How to beat the back-to-work blues
Going back to work after a break can be really hard, whether it’s dreading your first day back at work after a brilliant summer holiday, or returning to your desk in a dark and miserable January after all the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
It isn’t always easy to avoid the back to work blues, but there are some simple things that you can do that will help you cope with the transition back to work after your holiday. Read on to find out more about our top tips to help you have a better first day back at work.
Tip 1: Get organised before you go
If colleagues and customers don’t know you are away, they are more likely to get frustrated if they don’t get a reply from you during your holiday. Set up your out-of-office response to manage their expectations and reduce the number of grumpy “chaser” emails clogging your inbox. You may not completely avoid the back to work blues, but doing this will certainly help your stress levels when you get back to work.
If a colleague is standing in for you or looking after your work while you are away, make sure that you plan enough time to brief them on any important tasks, meetings, issues and deadlines. It’s always a good idea to provide them with a to-do list or a written brief, just in case anything slips their mind while you are out of the office. That way you should be able to minimise any unwanted “I’m sorry to disturb you while you are off but…” interruptions on your holiday and any unnecessary crises on your return.
Tip 2: Give yourself a “buffer day”
We’ve all had that slightly panicky feeling you get when you decide to maximise your holiday and go back to work at the very last possible moment. But while this is very tempting, it can make things really stressful. If you’ve ever had the experience of stuffing the washing machine with holiday laundry with one hand while simultaneously working your way through your email backlog and shouting at the kids to find their school shoes, you’ll know exactly what we mean.
If you can, give yourself a day or two reacclimatise to things after your break and before going back to work. A little extra time will help reduce the stress of trying to juggle the post-holiday blues, your return to your daily domestic routine and going back to work all at once. By allowing yourself a bit more time and space to get back into the swing of things more gradually, you are more likely to feel relaxed and grounded when the time comes to go back to work after your holiday.
Tip 3: Take control of your inbox
One of the worst things about coming back to work after having taken time off is the number of emails you have to plough through on your return, it can seem like a mammoth task. Take control by scheduling time in your diary to go through your inbox, prioritise what you need to do and delete anything that you don’t. Allocate yourself time to draw up a list of things that need to be addressed during your first day or so back at work and work through them systematically. Ticking off even the smallest task you have completed really helps you get back into the swing of things and gives you a sense of satisfaction.
Some people advocate going through your emails at home before you go back to work, but this can be risky. Scanning your inbox may help you get ahead of the game, but then again you might discover something that spoils the last day of your holiday. So this one is up to you!
Tip 4: Take it easy when you first go back to work
If possible, try to avoid putting yourself under too much pressure when you first return to work and aim to settle back in gradually. By doing this, you can set yourself smaller goals that will make starting back easier. For example, you might be able to arrange for your first day back to be later in the week, rather than starting on a Monday. Just working a couple of days can be much easier to face than a full week, making your first day back to work after your holiday much less daunting. Also try to keep your first couple of days light: diarise time to catch up with colleagues on what has been happening while you have been away and avoid big, stressful meetings or decisions immediately after your return.
Tip 5: Live the good life
Time off from work is a fantastic opportunity to break out of your day-to-day routine, meet up with old and new friends and generally take life at a different pace. Good food, good drink and late nights are all part of the fun, but can make the transition back to working life even harder. If you are feeling the impact of the back to work blues or are a little jaded after your break, it might be worth trying a more mindful post-holiday approach to health and wellbeing. Nourish yourself with healthy, wholesome food , drink lots of water, avoid alcohol and get plenty of sleep. It won’t be as much fun as being on holiday, but it will help you feel healthier, better balanced and more able to deal with the back to work blues.
Whether you’ve been for a fortnight in the sun or just hanging out with family over Christmas, holidays are one of the great pleasures of life. Don’t spoil your time off stressing about your return to work: plan ahead, give yourself some time and be good to yourself to keep those back to work blues at bay.