So you had your dream vacation? The sun, the sand, the call of the wild, or just a laid-back holiday in the mountains. Away from work, “switched off”, for some much-needed R&R.
But soon, it’s time to get back to the grind. Returning to work does not have to be painful or overwhelming – if you plan that comeback even before you go on vacation. Discipline, prioritising, and time management are key to let you seamlessly pick up where you left off .
Here’s how you can make the transition from vacay-to-work mode without much hassle.
Let everyone know
Set up an auto-responder on your email to let those that send you messages know when you will be back. You might want to put the date you are returning as one day past the actual date you will be back. Change the message on your voice mail to indicate when you will be returning (Again, if possible, provide the day after you plan to return to avoid receiving too many calls on your first day back.)
Leave post-it notes on any work you have on your desk as to the status and what the next step to take is. This way, either someone who needs it will know exactly what to do, or you will come back to a note that reminds you what needs to be done next. This will make your first day back at work more efficient.
If it’s possible, delegate some of your responsibilities to others during your absence; it will lessen what needs to be accomplished when you get back.
Lists, and more lists
Write yourself a to-do list for when you return; include meetings, calls to make, and current projects and items that you are leaving undone that must be attended to immediately upon your return. Add things to do that need your attention while you were away when you return. Prioritise your tasks based on this list.
For new projects that develop in your absence, get a clear briefing once you have settled down. Make sure you understand everything needed to carry them forward.
Give yourself time
If possible, avoid returning from vacation the night before you are due back at work. Instead, come back a day or two early. Use the ‘buffer’ time to run personal errands, like taking your clothes to the dry cleaners, and check accumulated voice mail and email messages from home. If a matter seems particularly urgent, call co-workers and ask for important updates. When you actually set foot in the office, you’ll already know what to expect.
Take it slowly at first
Unless there is an urgent phone call to make or meeting to attend, spend the first hour or two at work refreshing your memory about assignments, deadlines, and deliverables. Meet your team members to catch up on matters you might have missed while you were away. Getting back up to speed systematically will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.
Chances are your colleagues will bombard you with endless questions about your vacation, especially if you were out of the office for an extended period of time. To keep your first day back from turning into one long gabfest, offer to go to lunch with the group and share stories about your adventures with everyone.
One thing at a time
Take out that to-do list you made before you left and check what needs to be accomplished immediately. Sort the work on your desk in order of priority: what needs immediate attention and what can wait until tomorrow or next week. Make a pile for each so you can easily work on the most important tasks. Listen to your voicemails with a note pad and, after writing down messages, add them to the appropriate pile (today, tomorrow, next week, etc.).
Allow yourself time to get back into the groove of the work environment. Everything left on your desk does not need to be completed on your first day back at the office. You’ll only end up feeling overwhelmed and not really accomplishing anything. Plan your return to work, and get started with renewed vigour after your holiday!