A woman with red hair is sitting at a desk with her head in her hands as if she is dreading coming back to work.
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5 tips if you’re dreading coming back to work after a break

9 Dec 2020

Already dreading coming back to work after a break? Hays’ Alex Shteingardt shares his advice for making your return a little easier.

Taking a break from work can often give us much-needed headspace to think about the issues we tend to push to the back of our minds in everyday life, such as an overwhelming workload, an unclear career path or problematic relationships with colleagues. These issues can often come to the surface when we take time out and leave us dreading coming back to work, especially after an amazing holiday.

While these issues won’t be solved overnight, there are some short-term tips that can help make your initial return to work that little bit easier.

1. Try to think positively

Practising positivity in the days leading up to your return can help. When you are thinking about your first day back at work, instead of focusing on the negative – such as your full inbox or a daunting client meeting – think about those elements of your role that you enjoy.

Whether it’s working on a particular project, spending time with a colleague or even visiting your favourite coffee shop during your lunch hour, focus your mind on the things you are looking forward to about returning to work.

2. Consider changes you can make

If your typical working day leaves you feeling bored and you find yourself watching the clock, the prospect of returning to the same old routine after a fun-filled holiday may not exactly fill you with joy.

So, instead of dwelling on what makes your days drag, spend some time working out what could add some variety into your week. For example, if your commute is long, buy some new books, subscribe to some podcasts or watch your favourite TV programmes. If the day itself is leaving you restless, take a brisk walk during your lunch hour or find a nearby gym where you can try a short exercise class.

Another great way to introduce variety into your day-to-day is to organise an event or involve yourself in a committee.

3. Add some personal touches

According to the Association for Psychological Science, creating a tidy and more personal workspace can improve your mood – whether you’re in the office or working from home. Try adding simple touches such as a treasured photo (perhaps a snap from your recent break) or plants that will give you an instant lift.

Studies have also found that natural light can improve the work environment.

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4. Accept that your inbox will be busy

Before you return to work, it’s important to accept that your email inbox will be full and there will be lots to catch up on. However, it is possible to reduce the immediate pressure by setting your email expectations in your out-of-office message. Make it clear when you will be returning to the office.

Another tip is to keep your first day back as free as possible. Avoid scheduling lots of meetings and calls. Instead, schedule time in your calendar to work through your inbox. Start by focusing on the emails you know are a priority or have been sent by key stakeholders within the business.

5. Take some practical steps

Before you leave for the holiday, go food shopping and fill your freezer with pre-prepared lunches for work and healthy dinners. This will take the pressure off when you return and help you adjust back to a busy schedule. This also means you will benefit from home-cooked healthy meals instead of resorting to takeaways.

The same goes for your work wardrobe – avoid any last-minute panics by ensuring your work clothes are washed and ready to go before you leave for holiday. And once you’re back, try to stick to your usual bedtime. This will leave you refreshed for your first week back at work.

By Alex Shteingardt

Alex Shteingardt is managing director at Hays Russia. A version of this article previously appeared on the Hays Viewpoint blog.

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