re: I never get to see my laptop actually power off (eventually) when I leave
Then there's something wrong with it, or the network it's sat on.
Don't know about 7 but 8 is pretty good at listing the things that are stopping it closing and letting you say you don't care. If you're not seeing a screen like that (and you are on a relatively modern version of windows) then it's unlikely that it's a user app causing the shut down to be slow.
A quick nose in the system logs might shed some light onto the issue, but the problem here is that the workaround (go away and leave it to sort itself out) is working so well there's little incentive to sort it.