6 Reasons Why You Don't Want to Work Anymore, and How to Cope

woman at work who is over it

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Deanna deBara
Deanna deBara
June 15, 2024 at 12:32AM UTC

Have you ever woken up and immediately had the thought, Wow…I don’t want to work anymore? If so, don’t worry. You’re not alone.

“We all have times when we feel like we don't want to work anymore,” says Clinical Psychologist Paul Greene, director of the New York-based Manhattan Center for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Having thoughts like I’m done, I’m so over this, or I just don’t feel like working anymore are totally normal—and, in many cases, nothing to worry about.

“It would be unrealistic to stay 100% engaged throughout your career,” says Chris Mulhall, a talent management executive, career coach, and founder/CEO of Motivators.io. “It's important to remind yourself that these feelings are common across all jobs and careers; our motivations will ebb and flow in parallel with our life and career priorities.”

But while some of these thoughts are harmless, others could be a red flag that something is off about your current job, company, or career path—and whether the thoughts are fleeting and harmless or persistent and troubling, they can make it hard to get things done.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons you may be feeling like you just don’t want to work anymore—and, more importantly, how to cope with those feelings.

1. You’re sick.

Sometimes, thoughts about not wanting to work anymore have nothing to do with your job satisfaction. In fact, having a day when you think I don’t want to work anymore could be a result of something simple—like catching a cold.

“If you're ill or anticipate having less energy or capacity for work, it's normal to wonder if it makes sense to continue—at least in the short term,” says Greene.

How to cope: If an illness is making you not want to work, do yourself a favor (if you can) and take a sick day to recover. If you’re dealing with an ongoing illness or chronic medical issue, “going on medical leave is sometimes an appropriate solution,” says Greene.

2. You’ve expanded your family.

Having a child is an experience that completely changes you. And for some people, it also completely changes their thoughts, feelings, and opinions about work.

“If you’ve recently had a child, it's normal to question whether continuing to work makes sense,” says Greene. 

You may question whether you want to work after adding a child to your family for a number of reasons. For example, you may want to spend more time at home with your child—or, in some situations, keeping your current job may no longer make financial sense.

“The cost of childcare services—combined with the added time and travel costs—often result in not enough residual take-home pay for the effort required,” says organizational psychologist Rita Ernst.

How to cope: The first thing to note? Any option—whether that’s keeping your current job, looking for a new role that better suits your schedule, or stopping work altogether—is totally fine. 

That being said, if a new child and/or growing family is making you not want to work, it’s important to determine what’s actually behind that want. Do some brainstorming or journaling to figure out what is actually driving your desire to stop working—and then make a plan to deal with it in the short-term. (For example, if you don’t want to work because you want to spend more time with your new baby, you might talk to your boss to ask if you can extend your parental leave or work a reduced schedule.) If that short-term solution doesn’t get rid of your thoughts, it may be time to start exploring a more long-term fix—like finding a new job with more flexible hours.

3. You feel unappreciated at work.

Another reason you may be feeling like you don’t want to work anymore is “if you feel unappreciated at a job that isn't meaningful to you,” says Greene. “In that situation, your motivation wanes, and it's common to entertain thoughts of leaving your job.”

For example, let’s say you’ve been working late for weeks in order to deliver on an important project—but when you turn it in, your boss doesn’t even acknowledge they got it. In that situation, where you don’t get so much as a “Thanks for your hard work on this!” it’s easy to think, Why bother working so hard?—which can then make you feel like you don’t want to work at all.

How to cope: If you’re feeling unappreciated, consider talking to your boss. Sometimes, the lack of appreciation is simply a difference in communication style—and giving them the heads up that you’re feeling unappreciated could be all it takes to get the recognition and support you deserve. 

Also, if the lack of appreciation has you feeling down on yourself or doubting your skills, take a few minutes and write down all of the things you’re proud of at work. Seeing the (long!) list of ways that you’re thriving at work will remind you of what a competent, accomplished professional you are—even if you don’t regularly get those reminders from your boss.

4. You’re dealing with burnout.

Another common culprit behind feeling like you don’t want to work anymore? The dreaded “B” word—burnout.

Burnout is defined as “physical, emotional or mental exhaustion, accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance and negative attitudes towards oneself and others,” per the Cleveland Clinic.

And while burnout can technically happen in a variety of situations, it’s most commonly associated with work—and can have a serious impact on your drive and desire to continue working.

“Burnout can feel demoralizing,” says Greene. “It often comes with a sense that continuing at your job is pointless or impossible.”

How to cope: Before you can treat your burnout, it’s important to figure out what, exactly, is causing it. “Coping with burnout is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, so the solution will look different for different people,” says Greene.

For example, if you realize you’re feeling burned out because you’re working late every night—and putting in extra hours on the weekend—you might talk to your boss about offloading your responsibilities. Or, you might realize you’re burned out because you’re no longer excited or passionate about your job. In that case, you might start taking steps toward finding a new job. If that’s not feasible, invest more time in things you’re passionate about outside of work, like connecting with loved ones or enjoying your hobbies. 

The point is, the most effective way to cope with burnout will vary from person to person. If you think burnout is causing you to not want to work anymore, figure out what, exactly, is burning you out—and then take steps to fix it.

5. You want more flexibility.

Sometimes, the feeling of not wanting to work anymore isn’t about the actual work; instead, it’s about “the desire for more control and/or flexibility [in how, when, and where that work happens],” says Ernst.

“When you have little influence over your work location, hours of work, and how you prioritize your day, it's common for workers to feel like they're at the mercy of someone else's schedule, leading to recurring feelings of angst and disengagement,” says Mulhall.

How to cope: If you suspect your rigid work structure is driving your I don’t want to work anymore thoughts, talk to your boss to see if you can get more flexibility. “There might be opportunities to influence your in-office versus remote work schedule, when you're expected to start and end your work day, or how many meetings you need to attend each day,” says Mulhall.

If more flexibility in your current job is an option, it may be time to start looking at opportunities—and making that flexibility a non-negotiable in your search. “Focus on remote work postings to find employers and job matches that allow more flexibility,” says Ernst.

6. You’ve lost your sense of purpose. 

Work isn’t always fun. But when your work gives you a sense of purpose, generally speaking, you want to work—even when it gets hard.

But if you’re feeling like you don’t want to work anymore, it could be due to “the sentiment that there's little to no opportunity to achieve what's most important to you at work,” says Mulhall.

For example, let’s say you love being a leader. As a manager, you genuinely enjoy mentoring newer employees, supporting them on their career path, and seeing them succeed; it gives you a sense of fulfillment. 

If your job responsibilities were to shift and, instead of managing a team, you spent most of your day working on spreadsheets, you could lose your sense of purpose in your role—and your drive and motivation to work along with it.

How to cope: If you feel like you’ve lost your sense of purpose at work (or felt like you never had a sense of purpose to begin with), the first step to cope is identifying what would make you feel purposeful—and then finding activities you can do at work to help give you that sense of purpose.

For example, if you’re motivated by social connection, joining an activities committee can be a great way to connect with your colleagues and find more purpose. Or, if you’re motivated by personal growth, you might consider volunteering for a new project that puts you out of your comfort zone.

How to Cope When You Don't Want to Work Anymore

Still struggling with feeling like you just don’t want to work? Here are some general tips to help you overcome it:

1. Don’t act on impulse. 

When you’re dealing with I don’t want to work anymore thoughts, it can be tempting to follow those thoughts and make a major move, like quitting your job.

But quitting your job impulsively is rarely a good move. Instead, give yourself some time and space to think about your situation, why you’re feeling like you don’t want to work anymore, what you can do to cope, and how you want to move forward.

“In these situations, one of the best ways to cope is to make a list of the pros and cons of giving up your job—and then give yourself time to weigh the decision rather than deciding impulsively,” says Greene. “There may be good reasons to leave, but also good reasons to stay. Making a thoughtful decision in these situations is the wise choice.”

2. Look for happiness outside of work.

Not wanting to work can feel like a problem. And so, naturally, you want to find a solution. But sometimes, you won’t find that solution in your work life; instead, you might need to tap into your personal life.

“Ask yourself if there are ways you could enrich your life outside of work that might help,” says Greene. 

For example, if it’s a lack of purpose that’s making you not want to work, consider volunteering. If you’re feeling unappreciated at work, reach out to your closest friend and ask them for a little encouragement. If you’re feeling burned out, make self-care your top priority during your off-hours. If you’re unhappy at work, look for happiness outside of work—and when you find that happiness, it just might help with your work-related challenges, too.

3. Work with a professional.

If you feel like, no matter what you try, you can’t shake your feelings of not wanting to work anymore—and you don’t know what to do about it—it might be time to get some professional help.

“Consider consulting with a career counselor,” says Greene. “They can often address whether your job is a good fit for your strengths and personality style, and help you evaluate your options.”

Have you overcome the feeling of not wanting to work anymore? Tell us how in the comments! 

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