The end of a weekend can be depressing knowing just how bad Monday morning will be when you get back to work, but that feeling is tenfold when coming back from a lengthy vacation with zero work responsibilities.
Sitting in your cubicle, stuck staring at your computer screen, is particularly awful once you've enjoyed the freedom of a two-week, or even just a weeklong, holiday vacation. Getting back into a work mindset isn't easy, but you don't have to dive back in with thrilled abandon.
After you get home from your vacation, put your average obligations on the back burner. Don't immediately start unpacking, doing your laundry, or cleaning the dishes—it can all wait another day or two. Forget about all of those daily chores and relax your way back into your first day back to work.
When you first sit down at your workplace desk upon returning from vacation, it's tempting to try to tackle every single task, email, and responsibility that's been placed on your shoulders in the days since you left. However, attempting to make progress on an insurmountable workload will only make you miss your vacation more.
Take your time catching up on all that you missed—you don't have to read every last email, memo, or post-it note stuck on your desk. Jump into only what requires your immediate attention, and it will make life a little easier on you until you get back into full swing.
You may feel like you had all the time in the world for fun during your days off, but that doesn't mean you immediately need to become a stoic, serious adult during your first day back. You can still make time to keep the easygoing enjoyment going when you've reentered the real world.
If you're dreading your first day back at work, make concrete plans for when your shift ends. Schedule a dinner with friends, sit in front of your TV watching all the Netflix you missed out on, or hit up happy hour. Having fun at the end of a post-vacation workday makes it so much easier to get through all that built-up stress and worry, and makes the following days less dreadful.
Keep this mantra in mind: you don't need to read every email. You really don't, according to Time.
If you've been gone from work longer than a day or two, anything that was absolutely crucial or in crisis mode has probably already been solved. Slogging through hundreds of unread emails and tweets over the week or so you've been off is nothing more than exhausting, frustrating, and worrisome work. Forget about all those missed conversations, and delete whatever doesn't need your attention.
Admit it: you're already planning on working a 10-hour workday when you return from vacation. Don't do it! This behavior will make you more miserable than caught up.
Putting in extra hours of overtime right when you return to work does nothing but make you frustrated, sad, and angry. Instead, put in a complete 8-hour workday and not a minute more. Getting off right at 5:00, or whatever time your day typically ends, will offer you sweet relief when your brain is still in vacation mode.
Here's a tip to utilize both before your vacation begins and once you've returned: perform triage on all of the tasks that will face you when it's time to reenter reality.
Instead of blindly digging through emails and trying to remember what's due when, leave yourself (or make, post-return) a list of what you need to tackle urgently. As Harvard Business Review suggests, this will allow you to not only focus on what's most important, but help you ease into your tasks smoothly. After all, no one wants to come back to work with 15 different projects that are all seemingly urgent; handling work is easier when you know what requires attention first.
There's a theme to your first day back at your desk: don't try to be a hero. This is especially true when attempting to answer every single email you've received over the duration of your days off. Instead of getting overwhelmed with new messages, stop the influx of "You're finally back! Here's more work!" emails by leaving your vacation auto-reply on for a few more days.
If you turn off your auto-reply, everyone in your office (and perhaps even other offices) will hammer you with requests, responsibilities, and demands. However, if every email still receives an "I'm on vacation" response, you won't feel any added pressure to hustle through your workload and get caught up, and your coworkers won't keep hounding you until you've announced your return.
Workplace gossip sucks, but so does facing your boring, uneventful computer screen upon your return from vacation. When you've been out of the loop for a few days, getting to know all about the drama you missed can help you ease back into things.
Think you couldn't care less about your cubicle partner's new dye job, or your boss's brand new car? Spending a lunch or break time gossiping with a coworker helps you bond with a fellow office pal—and it helps you feel great about everything you missed. Friends make us happier, and having a friend at work makes each day easier.
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