Return to work after holidays


We’re all familiar with the pang of excitement we get when switching our ‘Out of Office’ on – it’s often the final thing we do at work before that long-awaited holiday. But that excitement can be over-shadowed by a sinking feeling – what will be waiting for us when we return? And sometimes, even after a few weeks back, those feelings haven’t gone away.

The below tips will make your return to work less stressful and avoid those back-to-work blues creeping into your mind and staying there permanently.

Short-term tips to get you through your first month back

Taking a break from work can often give us much-needed headspace to think about the issues which we tend to push to the back of our minds in everyday life (for instance, worries about an overwhelming workload, an unclear career path or problematic relationships with colleagues). These deeper-seated issues can often come to the surface when we take time out, and leave us dreading going back to work, especially after an amazing break.

Whilst these issues won’t be solved overnight (which I’ll come on to later), the following short-term tips should help make your initial return to work that little bit easier.

1. Establish a more positive mindset

Moving from a negative mindset to more positive thinking won’t happen overnight, but practising positivity can help. The life coach Brian Tracy, explains that those who practice a happy approach to life are able to see the good aspects in their workplace.

So, when returning after a break, instead of focusing on the negative (e.g. your full inbox or a daunting client meeting), think about those elements within your role which you enjoy. Focus your mind on the things you missed while you were on holiday.

There are many podcasts and apps which can help you on your path to a more positive mindset, which can work well when you pair the advice with simple meditation techniques. The popular app, Headspace, will help you find a more grounded way of being positive in day to day life. Our blog on how to incorporate mindfulness into your every-day working life may also help you.

2. Think about how you can add more variety and spontaneity into your working day

If your typical working day leaves you feeling bored and you find yourself watching the clock, the prospect of returning to the same old routine will understandably mean that the prospect of returning isn’t exactly filling you with joy.

So, instead of dwelling on what makes your days drag, spend some time working out what could add some variety into your week. For example, if your commute is long, buy some new books, subscribe to some podcasts or watch your favourite TV programmes. Or, if you are working from home currently, look at your work set-up and adapt it accordingly – this blog highlights four ways to improve your productivity when working from home. If the day itself is leaving you restless, consider taking a brisk walk during your lunch hour. These endorphins will improve your mood and could even help you become more productive. Alternatively, learn new skills or offer to train other colleagues, the variety will give you something new to focus on and reduce your levels of boredom.

A change of scenery can also help. . Another great way to introduce variety into your day-to-day is to organise an event or involve yourself in a committee. Popular options in many workplaces are work-related quizzes or events which everyone can attend during the working day, either in person or remotely via Teams or Zoom.

If your weekends are usually quiet, add some excitement by planning fun activities, trying a new hobby or visiting friends and family, it will give you something new to think about outside work.


3. Personalise your workspace

According to the Association for Psychological Science, creating a tidy and more personal workspace, at home or at the office, can improve your mood. Try adding simple touches such as a treasured photo (perhaps a snap of your recent holiday) or plants which will give you an instant lift.

In addition, studies have found that natural light can improve the work environment, so find a room at home with good natural light or, if you are back at the office, instead of sitting near the fluorescent lights, ask to be sat near a window. These are very simple steps which could instantly improve your mindset when you return to work.


4. Help yourself quickly re-adjust back to work

The steps above will improve your mood as you return to work. However, there are also some more practical steps which you can take to help you get ready for the first weeks back.

Food shopping and filling your freezer with pre-prepared lunches for work and healthy dinners will help you in the upcoming months. This will take the pressure off and help you adjust back to a busy schedule. This also means you will benefit from home-cooked healthy meals, instead of resorting to takeaway. The same goes for your work wardrobe – avoid any last-minute panics by ensuring your work clothes are washed and ready to go – this includes when working from home! And try to stick to your usual bedtime - this will leave you refreshed throughout your time back at work.


Deeper issues? Identify the root of the problem and create a plan

Although the above steps are quick solutions to ensuring your return to work is more bearable in the short-term, they are unlikely to solve the bigger issues which may be at the core of your feelings of dread.

Try to establish exactly what it is which is making you feel so down about returning to work. By identifying the bigger problems, it will make it much easier to create a plan of action to solve them.

What parts of the role are you dreading most now you’re back at work? Maybe you no longer feel challenged and don’t feel invested in, which is leading you to feel bored and unmotivated. Perhaps a lack of support from your boss has seen you turned down for a promotion, meaning you are unable see a clear career path with your current employer. Or perhaps you’re struggling with an increasing workload which is causing high levels of stress and is leaving you feeling burnt out.

If you have not made your manager aware of the problems, they will not know that you need help, and therefore won’t be able to put them measures in place to help put things right. So, the first step is to have an open and honest conversation with your manager and discuss the ways in which you can work together to address the issues you’re struggling with.

Is it time to look for a new job?

If you have already tried talking to your boss about the issues you’re facing, but feel like little progress is being made, perhaps it might be time to follow your instincts and consider finding a new position.

Spend some time thinking about the type of role you would like to find – this will give you something positive to focus on and a plan of action for kicking off your job search.


Author: Alex Shteingardt, Managing Director, Hays Russia


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