TCG 411: Avoiding the Post-Vacation Blues

By Donna Farrugia, Executive Director of The Creative Group

It’s hard to believe (for me, at least) that summer is in full swing, which means it’s time for a little R&R. No matter how busy I am, I try to schedule at least one week where I can break away from my professional commitments and partake in quality time with my friends and family. It’s easy for job pressures to build up and vacations to get put off, but even a brief respite can help you recharge and refocus once you’re back at the office.

If you’re planning a vacation, 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 advertising and marketing executives interviewed said they dread the work awaiting their return. Another 10 percent said they prevent this scenario by rarely going on vacations.

Don’t let a potential backlog of work deter you from taking a much-needed holiday. The following steps will help ensure you’re productive – not panic-stricken – when you return from a vacation, whether it’s to Bali, the Bahamas or your own backyard:

  • Plan ahead. You’ll avoid scrambling before and after your trip if you plan 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. If possible, delegate some of your assignments to others on the team. I follow the Golden Rule, asking a peer to cover for me where management sign off is required and, in turn, I serve as that person’s backup when he or she takes time off. 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.
  • Give notice. Let 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 that can respond to requests in your absence.
  • Take care of technical issues. More than a few people 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 by changing any soon-to-expire passwords before you leave. Also, check the storage capacity of your e-mail inbox and make sure there is plenty of space to receive large attachments while you’re away.
  • 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. The extra time also gives you the option of checking your e-mail or voice mail so you’re not overwhelmed when you arrive in the office.
  • Pace yourself. 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 must 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.

Donna Farrugia is executive director of The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and web professionals with a variety of firms. More information, including online job-hunting services, candidate portfolios and The Creative Group’s award-winning career magazine, can be found at