Employee Wellbeing

“I Would Prefer Not To”: Why You Don't Want to Go to Work and How to Regain Your Motivation

June 19, 2023

A basic study of human nature tells us that it is difficult to have a positive relationship with anything that goes against our self-interest. Be it material, physical, emotional, or existential. 

All our goals and endeavors are motivated by an anticipation of reward or a sense of fulfillment. Take away that promise of gratification, and boom! You are no more interested in the task at hand.

This tendency becomes most debilitating when we lose interest in our once sought-after jobs for various reasons. It becomes challenging to stay motivated enough to carry out regular tasks, and we have all been there at some point in our professional careers.

The character of Bartleby from Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street by Herman Melville has resonated with thousands of people over the years, becoming a reminder of the need for meaningful and fulfilling work. Bartleby’s initial diligence at work suddenly turns into growing disinterest, eventually boiling down to a plain refusal to do anything with a single phrase: “I would prefer not to!”

His story is a cautionary tale about the perils of being trapped in a job lacking passion or purpose, urging individuals to seek environments that nurture their interests and allow them to flourish professionally and personally.

This sense of fulfillment, however, doesn’t work in the same way for all of us. For some people, the monetary reward might be the biggest motivation that gets them going. Others might be more interested in aligning their intellectual pursuits with the daily grind, while there will still be more who prioritize a work-life balance above all else. 

If you find yourself questioning why you are doing what you are doing, you need a moment to sit back and figure out the reasons behind your estrangement from work. Because despite all the romanticism of imagining you are simply helpless, it's an awful position.

Your waning productivity might be caused by something or someone in your work environment or a misalignment of your initial aspirations with your career progression.

Whatever the causes of your lack of motivation, you must address them persistently and proactively to enjoy a meaningful and healthy personal and professional life. Staying mentally resigned for long makes you undermine your capabilities.                    

You will be surprised at how easily you can get out of this torpor by adopting simple yet effective strategies to regain your motivation and ace your goals. 


  • Reluctance to work can stem from feeling demotivated or unfulfilled in your current job: Other reasons include experiencing burnout or excessive stress, dealing with a toxic work environment, or a work-life imbalance.
  • To address these challenges, assessing the root cause of your reluctance and exploring potential solutions is essential.
  • Seeking opportunities for growth and development, effective time management, building a supportive network, and promoting a positive work environment are strategies that can help regain motivation.
  • Incorporating self-care and stress management techniques, encouraging open communication and feedback, and promoting work-life balance initiatives are essential in overcoming reluctance to work.
  • How timegram can build a positive work environment by promoting transparency and accountability, aiding workload management, and facilitating a healthy work-life balance.

Understanding the Desire to Avoid Work

Before we discuss the solution, let us first ascertain the root cause of your problem. Here are the common reasons you may not want to go to work and how it may impact your personal and professional well-being:

1. Feeling Demotivated or Unfulfilled in Your Current Job

Everyone starts a new job with certain aspirations and ambitions they long cherished as life goals. But if you have started feeling that your current job does not offer opportunities for progress in the right direction, you may lose interest. 

It could be disheartening if your management does not acknowledge individual input. The feeling of being undervalued for your efforts quickly translates into disillusionment with your company's value proposition.

Appreciation is the most significant source of motivation for any employee. You gradually become disconnected and disengaged if you don't see how your role has a meaning or purpose for the organization. The direct consequence is reduced job satisfaction, which is a major factor affecting productivity.

2. Experiencing Burnout or Excessive Stress

If you find yourself disengaged at work because you are burned out, it is a critical problem that directly impacts your physical and mental health. You can simply not continue working if you have depleted all your energy. 

What is essential to understand is that burnout is not only caused by excessive workload. You might be putting excessive energy into your work, hoping it will give incredible results. If you are too hard on yourself because you have set exceptionally high standards to achieve, you might be your own nemesis.  

Over-ambition inevitably leads to being overspent. If you work more than 40 hours a week, it is only natural that you are having a mental and physical breakdown. Lack of sleep and rest can make you feel tired, less creative, and disinterested in work.

3. Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment

We all have a few coworkers we don't get along with but somehow manage to tolerate for an overall positive work environment. The situation gets complicated when toxicity arises from systemic problems within your workplace culture.

Working in a toxic work environment can be demoralizing, making it understandable why going to work each morning requires immense effort. According to Zippia, 65% of American employees are satisfied with their jobs, of which only 20% were passionate about their work. The rest, around 30%, are somehow managing to keep working. 

Signs of toxicity include poor communication, cynicism, mistreatment among managers and co-workers, excessive workload without regard for burnout, micromanagement, lack of recognition and appreciation, and delayed paychecks.

Ignoring or tolerating a toxic workplace can have severe consequences, leading to substance abuse, depression, and a decline in overall well-being.

4. Longing for Work-Life Balance

In the hustle culture, longing for work-life balance is closely related to burnout. You will eventually throw your hands up if you constantly juggle between personal commitments and professional responsibilities without any breaks.

We all need some downtime to unwind from daily work fatigue. The lack of it can lead to increased stress, strained relationships, and feeling overwhelmed. While long working hours might generally be the reason, you should also reflect if poor time management is the main culprit. 

Lack of work-life balance hampers your productivity, as you struggle to focus on work due to distractions or feelings of guilt about neglecting your personal life. You might also be ignoring self-care if you find it hard to take a break from work.

Recommended read: 5 Great Reasons Why the Remote Team Culture is Winning

What to Do When You Don't Want to Go to Work?

Assessing the Root Cause of Your Reluctance

Recognizing the signs and acknowledging your feelings is the first step to counter inactivity at work. Ask yourself if you have lost sight of your goals and the purpose of your job. 

What is it that you wish to achieve in the long run? What are your biggest goals? Is your current job helping you proceed toward your calling?

Job satisfaction, or the lack of it, can be the make-or-break source of motivation. Once you are clear about the exact source of your distress, you are ready to deal with it by applying appropriate strategies. 

Sometimes, the feeling might not be related to workplace conditions and is caused by severe health issues or family crises. Misinformed and off-target efforts will further alienate you from your goals while exacerbating the real issues.

The key is to start working in the right direction.

Exploring potential solutions and strategies

When you come to a definite conclusion after overviewing your situation, you need to consider the following strategies:

1. Seeking opportunities for growth and development

Start seeking opportunities for growth and development within your current role or organization. This can include taking on new projects, volunteering for challenging assignments, or pursuing additional training or education.

Share your concerns with the management lead and see if switching your organizational role restores your willingness to work. By actively engaging in personal and professional development, you can regain a sense of purpose and motivation in your work.

2. Improving work-life balance through effective time management

Prioritizing work-life balance is essential for combating reluctance to work. Constructive time management habits, such as setting boundaries, delegating tasks, and practising self-care, can help create a healthier and more balanced approach to work. 

You can manage your time more effectively by automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks that don’t demand creativity. Implementing an efficient time-tracking system gives you a sense of control.

A well-planned work schedule reduces stress and increases productivity, improving your overall well-being.

3. Building a supportive network and seeking guidance

We can not overstress the importance of external motivation in both personal and professional life. Surrounding yourself with a supportive network of colleagues, mentors, or friends can provide valuable guidance and encouragement.

Seek out individuals who can offer insights and advice, and don't hesitate to reach out for support when needed. A support system that understands your challenges and provides a fresh perspective can help you navigate complicated work situations and boost your motivation.

4. Building a positive work environment

To deal with a toxic work environment, you must identify and address the negative behaviors of coworkers or managers that influence your attitude. It can involve having open and honest conversations, expressing concerns, and setting boundaries.

If the issues persist, bringing the matter to human resources or higher management may be necessary. Pointing out toxicity triggers, be it coworkers or systematic issues, can help create a healthier and more positive work environment.

Reassess your own contribution to promoting a culture of positivity and collaboration. Take the lead by encouraging teamwork and mutual respect among colleagues. Ask for and give regular feedback to build up an environment of trust and autonomy. 

A management system based on efficient time-tracking tools like timegram helps you bring transparency and accountability to your workplace culture. You can account for and present your best efforts to the management by keeping a visual record of your progress. 

However, it is essential to maintain a difference between productivity tracking and surveillance tools to avoid the dark side of employee monitoring.

5. Strategies for managing stress and work-life balance

It is impossible to eliminate work-related stress altogether, but you can definitely channel it to your best advantage. According to Yerkes and Dodson, moderate levels of anxiety help improve performance by enhancing creativity. Too much or too little of anxiety, on the other hand, impairs your motivation.

So how do you find the right balance?            

Setting boundaries between work and personal life and allocating dedicated time for relaxation, hobbies, and loved ones helps you recharge and bounce back to take on new challenges.

It's crucial to disconnect from work-related responsibilities during non-working hours. Applying time management techniques like the 1-3-5 rule helps you prioritize everything by its importance and urgency.

Establishing clear priorities allows you to dedicate time for self-care activities, meditation, personal development, and relationships. So that when you are at work, you have no mental baggage or guilt added to performance anxiety.

6. Considering alternative career paths or job changes

If you have considered and practiced the above strategies and your reluctance to work persists despite your efforts to improve the situation, it may be worth considering alternative career paths or switching your job.

It might be easier said than done as we all have unique circumstances, but keep your mind open for better opportunities. Success often lies outside your comfort zone. 

Reflect on your interests, strengths, and values, and explore opportunities that align better with your aspirations. Sometimes, a change in environment or career can reignite passion and enthusiasm for work, leading to greater satisfaction and fulfilment in your professional life.


To sum it up, if it takes you a lot of effort to prepare yourself to go to work, you are not alone. It is not uncommon for individuals to face this challenge in their professional lives. 

Understanding the root causes, such as demotivation, burnout, toxic work environments, and a lack of work-life balance, is crucial in finding practical solutions. Incorporating the abovementioned strategies can regain your motivation and enhance your overall well-being.

Additionally, incorporating self-care and stress management techniques is essential to cope with workplace issues.

Automated time-tracking tools like timegram can alleviate work-related stress by supporting productivity, transparency, and better time management, fostering a positive work environment.

Try these strategies to defeat the stagnation affecting your relationship with work. Read more about our key features and sign up today for free to take a fresh start!


Why am I so anxious to go to work?

There could be various reasons for feeling anxious about going to work. It could be due to a toxic work environment, excessive workload leading to burnout, lack of job satisfaction, conflicts with coworkers or managers, or a misalignment between your values and the job's demands. Additionally, fear of failure, performance pressure, or discomfort in the workplace can contribute to anxiety. 

What is agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by intense fear and avoidance of situations or places where escape might be difficult, or help may not be readily available. It typically involves a fear of open spaces, crowded areas, or situations that might trigger panic attacks or feelings of being trapped. People with agoraphobia often avoid public transportation, shopping centers, or being outside their homes alone.

Is it normal to dread going to work every day?

It is common for individuals to experience occasional feelings of reluctance when it comes to going to work. However, if these feelings persist and take the shape of fear, it can significantly impact your well-being and daily functioning and may be a sign of a deeper issue.

Various factors, such as a toxic work environment, excessive stress, or a mismatch between your values and the job, can cause chronic dread or anxiety related to work. It is important to assess the root causes of your feelings and consider seeking support from a therapist or career counsellor who can help you explore strategies to improve your work situation, find greater fulfilment, or make necessary changes to align with your career goals and values.

timegram logo

Ready to use time to your advantage
with timegram?

Give it a shot!

Sidra Ali Shah

About the author

Sidra is a research scholar and a philosophy nerd who fell in love with language at a very young age. She believes it's words and their combinations that make the world go round. In her free time, she likes to brainstorm with her children.

Start Your Journey With Us.

See why remote-friendly organizations globally love using timegram for their teams.

Start Your Journey With Us.

See why remote-friendly organizations globally love using timegram for their teams.

More Interesting Blogs for You

Try timegram Today!

No credit card required. No strings attached. Just pure time tracking automation magic.

Don’t Leave Empty-Handed!

Do you manage a remote team?

Get this guide to learn how time tracking helps measure remote team performance and why it is crucial to use the right tool for ensuring better employee productivity.

Get Your Guide