Before we really get into it, let’s establish one thing. There’s a huge difference between saying something like, “I don’t want to work today,” and “I don’t want to work at all anymore.”
“I Don’t Want to Work” — The Short-Term Reasons
If you’re not fully disillusioned with your career, but you definitely need a break, let’s talk about a few scenarios to explore—and when it might be advantageous for you to call off work without using common excuses.
I Don’t Want to Work Today Because I Don’t Feel Well
In the case that you’re feeling sick with the stomach flu, pink eye, a few sneezes, or another invisible health condition, please take your sick time. In a post-2020 world, every employer should be sensitive to a short notice sick day—especially one that could keep other employees from becoming ill, as well.
I Don’t Feel Like I Can Work Due to My Mental Health
As human employees, we’ve all likely used a little white lie to get out of a day of work. We may have used a doctor’s appointment as an excuse to cover up a job interview. We may have claimed car trouble to cover for an equally troubling hangover.
In a perfect world, the mental health day would be normalized. Heck, in a perfect world, the “let me catch up on my life day” would also be normalized. On this type of day, we wouldn’t have to summon any fake family emergencies. We could use the day to recover, get a pedicure without waiting an hour, and get some mental rest.
If you can take a mental health day, take one. If you don’t think your employer “gets it,” then call in sick to say you’re feeling unwell. There is no need to elaborate. If your boss requires proof that you feel unwell, you may present your valid reason. In the aftermath of 2020, we can’t be faking doctor’s notes at the last minute.
I Don’t “Want” to Work Because *Gestures Wildly*
These are the days when you might actually want to work, but life is happening all around you. Unexpected circumstances can range from burst pipes to car trouble (why do flat tires always happen on the way to work?).
Perhaps your vet called and they can finally get your sick dog into care but it’s smack in the middle of your workday. The same circumstance can go for an important dentist appointment.
If the babysitter can’t get to you due to another snowmageddon, you might have no choice. In these cases, it’s more of a flexibility issue than a one-time occurrence. That’s why it’s important to keep transparency at work whenever possible.
In this dream world, we don’t need to create elaborate work excuses. Instead, we can keep work in the loop as we navigate our lives so that they fit together.
Why You Don’t Want to Work + What to Do About It
The next thing that’s important to note is that nothing is wrong with you. This is a common feeling. We all get it from time to time. The next steps are in identifying why you feel the way you do and what to do about it. We’re going to address it all in this article.
If you’re feeling like you don’t want to work and you can’t shake the feeling, we have a few common signs of demotivation and what to do about it. Because, chances are, you actually do have to work in some capacity.
Sometimes the answer is upskilling, having a discussion with your boss, or leaving your job altogether.
1. I Lost Sight of What I’m Doing
It’s easier than you think to fall off track with what you’re doing. Maybe the pandemic changed your role dramatically. This can happen when your job takes over or when you’re too busy to think straight. This can also happen when you’ve overstayed your time at a certain company or within a certain role.
This is as good a time as any to remind you of one important thing: your career is not your entire life.
Your career is something to build and to be proud of, but it is a part of your life, not the entirety of it. Your job doesn’t need to be the entire dream. It can be good enough for you.
How to Re-Motivate When You Lose Sight of What You’re Doing
Check in with your core values and how they relate to your work.
If you find that they are all misaligned, do the work to realign them. We know we talk a lot about core values, but we promise it’s only because they are so important, especially for motivation. They also change as you navigate through your life and your career.
If your current job function, company culture, or workload doesn’t fit your life’s goals any longer, switch things up. Here’s how to align your core values with your work.
Let’s say your number one core value is helping others. If you’re working as an administrator in Commercial Real Estate Law, you might want to switch up your industry to meet your value.
Perhaps you could look for a role in healthcare, nonprofits, or education and bring your values to your job.
Taking Care of My Family
Maybe your core value is in taking care of your family and kids. Heck, we earn our paychecks to support our lives, don’t we? You’re earning a massive salary, but you see your family close to never.
Perhaps you want to find a less demanding job and trade off your salary for more time with your loved ones.
Okay, one more. Let’s say your core value is constantly learning. Your current job is good, but you feel stagnant.
Create opportunities to expand your skills at your current job. Ask your boss if there are opportunities for learning stipends—and get to learning.
2. I Reached My Big Goal— And I Feel Nothing
Set a big goal? Amazing.
Achieved it? Even better.
Sitting in the wake of your achievements is supposed to feel incredible. It’s supposed to be the moment. You’re supposed to brag, collect accolades, and feel absolutely almighty. So what happens when you achieve your goal and it feels more like a blip?
We live in a culture where it feels like we should always be striving for the next big thing. We work hard to get it, feel nothing, and repeat the process.
This is when we find ourselves lost—like, what is it we’re even working towards anymore?
How to Re-Motivate Once You’ve Reached Your Big Goal
It might be time to ditch the narrative that we always need to be chasing.
We love goals—love them. We love setting, achieving, and celebrating goals. Sometimes it’s that last step, the celebrating, that we miss. Life is busy, so it’s easy to forget to celebrate a work anniversary, a big raise, a promotion in title, or any other number of goals.
Our solution has two steps:
- Manage your expectations around setting and achieving goals. Don’t expect one achievement to change everything.
- Make time to celebrate. Take the time to celebrate your goals. It could mean writing it down, rewarding yourself, or mentioning it in the next team meeting. Make sure to acknowledge it.
3. I Hate My Job and Everyone Here
If you hate everything about your job, you’re not alone.
It’s horrible to be stuck in a workplace and feel unable to move. However, many people find themselves in positions where they are unable to quit—even if it’s obvious that they should.
Here’s the thing. It’s easy for us to yell from the rooftop, “Quit your job! It’ll save your life!” The truth is that everyone has different situations. Everyone has different reasons for why they might be stuck in a job they absolutely hate, sitting alongside colleagues and supervisors that they despise.
How to Re-Motivate When You Hate Your Job + All of Your Coworkers
So here’s our advice. Well, it still is to quit, but to do these things first.
- Separate work from home. Try not to let work come home with you. If you need to compartmentalize, do it. Toxic jobs, horrific bosses, and bad workplaces have a tendency to seep into other parts of our lives. Try to enjoy your life outside of work whenever you can.
- Create an “I Quit Fund.” We have a great article from Amanda Holden on how to do just that.
- Learn the lessons. Make sure you take note of all the bad—and never let it happen again.
4. I Feel Underappreciated or Alienated from Everyone Else
Lack of recognition is a huge contributor to overall employee unhappiness and turnover.
In fact, data from TINYpulse shows that 21.5 percent of employees that don’t feel recognized when they do great work have interviewed for a job in the last three months.
Feeling unappreciated at work is a huge demotivator, especially when you feel you’re doing great work. Often, the same employees who feel underappreciated find that their mistakes are highlighted more than the great work they do accomplish.
This is likely a big warning sign that your workplace is toxic. You might not be receiving recognition for a number of reasons. Here are just a few:
- The company culture doesn’t consider recognition important.
- There is a “favorite” employee at work who usually gets attention.
- Your boss or manager sweeps up credit for all good work done.
- You are misunderstood or disliked for one reason or another.
How to Re-Motivate When You Feel Underappreciated or Alienated
It’s possible that you work in a fast-paced environment where recognition just doesn’t happen. It might not be that you’re actually unappreciated, but that the culture doesn’t align with your workplace love language.
You know in your gut whether your workplace is toxic. If you’re not sure, there are other telltale signs of a toxic workplace.
However, if your job is otherwise pretty good and you just want a little recognition, communicate that. In addition to communicating your needs, make sure you’re also giving recognition to others. By steering your culture into a direction of celebrating wins, it might just catch on.
Raise your hand in the next meeting to share a big win. If you’re communicating over email, hit reply all and write a few lines about a compliment your team received.
At Career Contessa, we have a Slack Channel where we celebrate wins, compliments, testimonials, and all good news. It’s a small thing that makes a huge difference. And, yes, it makes us want to continue to do the work we do.
5. I’ve Lost All Inspiration
You may have lost inspiration for a variety of reasons, so let’s focus on the why.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to figure out why your inspiration tank has run dry:
- When was the last vacation day I took where I really disconnected?
- Am I being adequately recognized?
- Have I experienced any growth in the last six months? The last year?
- Does my work still align with my values?
- Do I need more support?
- Do I need more challenging work?
- Do we, as a team, need to switch up how we do things?
- Are we experiencing a long plateau?
Inspiration comes and goes—it’s just how it is! However, if you’re feeling a loss of inspiration that feels more like a warning sign, you know it’s more than an inspiration ebb.
How to Re-Motivate When You’ve Lost Inspiration
Re-evaluate your work.
Think back to a time when you felt extremely motivated and inspired at work. How does that differ from what’s happening now? Has leadership changed? Are you working with difficult clients? Have you simply outgrown your role?
You might find that you need to level up in the challenge department. The job that seemed difficult and challenging to you might not be that way anymore. It could be time to go after that promotion and explore new career opportunities—whether at your current organization or elsewhere.
6. I Had Different Expectations for This “Dream Job”
Ahh, the dream job myth!
We’re all taught to go after the dream job, but it’s a unicorn, after all. Yes, you can love your job. Yes, everything can fit your lifestyle and what’s important to you at this moment. The thing is, the dream job doesn’t really exist. It’s sort of an oxymoron.
Don’t be completely gutted if your dream job doesn’t end up living up to what you thought. Just like meeting a huge goal, it’s sort of impossible to figure what it will feel like until you actually get there.
How to Re-Motivate When Your Expectations Differ from Reality
Identify what it was about your job that made it The Dream. It may have been a cool title at a company that seemed amazing. Once you pulled the curtain back, you may have found yourself extremely disappointed.
That’s okay. It happens to all of us, and it’s a learning experience. If your dream job turns out to be closer to a waking nightmare, reassess what you want to do, where you’d like to do it, and why.
Our course, The Job Search Academy uses a company-first job strategy that allows job seekers to take a different approach to find their job.
Another common occurrence is that your job is completely fine. The hours are good. The commute is short. Your boss is pleasant. Your coworkers are supportive. But, your job didn’t transform you overnight into a powerful CEO ruling the world.
We call this the “good enough” job. It’s the job that fits your lifestyle without overtaking it. In a culture where we are supposed to let our jobs rule our identities, having a “good enough” job can feel like a downer over a cocktail conversation. Here’s the thing: who cares?
Try to shift your mindset if you’re experiencing a dream job hangover. Maybe your job is good enough.
7. I Am Too Burned Out
If you’re burned out, you know it.
One common misconception about burnout is that it only happened to those of us who are working high-stress jobs and pulling 100-hour weeks.
Burnout is an actual diagnosis recognized by the World Health Organization. In fact, studies have shown that 77 percent of employees feel burned out at their current job.
There are actually three types of burnout—and they can all leave you absolutely exhausted.
Frenetic burnout is experienced by employees who put a ton of energy into their work in the hopes that the output will be rewarding. After a sustained period of dedicated work, the frenetic worker does not find positive outcomes.
How to Re-Motivate When You Feel Frenetic Burnout
Rather than becoming deterred from this, the frenetic worker continuously channels maximum energy into work—with little to no regard for health or work-life balance. Those who work more than 40 hours a week are more prone to suffer from this type of burnout—which usually ends in complete mental and physical exhaustion.
This type of burnout occurs when an employee feels underchallenged and bored at work. Being unable to find any satisfaction in a job, the underchallenged employees find themselves in a lowered mood.
How to Re-Motivate When You Feel Underchallenged Burnout
The underchallenged employee needs to identify what she loves, what she excels at, and what matters to her. From there, she can best beat this type of burnout by finding a position that offers an intersection of these passions.
A worn-out employee is someone who is resigned from their work after experiencing consistent work stress over a long period of time. Having experienced negligible rewards, the worn-out employee feels disillusioned and uninspired by the job at hand.
How to Re-Motivate When You Feel Worn-Out Burnout
Worn-out burnout often occurs when an employee gives her power and work to others instead of taking it on her own. If you’re suffering from worn-out burnout, identify why you aren’t motivated by your work. Take the steps to either reclaim your ownership or look for a position that could better fulfill you.
8. I Don’t Want to Go Back Into the Office
If you’ve been working remotely for a long time, and you’ve finally found your groove, you’re definitely not alone. As many employees turned to remote work for lack of other options in 2020, the workforce changed. The expectation that everyone should turn around and come back has caused confusion and heightened dissatisfaction.
How to Re-Motivate When You Don’t Want to Go Back Into the Office
What do you do if you’d prefer to find a new job that offers remote work?
1. Talk to Your Boss
You don’t know what you don’t know. While your organization might be teasing an obligatory return to an office, it’s absolutely normal to have personal issues with it. Talk to your boss. Bring evidence of your success over the period of time you’ve worked remotely. Ask pointed questions about why a return is necessary.
In an ideal situation, your boss will listen and work something out. However, if your team is ready to return to the office tomorrow and you’re not onboard, you have no obligation to stay at your job. Look for job openings that offer the perks of flexible work that you’ve grown accustomed to.
If there is one thing that many of us learned during the lockdown, it’s that adjustments can be made. If your midday workouts and sweatpants Fridays have been working for your life, then prioritize flexible work in your future career changes.