For those of you who travel overseas, you know all about the time and effort it takes to make the adjustment of being "back home." For some, it is a "reverse culture shock" that requires one day of reintegration back home for every day away. In other words, 10 days away, 10 days readjustment time. Fortunately for others, the transition back to work might be rather quick. In my view, this same formula applies to employee vacations, no matter where they go. It requires one day to adjust for every day of vacation that employees are away from work. At least that’s how the formula applies to me.
Not only that, many employees find they experience a sense of depression, even when they are glad to be back to work. This is commonly known as "post-vacation blues" or post-vacation depression. After all, it’s hard to get back into the routine of things. Employees often feel disoriented for a period of time.
People who suffer from post-vacation blues often rotate from nostalgia about their vacation to sadness about leaving their good times behind.
While some of their experience might simply be the result of intercontinental time changes, many individuals experience actual physical withdrawal symptoms.
These result from those many vacation late nights and lack of sleep, increased alcohol intake at special dinners and events, the overscheduling of exhausting sightseeing tours, and the actual lack of true personal time during the vacation. Then again, who thinks about planning the transition back to work?
The following tips will help those who are indeed experiencing the so-called "holiday blues":
Plan work allocation
Prior to leaving for vacation, examine your workload. Determine what can be postponed and/or delegated and adjust your workload accordingly. For ongoing assignments, assign a contact person, notify the key people involved internally and externally, and let them know who to contact in your absence and when you will return. A word to the wise: refer to a return date at least one day after you are actually in the workplace.
Apply the "out of office" designation
While you might auto-reply your messages, delegate someone to review all messages, reply to them on your behalf and/or refer emergencies to a senior representative. Have your representative prioritize the emails for your review when you return. On the other hand, for entrepreneurs, monitor emails yourself but be careful to respond cautiously so that people don’t think you are still working.
Schedule a personal transition day — or two days, if you can afford it.
You need to have at least one day at home for transition purposes prior to returning to work and at least one day in the office to get reoriented. Use the home day for personal relaxation rather than trying to catch up on all the yardwork or housework that’s waiting to be done. Enjoy the evening, go to bed early and have a good night’s rest.
Take a peek!
When possible, access your email account the day before returning to work. Determine priorities, plan the day ahead of time and plan to meet with key staff as soon as you can. Discuss your vacation and the work accomplished while you were away. Look at the work list and, of course, delegate where possible.
Celebrate and share
Most people take photos during their vacation. Plan to share the photos and put at least one photo on your computer background. Share your photos during a lunch break or put them on a shared drive. Print the best photo and tack it up by your desk. This will bring positive memories when you are working hard but happen to glance at the photo.
Take time to get yourself organized. If you can, start with the tasks that can be completed quickly or at least within one day so that you will feel a sense of accomplishment. This will give your mood a boost and will ward off the onset of the blues. Plan out the rest of the week, moving toward more complex tasks that will require more time. The more control you can have over your first week back at work, the better you will feel.
Take a longer work break on Day 1
Take time during your first day back at work to look after yourself. Go for a walk, take an extra break, walk around the workplace and talk to people. Find out what’s going on and how others enjoyed their vacation.
Relax at end of day
If possible, go for an evening walk or bicycle ride. This will help you to get reoriented to your neighbourhood and help you to feel as though it is the right time to go back to work.
Poster-blast your home
Post vacation photos on the refrigerator and your computer screen at home. Post your vacation memories on the fridge, on your computer screen or in other locations that remind you of good times. Take a moment every time you walk by and reminisce about the experience.
Share, share, share
People love to share photos and since everyone has a camera these days, try to regulate what vacation photos are shared. Share some photos showing family members and share some photos of travel highlights with colleagues. Be careful not to overload your viewers.
Find that exercise program
While you might have been consistent and regular on your earlier physical exercise campaign, it is particularly hard to return from vacation and start the exercises up again. Create a weekly schedule that will allow you to ease in until you are back to the regular exercise routine.
Ease into social activities
As a busy professional, you were probably out at many business activities, networking functions and invited events. My advice is to avoid quickly filling up your social calendar. As with an exercise program, plan to "ease in" to your social activities.
Not all of these tips will work for every person, but the message is to do some planning to ease yourself back to work. As I walk down the halls of our company and peer into empty office space, I realize several of our employees are away on vacation. It makes me wonder how long it will take before these folks are productive once again. After all, those vacation blues are really real.