The airplane touches down on the tarmac, returning you from a trip that took years of planning and saving. The food was superb, the sites were breathtaking, and the weather was spectacular. Even your luggage was waiting for you at the baggage carousel upon arrival to end your trip on a high note. Consequently, you feel relaxed, reflective, with no post-vacation blues in sight as you ease the car through the maze of airport parking.
However, as you hurtle down the highway heading toward home, a speeding motorist swerves in front of your car and darts onto the off-ramp. Shaken, but unharmed, this near miss yanks you away from that tranquil place of serenity to the painful realization that the everyday grind lies just ahead and you must return to work to pay for the ensuing great adventure. All the pre-vacation stress and anxiety rush back in a tidal wave of disappointment.
After returning from vacation, family members and coworkers frequently joke about feeling a little blue as they resume their daily routines. Although not commonly recognized as a clinical condition, some researchers believe that post-vacation blues or depression exists. Regardless, employees can minimize this emotional crash by taking a few preventative measures.
Messaging – From a customer service perspective, updating your voicemail and email out of the office messages to reflect your absence is helpful. In addition to sharing your schedule, you may ask people to recontact you after X amount of time if they have not heard from you. This phrasing will subtly remind the caller of the number of messages you will have, and it reduces the pressure on you to respond the first day back. Always include an alternative contact for callers, who have pressing needs, and record or write this message before your final day in the office when you are under less pressure to remember the key points.
To Do List – Create a list of items to do in order of importance before departing the office. The list will allow you to pick up where you left off before vacation without skipping a beat.
Scheduling – This advice may not be realistic for everyone, but attempt not to schedule meetings on your first day back. In fact, block out time on the calendar so that no one schedules for you.
Teamwork – There is no need to go it alone. Involve your colleagues and ask for their assistance on tasks that are readily transferable during your absence and reciprocate when they vacation.
Back in the Office
Read and Sort Your Messages – Depending on your preference sort through emails by chronological order or by subject matter. The first method allows you respond to people who have been waiting for a reply the longest while the second method may allow you to eliminate and prioritize messages quickly by topic. Screen voicemails and prioritize return calls in order of importance.
To Do List – After reviewing all your messages, refer to the To Do List you created before vacation. Taking your calendar for the upcoming week into consideration, combine any new work found in your messages with the other items on the list and re-prioritize the work.
Focus – Focus on one task a time, so you have a sense of accomplishment after completion and eliminate that overwhelmed feeling. Also, listening to music helps some people relax and concentrate more.
Take A Break – If you work in an office, stand and walk around every hour, and drink plenty of fluids. Just as importantly, give yourself a break and realize that you may not accomplish every task the first week you return to work.
Other Coping Suggestions
Plan an Outing – Plan to do something enjoyable the first week back. Whether it is dinner at a restaurant, seeing a movie, or visiting a local museum, give yourself something to look forward to at the end of the week.
Sleep –While on vacation, you probably did not adhere to your regular sleep schedule. More than likely, you retired later and awoke late, making for a challenging return to normalcy. Put down the cell phone or tablet, turn off the TV and avoid alcohol, nicotine, or caffeine before bedtime. Instead, read a book, drink decaffeinated tea, and listen to soothing music or a combination of all three.
Return Day – Whenever possible, build a day in between the end of your vacation and your return to work. Having to unpack, pick up pets, shop for groceries, sort mail, and other tasks the day before returning to work is the perfect prescription for extinguishing the state of bliss that results from a perfect vacation.
Finally, if you are still feeling a little blue, relax with one of your favorite Jimmy Buffett tracks. After all, It’s Five O’ Clock Somewhere.
Brian Sweigart, Business Development Coordinator