Not wanting to leave work isn’t necessarily about being a workaholic.

There can be a myriad of reasons why we may feel uncertain, reluctant or even afraid about leaving work at the end of each day.

There are those who will be incredulous that this might be a ‘thing’; they can hardly wait for clocking-off time to arrive when they’re finally free to walk out the door.

So why do some people not want to leave work?

A work environment is often a familiar environment and routine, with regular duties that we’re engaged to perform each day. Even when we don’t especially like our colleagues or the work that we do, we’re used to the setup and what’s expected from us.
We may share banter, coffees and perhaps even lunch together. Staying on a little longer, not wanting to leave on time may be fine, especially if we’re busy and involved in doing some valuable work. We know and understand our role and can slip into auto-pilot, even when it’s stressful and not always comfortable.
If the home is tense, difficult or chaotic work may feel like a place of order and balance. When domestic life is unhappy and filled with arguments or unruly children we may find valid reasons to justify staying on at work rather than leaving to go home.
If we don’t anticipate a warm welcome or being particularly wanted it can be a relief to stay on, busily doing something useful, especially when so many workplaces are understaffed. In fact, recent research has revealed that 1/5 staff worked an extra 7 hours of unpaid overtime each week and 1/14 didn’t take their full holiday entitlement last year.
Equally, if the home is empty and lonely, with nothing to look forward to staying on at work can feel a more viable option. The prospect of making a start on building a life and cultivating new friends and interests can be overwhelming. See our article single and alone.

Where to begin?

If we’re new to the area, recently separated, divorced or bereaved it can be tough keeping everything together.
There may be confidence or financial considerations that impact on our ability or desire to get out and socialise. Work may be our comfort zone, where we know what to do, what’s expected of us and can put our head down, keep busy and earn money.
Sometimes learning to trust others and form relationships on our own might be stressful. At work, we have a clearly defined role and status. We may have a job title to stand behind; it informs others of who we are and why we’re there.
It’s different in the ‘real world’ where people may ask us questions about ourselves, and we risk being judged, albeit unofficially, on our answers. Being disliked, rejected, dismissed, found uninteresting rarely happens in the same way at work.


Then there are those who struggle with FOMO, fear of missing out. If they’re not first in or last out at work they may have anxiety at what they’re missing or whether they’ll be perceived as not committed, not working hard enough or perhaps as even shirking their responsibilities.


Some people suffer from Imposter Syndrome, where they fear being found to be lacking or not capable. They may be reluctant to sign off their work until they check it ‘just once more’ for mistakes and ensure it’s good enough. Sometimes hours can be spent repeating and re-examining their work, so the thought of leaving to go home can cause tremendous anxiety.
Also, there’s the fear that if they’re not at work, someone else may be asked to fill in for them and answer a query or request for information. Having concerns at being discovered as error-prone or inefficient while away from work can be stressful and cause anxiety about leaving while others are still there.
If we find ourselves increasingly reluctant to leave work and go home, we may need to do a little work on ourselves or risk becoming increasingly isolated from social life as well as existing and new relationships.
Becoming skilled at dealing with differing opinions and values, learning about ourselves and growing is part of functioning well as an adult but requires ongoing effort and commitment.
Undergoing therapy to overcome negative thought patterns could be a valuable step in the journey towards improving confidence and self-esteem.
Then we can gradually become more motivated to find people and groups who enjoy similar interests. It’s important to be proactive, ready to take a few risks and feel more positive about leaving work, having some me time and destressing.
So begins a better work/life balance, thus avoiding adding to the £40 billion or 200,000 days of work lost due to stress each year.
Susan Leigh, Counsellor & Hypnotherapist