If there's anything more heart wrenching than going back to work after a vacation, please let me know. Because honestly, I can't think of a harsher transition than going from beach to office. There you are one moment, soaking in freedom and sunshine, and the very next you're back on someone else's schedule.
Coming back to work is so difficult, in fact, that it can cause something called post vacation blues. It's not really a term recognized in the medical world, but anyone who's experienced it knows how real the feeling is. According to Jen Christensen on CNN.com, the horribleness is caused by extra stress on the body (from traveling, overeating, and not sleeping well), combined with the stark contrast of joy and freedom, to the drudgery of answering a million emails. It can obviously be hard on the emotional well-being.
Personally, I also struggle with the nostalgia part of post-vacation life. I never want the fun to end, so coming to terms with that difficult reality can cause me to daydream about better days. I often sit at my desk, sadly pining away.
Of course many people return from vacation feeling refreshed, and able to bounce back to work with renewed zest and zeal. For the rest of us, the process downright sucks. If you're in the latter group, then here are some ways to ease the transition back to work, without feeling so bad.
1. Organize Your Desk Before You Leave
Whenever I come back from a trip, I always appreciate returning home to a spotless apartment. It makes me feel glad to be home, and less overwhelmed by the fact I'm no longer in a clean and shiny hotel. The same can be said for your desk. Before you leave for vacation, tidy that thing up so it looks perfectly organized when you return.
2. Get To Work Earlier
On your first day back, do your best to arrive at work a bit early. This will give you time to digest the fact you're no longer on vacation, and it will allow time to catch up on emails. According to Emily Co on POPSUGAR, you'll probably also want some quiet time before coworkers start asking you about the trip. All the more reason to show up early.
3. Deal With The Piles ASAP
Even though you cleaned your desk, it's still likely there will be piled up mail, files, and papers. "Rather than ignore these items, take a few minutes to process them," said Rachelle Isip on Lifehack.org. "Open envelopes, chuck junk mail, file items, and place items in your inbox." Basically, get all of that stressful mess out of your sight.
4. Don't Schedule Any Meetings
If you can, try not to schedule anything too strenuous — like an out-of-office meeting — for your first few days back. As Ada Polla said on HuffingtonPost.com, "The piles of paperwork and unanswered emails ... will keep you busy. Adding outside meetings will add more stress than it is worth." I couldn't agree more.
5. Take It Slow
While you're at it, don't take on anything new for the first couple days. As Co said, "The first day should be spent doing regular job duties as well as catching up on what you've missed. Try to refrain from taking on new tasks and projects on your first day back so that you're not putting too much on your plate." You'll get there eventually, but now is not the time.
6. Keep The Traditions Alive
If you've been eating delicious lunches for the past week, treat yourself to something similar on your first day back at work. Hit up an exotic restaurant, and eat outside if you can. It may just help ease the transition.
7. Don't Get Overwhelmed By Emails
If you totally unplugged during your trip, then you'll probably come back to an absolute deluge of emails. One way to tackle them is to ignore the dates, and instead sort by subject or sender. "The idea behind this is that you’re more interested in finding out what happened while you were gone, as opposed to when things happened," Isip said. It can also make it easier to delete any junk.
8. Schedule Something Fun
Don't overdo it, because you're probably jet lagged, but try to give yourself something to look forward to after work. As Polla said, "Make one very fun and not too late engagement for that evening. For me, it was a belated birthday dinner with one of my best friends." You know, something chill, with people who will be glad to see you. It should be just what you need.
9. Make A Prioritized To-Do List
Whenever I get overwhelmed, I often find it's helpful to write down everything I have to do, regardless of timeframes. Once it's all out of my head, I can then go back and prioritize. Give this a try on your first day back, and hopefully everything will seem more manageable.
10. Leave Work On Time
Whatever you do, resist the urge to catch up on a week's worth of work in one day, as it's just not possible. "Don’t play the hero. Make a point to leave the office on time. Set a timer or reminder, if need be, to help you get out the door," Isip said.
11. Go Home And Sleep
You're probably going to feel hopelessly tired when you get back from vacation, whether it's due to jet lag, or having too much fun (tough, I know). Compound that with a busy day catching up at work, and you'll probably feel downright exhausted. So make sure you get enough sleep. It'll help you get back on schedule, and make the work day feel that much easier.
With a some preparation, and a willingness to take things slow, you can help stave off the post-vacation blues, and make getting back to work a little bit easier.