Nobody Wants to Work These Days—but Why?

Nobody Wants to Work These Days—but Why

As Kim Kardashian said, it seems like nobody wants to work these days. Bar the credibility of the statement’s source, why is that the case, and what can we do about it?

The thing about nobody wanting to work anymore is that, allegedly, nobody has ever wanted to, for the most part, at least. Trace the history of the sordid statement, and you will find that its origins date back to the 1800s, with newspaper reports sounding the alarm on labor shortages. 

Today, various factors, such as burnout and changed expectations from one’s work, has led employees to resort to tactics like quiet quitting or doing the bare minimum at work. Quiet quitting can be seen from two perspectives: on a positive note, it signals your desire for a work-life balance; but on a more concerning note, it signals your unhappiness with your job. Maybe you don’t like your job anymore, or you don’t like working at all. If the latter is the case, know that you are not alone. Here, we look at why people do not want to work anymore and, if you are one of them, how you can move past it.

Why do we not want to work anymore?

Primarily because we are tired. Employees are burnt out, exhausted, losing their ambition and questioning if any of it is worth it (and failing to derive an answer). An Ipsos global survey found that about 40 per cent of respondents under 35 felt disengaged, burnt out and struggling to maintain productivity. One could argue that the issue is not a lack of desire to work, but that we are too overwhelmed to do so. This overwhelming feeling may stem from an excessive workload, a.k.a. “task paralysis”, where having too much to do leaves you feeling paralyzed and unable to take action.

Secondly, there is the case of people comparing themselves to others on social media. Watching other people, especially social media influencers, achieve their financial goals at a young age raises our expectations of ourselves. Are we doing enough? What is “enough”? Are we in the right field? Comparisons on social media can significantly hurt our self-esteem, creating a desire for instant achievement or nothing at all. 

Finally, it could simply be a case of not feeling passionate about your work anymore. You may find yourself stuck in a rut, lacking growth opportunities or feeling unsupported by your manager, leaving you uncertain about where to go from here. 

It’s not a new phenomenon

Find solace in the fact that this is not an odd or new feeling. Way back in 1873, when a recession hit, something called the “vagabond scare” happened. People, at least those in the U.S., were fed up with the daily grind and hit the road, refusing to work and wanting to travel around the country. But here’s the thing: most of them were actually migrant workers desperately searching for jobs elsewhere because they were not being paid enough. Yet, in the minds of the public, they were seen as lazy bums who just didn’t want to work.

Fast-forward to today, where we’re dealing with labor shortages in some fields, people are quitting jobs or being laid off, and the same old story pops up. People start saying, “Oh, they just don’t want to work!” But that’s avoiding the real issue here. The problem isn’t that people are lazy; it’s that many of these jobs don’t pay enough for the hard work they require. For some, in light of the mental health consequences of the pandemic, they are losing the motivation to work. 

What to do if you don’t want to work anymore?

If you find yourself going, “I just want to stop working”, here are three tips to help you make your way through these feelings:

  1. Reassess what you want out of your professional life

We are dynamic beings. It is possible that what you wanted a few years ago is not what you want anymore, and that is okay. However, to move forward to a place where you feel comfortable, you must assess what you want at this point in your life. Perhaps, you no longer want a demanding but high-paying job but one that lets you take life easy. Perhaps you would rather focus on travel and would like a freelance career. Or, you genuinely do not want to work anymore and would rather take a hiatus—if you would like to do so without quitting your job, see if your company offers paid sabbaticals. Ultimately, you need to sit down and evaluate where you would like to see yourself in the near future, professionally and personally, and how you can align these goals. 

  1. Consider undertaking different responsibilities at work

It could be possible that you are not tired of working but rather your specific line of work. In that case, you can experiment by moving around different departments within your company—if your manager is alright with it. If not, you could consider applying for an internship at a different company or doing an online course to explore a new field. 

  1. Seek guidance

Your withdrawal from work could be a consequence of deep-seated emotional problems. We are all coming out of a global pandemic that has uprooted our lives. As per a report by the United Nations, Covid triggered a 25 percent increase in the number of people experiencing anxiety and depression. To make things worse, we are having to face a recessionary period, watching hundreds of people being laid off and addressing constant uncertainty surrounding our jobs and everyday lives. 

We might be too overwhelmed to work. Though that is completely understandable, it does not mean you have to put your life and career on hold until the doomsday feelings pass. Instead, look to speak with a third person, be it a friend, therapist or well-being officer within the company. Communicate openly about your feelings and be open to trying new techniques to get over the hill.

Kardashian’s spirited call to “get your f*cking ass up and work” is tone-deaf on multiple levels. It ignores the numerous subliminals that underlie people’s desires to not work. Whatever ‌the reason that you are losing the motivation to work, there are ways to navigate yourself out of it. 

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