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It’s Sunday night and the only thought running through your head on repeat is “I don’t want to work anymore…”

We have all been there at one point or another. We have all felt like we just don’t want to work anymore. Perhaps it’s Sunday night and the fact that Monday is the next day is weighing on you. Maybe you are on your lunch break and wonder what it would be like if you booked a one-way flight to Hawaii and just never came back. You tell your friends “I don’t want to go to work today” pretty much every day. It does not help.

“I don’t want to go to work tomorrow” is on repeat in your mind every night. When you leave work, you don’t want to go back. Two days off a week just is not enough and you dread going to work every night. Is this a sign you need to quit and live in a van? But the thing is, no matter how much you don’t want to work anymore, you need the money.  

It is starting to feel like a lifetime of work could be added to the famous Benjamin Franklin quote about the only things that are certain in this world are death and taxes.

This is normal, to a point. Everyone has those days. Sometimes you’ll have days when you don’t want to go to work. Deadlines, stress, workplace politics, the commute, and more all pile up. 

But what if you hate your job? What if you’re not just done, but done-done. Like, DONE.

You don’t want to work anymore, end of story. 

When you feel this way, it is a bigger issue. It’s going to take more than a pump-up playlist and a Redbull to get your head back in the game and enjoying your work. 

When your work life becomes a crisis, the first place you need to start is with self reflection and uncovering the core issues so you can actually fix the problem and not just the current manifestation of it. 

It does not have to be like this. It is possible to find satisfaction in your work. There will be good days and bad days, of course, but you can make working work for you. And you need to fix this. Because you have to work. (I mean this might seem obvious but we have to say it.)

You likely think you only have to work so you can afford to live. Most of us are not independently wealthy, and if you are – what are you doing here? You need to go back to your beachfront patio! Even though most of us choose our jobs based largely on the financial rewards each career could give us, there are many other reasons that working is good for us. Employment can fulfill many human needs on so many levels, financially, mentally, and even spiritually. We will talk about those benefits a little later.

Ok, so – money is the main reason you work and there is no trust fund stocked up and available to you? The good news is that you have a lot more options than you think to stop dreading work and start liking your job again. 

Keep in mind, this is not coming from some head-in-the-clouds millennial (despite the fact I am a millennial). A little about me: I was born and raised in the Midwest. My parents taught me the value of a dollar and a hard day’s work. They broke their backs to provide for us in the oil industry. It was tough, they were tough and it taught me the work ethic I credit my success to. When I go to work tomorrow, I know the lessons they taught me are being used.

Despite seeing the behind-the-scenes reality of working hard for a living, I believe that work does not have to be all that bad. It can be improved. You have to do it, you have to work but how it feels when you punch in, punch out and in the between hours is up to you. Right now, you don’t want to go to work tomorrow, but you can be grateful for more than just having a job, an income and health insurance. 

The quality of your working life can be better than it is now (since you are reading this, I can assume you are ready to give your work life a makeover). You don’t have to stop work altogether in order to feel free and really enjoy your week. So, what are the reasons you feel like you don’t want to go to work tomorrow?

Common reasons you don’t want to go to work

When you don’t want to go to work, it is safe to assume that the reason falls into one or more of a few different buckets: Work, home, health and expectations. Each of these reasons can play into the fundamental feeling that you don’t want to work anymore. If you can address these issues, the Sunday Scaries won’t be so bad and you can save yourself the dread every night about going back to work the next morning.

You don’t want to go to work because your work environment is toxic

Maybe you need to be working in a more collaborative environment. Maybe constant daily deadlines stress you out. Maybe your boss micromanages you. Maybe your work-life balance is way off because you’re answering work emails every Sunday. Maybe you want to see the light of day instead of working in what could be compared to Harry Potter’s closet under the stairs. Maybe it really is the wrong job for you.

When 2020 hit, we all got to intimately acquaint ourselves with the experience of working from home. In a report from Global Workplace Analytics, 77% of workers surveyed like the flexibility of working from home, 69% are satisfied with their well-being and 76% want to continue to work from home after the pandemic is over. 

However, 24% do not want to continue working from home. If that’s you, you’re likely going to feel more satisfied with your job once you have in-person company again. 

And then there is garden variety toxic workplaces. A 2018 study found that “ostracism, incivility, harassment, and bullying have direct negative significant effects on job productivity,” and lead to job burnout (Anjum, 2018). If this applies to your workplace, it’s no wonder you dread Mondays every Sunday. Finding a new workplace may be to fix that allows you to feel free on Mondays instead of trapped.

You don’t want to go to work because your home life is falling apart

It’s probably obvious that your personal life impacts your job performance. It’s not a stretch that job satisfaction is affected by how you feel in general. Stress leaks over from one part of your life to another. If this is you, you have options. If your personal life is making it hard to perform on the job, talk to your employer. 

Here are some things you can do, thanks to Forbes: 

  • Talk with your boss or employer
  • Do not overshare
  • Set digital boundaries
  • Compartmentalize
  • Look into your companies Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
  • Take time off
  • Get your emotional needs met

You don’t want to work anymore because your health isn’t ideal

Motivation and energy are inherently linked: you can’t have one without the other. When you feel good, going to work is easier. And when your energy is low, your day is going to feel longer. In order to optimize your performance, excitement and engagement, you need to make sure you are taking care of your health. Working your job feels less like a job, you know? Sleeping enough, eating a variety of healthy, nutrient-dense foods, and engaging in daily exercise is crucial. Get outside, take your vitamins and go for regular checkups. Taking care of your health and self can make a world of difference.

Your lack of energy might not be just because of your job, office environment or working hours. 

If you work a desk job at an office, you might have low energy because you are inside for too long. Low energy and feeling uninspired may be a sign that you need to move your body. Create opportunities to move your body and get outside during the day. Take a lap around the office building whenever you can to get some sunshine. Remember, your body is boss– it needs movement and Vitamin D. A 2016 study published in PLoS One found that exposure during the workday to natural elements (like greenery and open spaces) and sunlight was linked to increased job satisfaction and decreased depressed mood and anxiety. It also states that natural elements have a “restorative effect on mental fatigue” (An 2016). Sometimes even a ten-minute break can get you going again. It will break up your day, make you feel more energized and make your job a lot easier to bear.

Standing up more at work can also help support better health and motivation. A 2018 study found that over one year, a group of workers with workplace support to enable them to stand more often and longer during the day had more optimal levels “job performance, work engagement, occupational fatigue, sickness presenteeism, daily anxiety, and quality of life” compared to a control group (Edwardson 2018). So, stand more at work tomorrow and see if you feel like you hate your job less.

Keep in mind, that what works for one person health-wise, won’t be for everyone. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to go to bed at the same time as your fellow employees, eat the same calories or do the same workouts. Everyone has different needs in all of those categories. Your job should be to figure out what is optimal for your own happiness and performance. Your energy is a sign of what is working and what isn’t. Pay attention.

There is so much information available to help you optimize your food and exercise, but most people do not know where to look for their sleep needs. A good place to start is to research chronotypes. Every person is built to sleep differently– and sleeping in a way that does not suit your sleep chronotype may be affecting your job satisfaction. 

Work myths making you say, “I don’t want to go to work tomorrow.”

If you subscribe to these common myths about what work is “supposed” to be like, it may add to the feeling when you don’t want to go to work. I’m talking about the expectation that work is hard.

How you think about work can do a number on how you feel at work during the day. When you expect something to be hard, you will inevitably be right. When you expect Monday to feel like the longest day, it likely will. If you expect the transition from weekend to back to work will fill you with the Sunday scaries, you’re going to be right.

#1: You think you have to work really hard to make money, and hard work sucks

Hard work doesn’t mean you have a bad time. In fact, one study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that the quality of an experience was tied to the state of flow. The author defined flow state in a later study titled “Beyond Boredom and Anxiety” as “a state of peak enjoyment, energetic focus, and creative concentration experienced by people engaged in adult play, which has become the basis of a highly creative approach to living.” 

The original study found that all of the factors that predicted quality of experience (except for relaxation and motivation) were more affected by the state of flow than by whether the person was at work or in leisure. And the exciting part is that flow states are much more common at work than at rest. 

The takeaway? You may not be relaxed or motivated, but you will have an even higher quality of experience at work than potentially a day spent at home.

Going to work means you get to find that feeling of flow. It’s at work that you may be more likely to create something. It all depends on finding work where you can reach flow state. To get started, you’ll need to put more effort in to get started, flow state give you a chance at higher enjoyment. 

#2: You should feel lucky to have a job at all in this economy. 

I’ll be honest: the current job market is not exactly booming. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the Coronavirus pandemic has caused the unemployment rate to shoot way up, and the economy likely won’t recover until 2030.

However, finding a new job is not impossible. There are good reasons for this. The trend of work from home may continue past the pandemic, in which case you are eligible for more jobs than you usually could because commuting is not a factor. 

Also, there will be a boom in spending after the vaccine has taken effect, as people have been saving their money by staying in and not traveling. Companies will need to hire to meet that surge in demand. 

Plus, a 9-5 job is no longer the only way to make money in 2021. The United States has seen a “startup boom” with many people who found themselves unemployed filing new business applications and going into business for themselves. 

Another facet of self-employment is the gig-economy. By offering their skills on a project by project basis, people can make a full-time living and essentially working for many people. As more people try their hand at the gig-economy, you would think that supply would outstrip demand. However, work for freelancers is also growing, meaning that the industry is ripe. 

#3: Everyone hates their job and dreads work. 

Just no. I bet you know at least one person who likes their job, even loves it. If they can love showing up at work every day, why not you? 

If this is you, try doing a little self-exploration. Journal the following questions: 

  • If you could make money and have fun, what would that look like?
  • What would it be like to make money without stress?

You can’t just say I don’t want to work anymore. Even if you didn’t need the money, contributing to society is essential to a fulfilling life. Start challenging why you dread Monday on Sunday and be honest with yourself. Do you need a new job, or do you think that the hate you feel for your job might be within your control? You’re the boss of your brain. Try to bring a new attitude to work tomorrow and see if your day improves.

Most people are clear on what they do not want. That part is easy. But discerning what you do want is surprisingly difficult. We aren’t taught how to know those things. But despite what you might be afraid of, thinking about what you want is best for you and for your employer, too. It’s simply efficient, not self-indulgent or frivolous. Because no one wants you to work a job you hate.

In closing, getting clear on what you do want may help you dread your work day less. To do so, you may want to start with the following three self reflection questions:

  • When you close your eyes, where do you want to go or be?
  • If you could go back in time, what career would you choose?
  • If you could find a job without the interview, what would it be?

 Jobs don’t have to feel like this. By examining the possible reasons you are feel so much dread the Sunday before you go back to work, you may find that the problem is not work in general, but a specific issue that you can remedy. Jobs can be one way we find satisfaction, flow state and purpose in our lives. By doing some introspection and self examination, you will be able to go back to work with a changed attitude.

References:

An, M., Colarelli, S. M., O’Brien, K., & Boyajian, M. E. (2016). Why we need more nature at work: Effects of natural elements and sunlight on employee mental health and work attitudes. PLOS ONE, 11(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0155614

Anjum, A., Ming, X., Siddiqi, A., & Rasool, S. (2018). An empirical study analyzing job productivity in toxic workplace environments. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(5), 1035. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15051035

Csikszentmihalyi, M., & LeFevre, J. (1989). Optimal experience in work and leisure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56(5), 815–822. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.56.5.815

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Beyond boredom and anxiety. Jossey-Bass. 

Dresdale, R. (2017, June 28). Millennials, stop letting personal issues impact your work. Retrieved February 03, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/rachelritlop/2016/11/15/how-millennials-can-stop-personal-issues-from-affecting-their-work/?sh=3667be212ea9

Edwardson, C. L., Yates, T., Biddle, S. J., Davies, M. J., Dunstan, D. W., Esliger, D. W., Gray, L. J., Jackson, B., O’Connell, S. E., Waheed, G., & Munir, F. (2018). Effectiveness of the stand more at (smart) work intervention: Cluster randomised controlled trial. BMJ. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k3870

Kelly, J. (2020, December 30). Game-changing predictions for the job market and the way we’ll work in 2021. Retrieved February 03, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackkelly/2021/12/30/game-changing-predictions-for-the-job-market-and-the-way-well-work-in-2021/?sh=61adba807959

Levere, J. L., Harris, E. E., Cochrane, E., Rappeport, A., Dougherty, C., Lohr, S., . . . Smialek, J. (2020, June 01). U.S. economy Faces Long-Term RECOVERY, C.B.O. SAYS. Retrieved February 03, 2021, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/01/business/stock-market.html

McPhillips, K. (2019, March 15). Get to know your sleep spirit animal to time your workouts, meals, and more. Retrieved February 03, 2021, from https://www.wellandgood.com/chronotype-quiz/

What should we do when an employee’s personal problems affect job performance, mood and behavior at work? (2019, December 10). Retrieved February 03, 2021, from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/hr-qa/pages/personalproblemsaffectperformance.aspx