over 10 years working in the career, academic and personal counseling fields.
Dr. Kristin Miller is a physician, certified life coach and motivational speaker. In addition to working as a family physician, she is the founder of Dr. Kristin Miller Wellness, PLLC. She specializes in helping people manage stress, and is passionate about ending the stigma associated with mental health issues. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from University of Cincinnati, an M.D. from University of Medicine and Health Sciences and completed her residency in family medicine at Florida State University.