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Conquering the post-holiday blues

For many, work in September means returning from time off and can feel like dauntingly adjusting back into a new ‘school year’. In theory, coming back after a holiday means feeling refreshed, invigorated and ready to throw ourselves back to work, but often the reverse is observed. According to findings from a study of over 2,200 UK workers by CV library, 55.8% admitted to finding it difficult to settle back into a routine after a summer holiday, with approximately three quarters acknowledging that that it takes one to two days to adjust back into the working environment.

Business coach Robyn McLeod, has commented that benefits received from taking a break can be quickly undone through additional pressure to race back into work. But happier employees are more productive, and- for the individual- combatting the ‘post-holiday blues’ reduces stress levels. So it is in both employer and employee best interest to make sure the back to work transition isn’t too much of a shock to the system.

There are several simple ways in which this can be achieved, such as through the use of 1:1 update meetings, allowing time to follow up on emails and create a priority list can reduce the strain. Even keeping your out of office on for an extra day can give back some much needed time in the diary so you're not chased whilst getting back up to speed. By accommodating some simple steps, there can be a positive attitude for returning to work.

1. Tackling the inbox

One of the big stresses is the prospect of shifting through the full inbox of emails. Although research shows that a large amount of people still choose to check messages whilst on holiday, getting fully back into the swing of things means that there will inevitably be a lot of messages to go through. Blocking out time in your diary so that you don’t get pulled into meetings and taking the time to go through these will mean that there isn’t the daunting full inbox of unread emails for the rest of the day or week. Even filtering by subject and deleting the back trail of conversation will cut out a large amount of the unread messages. And to preempt the holiday email mass, there are tools which allow you to filter messages; such as in outlook where you can create a rule so that all cc'ded messages can go directly into a separate folder, meaning that you can prioritise the more important ones which are directly to you.

2. Rethink your day plan

It sounds simple, but structure is key; instead of leaving the piece of work that you are dreading until the end of the day, tackle it first. Make the call early rather than putting it off and letting it hang over you for the rest of the day. Think about what is urgent rather than important, sometimes the urgent items rank below the important to do list items. 

3. Communicate early

Catching up early with face-to-face meetings means that there is one less email in the inbox, allows time to re-familiarise yourself with projects and gives a more in depth handover of what was missed.

4. Refine your meetings

If there is a regular meeting which isn’t completely necessary, then if possible try to move its timing to break up the day, or allow yourself to decline it and take the time back. Make meetings concise and to the point for the use of discussion and decision making rather than a general conversation. Have the ability to say no if you deem a meeting less necessary.

5. Your work space

The simple act of decluttering your work space can make all of the difference as can help identify what is important and what can be thrown away. Also try stepping away from your workspace, even if it is for a short period of time. Spending time outside can combat the post summer blues and help you use the shortening days as much as possible. Leaving the office on time is also revolutionary to your attitude to work, where possible, don’t stay for longer because you feel you have to – get what you need to done and then leave. 

6. Plan the next thing

It’s easier to throw yourself back into work if you have something in the diary to look forward to. Plan the next holiday or organise something enjoyable for the weekend so that it’s not all about work and the office on your return.

Most importantly, don’t ignore the holiday; bring some positive feelings back to the office to banish the blues. For both employees and employers, don’t expect to fully get back into everything in the first hour back from the holiday - allowing some buffer time will help in the long run for more productivity and less stress.