What to do if you dread going to work

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4 Mar 2020
For job-seekers

It’s cold and dark, your alarm is shrieking and you peel your eyes open to be flooded with the reality that it’s a work day and you have 36 minutes to leave the house.

It seems to be an accepted (and expected) part of British working culture to not enjoy your job – we talk about the ‘Sunday night dread’ before another week at work, refer to Wednesday as ‘hump day’ when we stop the uphill slog and start the downward slope to that utopia of a weekend, and herald Friday as the finish line of a torturous working week. It becomes part of social etiquette to join in these shared experiences – when someone asks how you are at work, how many times have you said ‘Not bad for a Monday’, ‘At least it’s nearly the end of Wednesday’ or ‘thank God it’s Friday’? We’ll even exchange these sentiments with our companies’ clients and customers, not worrying at all about how it might come across, it’s all just part of the everyday small talk. 

There are probably two main camps here – the first are people who actually quite like their jobs, but engage in this kind of banter because it’s part of our working culture. And then there are the people who genuinely dislike what they do and have an authentic dread about going to work. (There will be people who swing between the two depending on what’s happening at work or their wider circumstances, but we’d suggest these people are in the first group most of the time.) In this article, we want to focus on the people who take very little enjoyment from their paid employment – in fact, they mostly dislike it. How can you overcome this so your working life brings more pleasure than pain?

Here are some strategies for keeping the work dread at bay.

1. Do a mental health audit

Sometimes it’s not really about work at all, it’s about how we’re feeling generally. Check in with your mood, your anxiety levels and your wider enjoyment of things. Are you feeling the dread and unhappiness about other areas of your life too? If so, it might be that there is more going on than just not feeling happy at work and you might want to look at how you can find some support. If you’re functioning well in other areas outside of work, and feel very strongly that it’s just your employment that’s the problem, read on!

2. Don’t dwell

Don’t let the dread become your dominant thought. Of course, that’s an obvious (and easy) thing to say, but if you can start to challenge (or change) your thought processes around it, then that’s a good start. We all know that the more we think about things we don’t enjoy, the worse they seem and the more we get obsessed with them. Distraction is your friend – every time you feel the feelings of dread flare up, focus your mind elsewhere. No, it doesn’t change the source of the problem (see number 3), but it does change how you choose to deal with it. If you’re spending non-work time dreading work-time, you’re wasting huge opportunities to do things you love instead (see number 5).

3. Find out what’s causing it

If you’re consumed by general feelings of loathing for your work, you need to try to find the root cause. Then you can do something about it. So, ask yourself – why do I dislike going to work? Write down your answers – maybe it’s your commute, colleagues, salary, physical workplace, hours, workload, boss, etc. Nothing is perfect (see number 4), but you should absolutely expect to be in a role that ticks more boxes than not. Once you have your list - what can you do about what’s on it? (If you’ve literally just written out everything you can think of relating to work, you either need to be more honest about what’s really the problem – or you need a new job!)

4. Seek a balance

If you’re looking for perfection, you won’t find it. It’s the same for things outside of work too, it’s always a give and take situation. You need to find a balance between how much you’re giving and how much you’re taking. There will likely always be things on the ‘what I don’t like about my job’ list, but there should be less on it than on your ‘what I like about my job’ list. If not – go back to number 3!

5. Offset it with things you love

Yes, we do spend a big chunk of our time at work, but we do still have many hours away from it. Make the most of those hours by doing things you enjoy. If you don’t have an engaging hobby or two, now is a great time to start one! If work isn’t bringing you satisfaction, make sure you have other things in your life that do. Bird watching, anyone?

6. Limit your conversations about work

It’s tempting to talk about our work a lot, especially if we’re not enjoying it or we feel we have something to complain about. This ties in with our advice in number 2 - talking about work we don’t enjoy when we’re not there just adds fuel to the fire. Do you really want to spend the time you have with your friends talking about the thing that makes you feel most awful? Fighting the urge to talk about it when you’re not on the clock might help alleviate some of those negative feelings.

7. Look for another job

Even if you’re not sure whether moving role is the right thing to do, there is no harm in keeping your eye on the market and exploring other options. It might help to confirm that a new job is what you think you need right now, or it might give you some perspective on your current role and help you create the shift in mindset you need to find some enjoyment in what you’re already doing. Either way, spending some time researching roles and updating your CV won’t hurt in the slightest.

If you do find that a new job is the most appealing route, please do give us a call on 01932 355000 or email hello@amber-employment.co.uk – we'd be very happy to help you explore your options and make the best next decision in your professional journey.

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