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Navigating the Challenges of Returning to Work After Vacation

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Table Of Contents

Let’s face the facts: Mondays suck. But the Mondays when you are returning to work after vacation suck even more.

If you’ve ever felt that sinking feeling of going back to work after a nice vacation, you’re definitely not alone. A recent study conducted by Zapier and Harris Poll revealed that a staggering 87% of knowledge workers dread returning to the office after their much-needed breaks. Out of these people, 37% said they’re afraid of getting used to their usual work routine again, and 31% said they don’t like the idea of catching up on administrative tasks. The survey also showed that many people feel down after a vacation, struggle with having a busy schedule, and feel like they’re not getting much done when they try to catch up on the work they missed.

We go from lounging poolside with a tropical drink in hand to facing the routine, the tasks, and the challenge of getting back into the work mindset. It’s no wonder that coming back to work after an incredible vacation can leave us feeling uneasy.

We’re here to help you conquer the post-vacation blues and build a better game plan for your return to work. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the reasons why coming back to work after a vacation can be tough and explore strategies to make the transition smoother. But first, let’s dive into why you might be feeling this way.

3 Reasons Why Returning to Work After Vacation Might Suck

We’ve all been there – the dreaded return to the office after a much-needed vacation. It’s like waking up from a dream, and reality hits harder than ever. But why is it so difficult to return to work after blissful days of relaxation and adventure? 

You’re snapped back to reality 

Picture this: you’ve been lounging by turquoise waters, soaking up sunsets that seem to last forever, and savoring the freedom of leisure. 

Suddenly, you’re yanked from this dream and plunged into the plethora of emails, meetings, and deadlines. The stark contrast feels like the biggest joke, leaving you disoriented and grappling to regain your workplace equilibrium. This is called a vacation hangover.

That desk chair you left behind might as well be an electric chair for all the shock it delivers!

It’s an abrupt transition 

Unless you’re scheduling a buffer day to mentally catch up with the fact that you’re returning to work after vacation, immediately jumping back to the grind can feel rough.

Reality demands you put on your “responsible adult” hat again. That swan dive from vacation mode into work mode can be nothing short of jarring. Imagine trading your sunhat for a business suit and your morning beach stroll for a rushed subway commute.

The transition from vacation bliss to the cold, hard world of tasks and schedules can send shivers down your spine, much like an unexpected plunge into icy waters.

Reconnecting with coworkers feels tough

For those who have been away from their coworkers, reconnecting and feeling like part of the team again can be a challenge. 

Missing out on the water cooler chats, inside jokes, and general camaraderie can leave us feeling socially isolated upon our return. And if you’ve taken a staycation, trying to seamlessly transition from peaceful alone time to the bustling office atmosphere can be quite the feat. On the flip side, you may also have anxiety or social isolation about all the work and responsibilities you missed out on while you were away.

The shock, the adjustment, and the social navigation – they all combine into a symphony of post-vacation blues that can’t be silenced by merely reminiscing about those sandy shores. But don’t fret — together, we’ll find ways to maintain that sense of rejuvenation and enthusiasm even as we step back into the daily grind.

6 Tips To Make Returning to Work After Vacation Easier

Plan ahead of time

From catching up on emails to assigning tasks to your trusty colleagues, a little pre-vacation planning can go a long way.  The second your leave request gets approved, make a mental (or physical) note of everything that needs to be done before and after your break.

Tackle as many tasks, reply to all those emails, and wrap up any loose ends before you step away. Give your team and top clients a heads-up about your upcoming time off. Don’t forget to set up an out-of-office message for your email. List down the projects you’re currently working on, and note the tasks or projects that are top priorities for when you’re back. If you’re the boss, a manager, or a team leader, share a list of tasks and responsibilities for your team to handle while you’re off.

And here’s a sneaky trick for next time – adjust your time off to include a weekend. Schedule PTO from Thursday to Thursday or include a buffer day after coming back. That way, you’ll have just one day to tackle before another glorious break. Clever, right?

Take it slow (and easy)

Remember, you can’t rush perfection or reentry into the work world. It’s completely normal and okay to feel a bit overwhelmed when you come back from vacation. Instead of trying to do everything all at once, take it slow and easy.

Let your brain adjust to the work mode before you jump into more challenging tasks. Just like stretching gently before a workout, this gradual approach can make a big difference. So, take a moment to catch your breath and find your balance as you transition back into work mode. Start by tidying up your desk, slipping into the familiar rhythm, and easing your brain into work mode. Slow and steady wins the race, and it also prevents post-vacation meltdowns. Take a deep breath – you’ve got this!

Marie Kondo your way through tasks

Give yourself a break (not just during your vacation) and acknowledge that it might take a little time to fully get back into the work groove. While recharging during your vacation is crucial, remember that the pile of work from the past two weeks won’t magically vanish overnight. Long story short: organization and prioritization are key here. Shift your focus towards organizing your tasks and setting achievable targets.

Craft a list of tasks for your first day back, and allocate time specifically for catching up on emails and addressing urgent messages. Resist the temptation to dive into firefighting mode right away. You might end up investing time in something that has already been resolved. 

Instead, chart out your tasks based on their priority and establish realistic goals for conquering them. Just like following a map to navigate a new city, this approach will help you find your bearings in the work landscape after your break.

Catch up on your self-care

This may sound obvious, but the best way to tackle the pressures of returning to work after vacation is by catching some ZZZs and self-care.

Getting back to your regular sleep schedule is vital for not only rejuvenation but also your productivity. Ease into it by gradually adjusting your wake-up time back to your workday routine during the last couple of days of your vacation.

Begin by tidying up your living and working space. Putting things in order can have a calming effect and make you feel more in control. Exercise and eating well can also help you improve energy and focus, making it easier to get back into the swing of things at work. Take a leisurely stroll or dedicate some time to a yoga session – physical activity can rejuvenate your body and mind, and it doesn’t have to be intense to be effective!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you’re grappling with a lack of enthusiasm for work and the struggle to ignite your motivation seems like an uphill battle, consider reaching out for some assistance. Friends, mentors, or mental health experts can provide invaluable support during such times. They can lend a guiding hand and assist you in uncovering any hidden factors that might be fueling your reluctance.

And don’t forget, self-compassion is key here! The return to work post-vacation presents its challenges, and these challenges aren’t unique to you alone. It’s a shared experience that many face. Amidst this transition, it’s crucial to treat yourself with kindness. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself back in the groove, ready to tackle what lies ahead.

Make it fun!

Make your first week back after a vacation enjoyable by doing things that make you happy and work seem tolerable. Here are some simple and effective ways to make your workdays brighter:

  • Start your mornings by playing music that gets you excited and ready to tackle the day
  • Take a moment to think about all the things you’ve accomplished in the past and the goals you’re aiming for now
  • Personalize your workspace with decorations that bring a smile to your face
  • Choose clothes that make you feel comfortable and confident while you’re working (including your PJs!)
  • If you have a dog, let them keep you company while you work or even bring them to the office if it’s allowed
  • Reward yourself with a treat or a short walk outside whenever you finish a task on your to-do list
  • Plan some enjoyable activities with your coworkers outside of work to build stronger relationships, like Happy Hours or team lunches

Just like you plan enjoyable activities for your vacation, you can also make your return to work a bit more enjoyable with these simple ideas.

Bottom line

Just as vacations are made for enjoyment, returning to work after vacation can be a pleasant journey too — but with a little planning. Embrace these simple tips, and you’ll find that getting back into the work groove can be as fulfilling as those relaxing days away. So, grab a cup of coffee, take a deep breath, and get ready to conquer the world of work. You’ve got this!

Snigdha Gupta
Snigdha Gupta

An avid writer and aspiring marketer, Snigdha is a student at Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business.

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