Whether you are taking time off of work for holiday time with your family or for a much needed, and well deserved, vacation, coming back to work can make you feel so overwhelmed or stressed that you end up wanting more time off to recover from your return. From being bombarded with inquiries in the break room asking how your time off was (when all you wanted was a cup of coffee so you can get back to your work) to being flooded with tons of emails to catch up on, to generally just trying to get back into the swing of things, coming back from a holiday or vacation requires a bit of prep and planning in order to leave the feelings of overwhelm and anxiety behind.
Before you leave
The best way to recover from time off is to prep as much as possible before you leave the office for you vacation. Before clocking out, get yourself in order by clocking some time cleaning out your inbox as much as possible. Respond to emails that need your input (even if it is a reply that you are working on their request and will be out of office for a bit) and delete or archive emails that no longer need to be in your inbox. By doing so, when you return, the only items in your email upon your return that you need to sort through are new ones that came through while you were out.
After your inbox is cleaned up, keep on top of tasks and your projects by writing a list of your tasks that are currently in progress and what you’re waiting on in order to be able to finish them, as well as tasks that you need to work on ASAP upon your return. While in your day to day, you may not need a list of these things and can remember to do them without prompting, after some time away you may have some problems remembering the exact details of what you were working on and the deadline of that very important task your boss specifically asked you to do. Taking the time to make a to-do list before you head out the door will help refresh your memory when you return and avoid missing some important tasks that you promised you’d follow up on.
Lastly, before you begin your time off, block off time on your first day back to keep to yourself to catch up on emails and complete a few tasks before colleagues start asking you for help and scheduling meetings. This way, your first few hours back in the office will be more productive and used to catch up on things instead of running around from meeting to meeting the moment you step back into your old stomping grounds.
After you’re back
After you clock back in and dust off your keyboard (you may not have been gone that long, but offices collect dust like no ones business!) scroll through your calendar for the day to see if any new meeting invites were sent while you were out so that you can prep for any additional meetings that day. Also be sure to use the blocked out time you set up before you left to catch up on emails, prep for any meeting on your calendar, and get back into the swing of things.
Most importantly, remember that at one point in time each and every one of your coworkers has taken time off and they all know how back breaking it can be coming back and trying to get completely caught up in just one day. When they’re the ones coming back to work you don’t expect them to get caught up and fully back into work mode in a single day so set those same expectations for yourself. Still take your scheduled breaks and lunch time on your first day back, get up and stretch and refill your water as needed, and remember that the work will still be there for you tomorrow, so don’t overwork yourself and burnout one day into your return to work.