Why don’t I want to go to work anymore? And what can I do about it?

In the last few years, we have seen more and more people leave their jobs or change professions completely. There are a range of reasons for someone not wanting to go to work with some outlined below.

I’m surviving, not thriving
Reasons may include:
You are experiencing a mental health condition – such as depression, anxiety, stress and/or burnout – a syndrome, resulting from prolonged or chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterised by three dimensions: feeling exhausted, cynical and reduced efficacy (i.e., producing a desired or intended result). While often it is caused by factors at work, it can also arise from other areas of your life, in relationships, caretaking or parenting.

You may hold cognitive distortions (which also can contribute to many mental health conditions). These are negative thought patterns that can lead to feelings of anxiety, sadness, and demotivation. One type of cognitive distortion includes catastrophising, where we imagine the worst possible outcome will happen. For example, we may dread the outcome of a project we are working on or fear we will not be able to complete a task in time. Another distortion includes mental filtering, where we focus on one aspect of a situation (generally negative) and disregard the other aspects (generally positive) leading to tunnel vision.

– You are affected by psychosocial hazards in your workplace; these are anything in the design or management of work that can increase the risk of harm and contribute to stress. If not controlled, they can lead to burnout, depression and in some cases post-traumatic stress disorder. These hazards are based on job demands (i.e., things in the workplace that cause stress) or lack of job resources (i.e., things that alleviate stress at work). A list of psychosocial risk factors can be found here. Under the model of Work Health and Safety laws, business owners have a legal obligation to eliminate or as practically as possible, minimise psychosocial hazards in the workplace. SafeWork Australia has more information here.

Some hazards may include:

• Role overload, where you feel pressure to complete excessive work demands that are difficult to complete. This might include being delegated projects that are not able to be completed realistically in the timeframes given.

• Role underload – you are bored and not stimulated in your role

• Emotional demands, or emotional labour – where you need to engage in tasks or activities that require you to put on a happy face when you are not feeling it – this causes internal conflict, leading to stress.

• A lack of job control – where you lack autonomy and influence over how work is done and what happens in the work environment. This might include experiencing excessive monitoring of your diary by your boss

• Lack of praise and recognition – You feel taken for granted, or feel stagnant in your career, perhaps people are getting promoted around you while you are remaining on the same level

• Lack of support in your role – from your supervisor or colleagues. Supervisor support is the level that your leader values and guides you as a worker, providing you with emotional and practical support and co-worker support involves the emotional and practical support that team members provide to each other.

The role is not a good fit – the role or company may not be aligned with your personality type, interests, strengths and values. For example, you may be working for a large mining company when you hold strong environmental protection values, leading to cognitive dissonance (i.e., experiencing mental conflict when your beliefs don’t match your actions). You may have also outgrown your role where you are not learning anymore, or be in a life stage, where your needs and priorities have changed, meaning your job no longer meets your needs or aligns with your priorities. For example, if you are entering parenthood, you may prioritise family, flexibility, work-life balance and income more than you had at another life stage. Poor role fit can also fall under the umbrella of ‘role conflict’, another psychosocial risk factor, where you work in a role that goes against your values, leading to stress.

You may lack career direction – this may result from not having a clear understanding of your values, interests or goals which can lead to feeling overwhelmed, stressed, confused and apathetic towards your job.

Physical barriers such as workplace location – You may live a decent drive away from your workplace and the commute may be draining. You may also not be given adequate flexibility which becomes a psychosocial risk factor (i.e., lack of control) that impacts your desire to go to work.

What can I do about it?
• Identify the reasons underlying your lack of desire to go to work – are there psychosocial risk factors at play? Do you have a mental condition that you need support with? – It’s important to become aware of what is underlying your lack of motivation to go to work. It may be helpful to speak with a professional, such as a psychologist, to unpack your reasons and gain practical strategies to move forward.
• Learn more about your values, interests, strengths and personality type. While we recommend completing valid and reliable assessments with a trained professional who can debrief you on your results, there are free assessments you can undertake (i.e., the Schwartz Personal Values Questionnaire).
• Take leave or a break – it may be worth taking time off work to reset, recover and unpack the reasons impacting your motivation to go to work.
• If you feel safe to do so, raise your concerns about psychosocial hazards that you are seeing in your workplace with your manager or direct report. They may be able to make adjustments to your role to better support you.
• If you are being significantly impacted by any psychosocial hazards and you feel it is unsafe to raise these concerns in your workplace, you may seek legal advice externally, such as from a state regulator (i.e., SafeWork or WorkSafe VIC).