6 Steps to Combat the Post-Vacation Blues

Today is the first day of fall, meaning summer is over as well as many of your vacations. If you’re planning a getaway to enjoy the final days of warm weather, chances are it’s not leaving the office that you find most difficult, it’s returning.

In a survey by The Creative Group, one in three (33%) advertising and marketing executives polled said they dread the work awaiting their return. Another 10% said they prevent this scenario by rarely going on vacations. Here are steps you can take to ensure you’re productive instead of panic-stricken when you get back.

  1. Plan ahead. You’ll avoid scrambling before and after your trip if you start planning in advance. Make a list of items that must be done before you leave, and estimate what your project load will be when you return. By working with your boss, you may be able to delegate some of your assignments to others on the team. Also do your best to work ahead on projects that are due soon after you get back. Nothing can ruin the relaxing effect of a getaway faster than an imminent deadline.
  2. Over-communicate. Most people have experienced that creeping feeling of unease on Sunday night after being out of the office for a week: How many hundreds of e-mails will be waiting for you on Monday morning? You’ll alleviate some of your anxiety by letting your business contacts know well in advance that you’ll be away. This will enable you to take care of any pressing issues prior to your departure. In addition, make sure you have out-of-office messages for your voice mail and e-mail that include the name of a colleague who can answer queries in your absence.

  3. Take care of technical issues. More than a few workers have returned to work after a lengthy vacation only to discover that they are unable to log in to their computers. Prevent this from happening to you by changing any soon-to-expire computer passwords before you leave. Also examine the storage capacity on your e-mail inbox; make sure you have plenty of space in case you receive large attachments while you’re away.

  4. Allow for a smooth re-entry. If possible, avoid returning from vacation the night before you’re due back at work. It’s better to come back a day or two early so you have time to unpack, run personal errands and catch up on sleep—especially if you’ve traveled to a different time zone. A leisurely return will allow you to come back refreshed Monday morning. That extra time also gives you the option of checking your e-mail or voice mail before you go into work so you’re not so overwhelmed when you arrive in the office.

  5. Go slow and deliberate. You’ll feel less stressed if you’re systematic in your approach to getting back up to speed. Unless you have an urgent situation you have to address, spend the first few post-vacation hours at work catching up on messages, as well as deadlines and deliverables. Meet with the person who covered for you and others in your group so you’re up-to-date on what you missed while you were away. Once you know where your projects stand, prioritize your tasks and focus on the most critical ones first. Thinking about everything that has to be done at once is a sure way to get the post-vacation blues.
  6. Plan a group vacation update. Your colleagues will likely want to know all about your trip, but even small interruptions from well-meaning work friends can be stressful when you’re trying to catch up. Instead of giving each person a full review of your trip, plan a lunch where you can update everyone at once.

Catching a small case of the post-vacation blues is inevitable after a great trip: After all, your cubicle is never going to compare with the beaches of Hawaii. However, you’ll extend the benefits of your time away with thorough preparation before you leave that sets the stage for a gentle re-entry into the work world. Bon voyage!

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