How to Survive Returning to Work after Vacation

Taking vacations and breaks from work are really important for our health and well-being. Patricia shares some tips on how to get back to work after taking a vacation.

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Taking vacations and breaks from work are really important for our health and well-being. While these effects fade over time, the temporary reduction of burnout and stress can be very meaningful for a person’s overall well-being. We will dive into the research on vacation and breaks another time. Today, I want to share some tips I’ve learned on how to effectively transition back to work after a vacation or holiday break.

We’ve previously shared some insights into how to get motivated about your work generally, but how do you regain your motivation when you return from a nice break or vacation? First, remaining healthy on the road is important for a successful return, as we’ve discussed before. I have 5 additional tips to help you come back to work with fewer post-vacation blues!

Prepare for your return

Most people enjoy planning their trips and vacations. It’s exciting to figure out everything you want to do or see while you are away from work. However, it’s much harder to think about your plans for your return to work. Everyone wants to keep their mind on the fun and not going back to their usual work routine, no matter how much you love your job!

vacation korea
I love traveling during my time off. This is from a trip to Seoul where I was so lucky to experience such an interesting and beautiful culture.

I would encourage you to actually spend the time to plan for your return. It will help your transition back to reality. Here are a few things I like to do to help me be ready for my return to work:

Block time on your calendar for emails

I always block the first half of my first day back in the office for email review. Hopefully, you are able to fully disconnect on your vacations. Unfortunately, that means you will return to a full inbox. Having that time blocked off to clean my email, mark what’s important that needs to be addressed later, and respond to quick questions, helps me organize myself and ease into work again. I feel a lot more relaxed if I can reduce my unread messages first thing.

Schedule catch-up meetings

I like to schedule meetings with the people covering for me on the second day after I return from a longer vacations (more than a week). It helps block my calendar a bit from actual client meetings, while still getting myself fully caught up. While reading through email can help me catch up with most of what happened, scheduling some short 15 minute chats really helps me fully understand any important situations I may have missed. I recommend figuring out what works for you. Maybe your organization’s culture doesn’t require you specifically blocking off time for this because you can pop in on someone during the day. As a remote employee, it really helps to make sure I have those times scheduled so I ensure I catch the person I need.

Make a to-do list for your first day back

In addition to catching up on emails, I make sure I have a clear list of to-do’s for my return. It helps me get in the rhythm of work again to spend the second half of my first day checking off some easy tasks. These will obviously be things that aren’t too urgent since they could wait for your return. It helps me to feel a bit of accomplishment when I first return so that I don’t feel like I’m just playing catch up for days!

I encourage you to try various methods of preparing for your return. These 3 steps help me on my first couple of days back but test them out and see what type of prep helps you!

vacation vietnam
Vietnam was one of my favorite travel destinations. This picture was taken inside a coffee shop in Hoi An.

Keep your “out of office” message on for an extra day

While this tip seems like it could fit under “preparing for your return”, I think it deserves its own call out. Having an out of office message and your calendar blocked for one day more than your actual vacation time can be immensely helpful. You’ve already read what I like to do in those first couple days back but I would not be able to accomplish those things without sending a clear message to people that I will still be unavailable for meetings. That time is valuable and being thrown into meetings you are unprepared for will make your transition much more difficult. I think it is important to ease back into work so making sure colleagues don’t take that time away from you is important.

Resume your usual routine

While your first couple days working may look a bit different than your typical routine (you probably don’t schedule email review time every day!), you should generally resume your workday routine. You should wake up at the same time you normally would, go through your typical morning routine, and end your day the way you normally do as well. This includes resuming your typical workout regime, dinner routine, etc. Getting back to your typical schedule will help you feel more balanced in your transition back.

Don’t forget to sleep!

This is critical! You will probably feel a bit of a vacation hangover. Everyone is familiar with the common complaint of ‘needing a vacation from my vacation.’ Don’t be that person! Sleep and get the rest you need. Don’t work crazy hours to make up for the time you lost. You had someone covering for you and everyone knows it takes a few days to get back into the rhythm of work. Don’t reduce your sleep because you feel like you have too much to catch up on. You and your work will suffer from your sleep deprivation in the end – probably more than putting something off for a few hours!

vacation ireland
The small towns of Ireland were such a treat and a great solo vacation destination! I felt so refreshed from this trip.

Plan your next break!

My final tip is my favorite tip. If you and I are anything alike, you probably love the anticipation of a fun vacation or break. It’s nice to know when you will have your next break or trip. Within a few weeks, I will look ahead in my calendar to remind myself of the fun things that I’ve already planned or start looking into ideas for my next vacation. Personally, it really helps me stay on track at work if I have some adventures in the future to look forward to.

Taking time off to recuperate and enjoy other aspects of life, such as travel, can really impact your well-being. If you are able, you should take advantage of available vacation time to do the things you love. We will discuss the research behind the benefits of breaks and vacation in future posts. In the meantime, please comment below with your tips for coming back to work successfully after some time off!

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