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Beating post-holiday blues at work

People dread return to work after vacation

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According to experts, it’s normal for people to suffer from post-holiday blues, because the body and mind need sometime to adjust to any changes.
Gulf News


The first few weeks of January are a tough period for a lot of employees as they head back to work after a long break.

UAE-based expatriates usually take their annual leave in December to celebrate Christmas and New Year, and when the holiday comes to an end, many find it difficult to snap back to reality. They feel less motivated and depressed, and dread the early morning wake-up calls, work meetings and deadlines.

According to experts, it’s normal for people to suffer from post-holiday blues, because the body and mind need some time to adjust to any changes.

“When [they go on holiday], people step out of their work reality and shift into a lower gear. For several weeks, they do not have to perform or live up to anyone’s expectations. Shifting back to working speed then takes some adjustments,” explains Marjola Rintjema, senior consultant for talent and reward practice at Towers Watson.

“The body and mind need to change to the daily pressures of working life. This change causes resistance,” she adds. The same thing happens when people shift from work to holiday mode.

“This is why many people suffer from headaches during the weekend or get sick or depressed during the first days of a holiday. It is mostly the change and adjustments that people suffer from. Usually, it is ‘back to business’ quite literally within only a couple of days,” says Rintjema.

For those who have just returned from the holidays, here are essential steps to follow:

Ease back into work

You’ve spent most days of your vacation just lazing around, flipping through pages of a magazine or book, or hanging out with friends and loved ones. Now that you’re back at work, you don’t have to force yourself into shifting to high gear at once.

“A calm and steady approach to work helps greatly,” says Rintjema.

Find time to chat with your colleagues over coffee, instead. It’s an “essential part of getting back in to the working mood,” says Rintjema. “Do not try to skip the chitchat and get right back to work, because it will slow you down. Before you know it, you will be back on track.”

“Trying to force yourself to speed up will cause extra stress which will no t help you… Start with the more routine and easy tasks. Make sure you have a healthy lunch, go for a walk outside and go home early the first

day,” Rintjema adds.

Sort through emails

A bursting inbox is what usually greets a returning employee. Depending on how long you’ve been away, sorting through unread messages can take days to finish.

The best way to deal with this, according to Rintjema, is to “block a dedicated a mount of time” to go through your inbox and “try to avoid being disturbed.”

“You don’t have to go through everything at once. Select all emails that you were [copied] in; leave those for a quiet day. Then go from most urgent to less urgent and look at each email only once: you either deal with them directly and take action, or you put them in a ‘later’ file,” she says.

Andrew Croft, managing director, Middle East and Africa at Talent2, says it is best to prioritize emails “commencing with key clients and working backwards from there through to social emails.”.

Organize your work backlog

Don’t let your backlog weigh you down. You will eventually catch up if you plan which tasks to do and when. “Block a dedicated amount of time each day to catch up, when you cannot be disturbed, and turn your email and phone off,” says Rintjema.

Have your colleagues brief you on the things or work and correspondence that took place while you were on vacation. Or if you’re not working with a team, email the people you’re dealing with and “ask them exactly what they are looking for” and what the deadlines are, says Rintjema.

Be positive and step up your productivity

The new year signals new challenges and a fresh start. Beat your back-to-work blues by having a positive mindset and a can-do attitude.

“Starting the new year in a positive frame of mind is very important as it will set the tone for the year,” advises Croft.

“Avoid procrastinating and thinking about the great holiday that you may have just been on. Set yourself some activity-based challenges for the short, medium and long term in 2013, and then reward yourself as these are achieved one by one,” he adds.