How To Enjoy A Less Stressful Post-Vacation Return To Work

How To Enjoy A Less Stressful Post-Vacation Return To Work
No matter how much you love your job, returning from a holiday can be a bit of a nightmare. Hundreds of emails and notifications await, with little indication of what’s important and what’s just noise: ‘Who’s eaten my muesli?’ etc.. Most of us have developed our own techniques to lessen the stress (and if you’ve got one, we’d love you to share it in the comments below), but if you’re struggling for ideas, here are some of the best approach that I’ve encountered.

The 5-hour Work Week

Not to be confused with Tim Ferriss’s outsourcing manifesto – I mean those of us who sneak in an hour’s work each weekday morning before our partners or families get up, so we don’t have the huge onslaught to deal with when we get back. In the short term this can be pretty helpful to your colleagues and yourself, but in the long run are you really getting the valuable benefits of a vacation? What’s the effect on those you’re holidaying with if you’re still engaged in work?

The Mark All As Read Maverik

Get back to the office, open your laptop for the first time in a week, click Mark All As Read, and BAM! now you can get on with whatever it is you want to. I know quite a few people – who really care about their work and their colleagues – who swear by this. ‘If it’s important they’ll ask again’ is the motto. Obviously this won’t work if you’re in a customer facing role…

The Out of Office Guard Dog

Writing a good out of office reply really is essential, the number one trick being: don’t write ‘…I’ll be back on X date and will reply then’ as it sets the expectations unnecessarily high. Are you really going to deal with everything in one day without freaking out? Another approach (which does require a certain level of confidence, like the Mark All As Read approach) is to flip the out of office reply saying ‘sorry but I won’t be reading the emails that I received between dates X and Y, if it’s still relevant after date Y please ask again, thank you.’ Again, the people I know who employ this tactic are not doing it to be assholes or because they don’t want to help – they really just see it as the best solution for everyone.

The Vacation Buffer

The worst options are to check your phone all the time or read every single email when you return – these are no solutions at all. I’ve tried the previous three suggestions at different times and they all worked pretty effectively. However, what I’ve found to be most effective is good planning around holidays – including how you schedule the actual trips. Steps you can take include:
  • Notify your team as far in advance as possible as to when you’re away. They’ll then be able to plan around your absence, reducing the chance they’re need your input. This means more than just requesting time off from a manager.
  • Give yourself half a day either side of travelling to comfortably pack, unpack and manage all the other odd things that come up. Leaving straight after work or returning at midnight before going back to work the next morning is a pain.
  • Try and clear your schedule for a couple of days before you go and after you get back. If you can wrap up all your projects and then get caught up quickly, you’ll be fresh and ready to make the most of your rejuvenated self.
Do these tactics sound familiar? As I write this, taking shelter from the Italian midday sun on the last day of my holiday, I’d love to hear your ideas.