Coming back to work: the gameplan

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that coming back to work after a holiday sucks. Here’s how to make it suck slightly less.

The first day back in the office after a vacation is when you convince yourself that “holiday you” is the real you, and the person dragging themselves into the office is an imposter.

But we all need money to pay for our next vacation – so back to the office we go.

That first day back is usually an uncomfortable mixture of mild depression meets overwhelming tasks – but there’s a way to beat the blues and get yourself back in the swing of things.


1. Sort out emails by sender, not date


You do need to sort through your emails, but most people make the mistake of going to the date they left for their holiday and scrolling slowly upward.

Instead, try sorting emails by sender.

You’ll soon see important emails that require your attention are often sent by the same few people.

Of course, you’ll still need to check the other emails to check nothing slipped through the cracks (like new business enquiries), but this approach can cut out a lot of time.


2. Have a date in mind for your next holiday – circle it in red


On your first day back at work, you’ll quite literally be at the furthest conceivable point from your next holiday.

Depressing, isn’t it?

Rather than wallowing in post-vacation blues, make sure you have your next holiday period in mind and have it ringed in red on your calendar.

Having a date to work to will make the first day back less of a drag.

READ: 10 awe-inspiring holiday reads


3. Block out time in your calendar for catching up on stuff


Try to block out time in your diary specifically for catching up on what’s happened in your absence.

You’ll find that your calendar has a way of filling up very quickly if you don’t specifically lock out time for catching up as soon as you get into the office.

We’ve got some tips on how to fill that time, but the important part is that you carve out to begin with.


4. Try not to be roped into meetings


Roughly 90 percent of meetings require knowledge of what’s gone on in the organisation within the last two weeks – which means a lot of them are going to be counter-productive until you can offer meaningful input.

There are some meetings that you absolutely must attend, but most you can probably avoid and short version later.

And if you’ve already gone and blocked out that time in your diary, you can point to being busy as a great excuse for not attending.

READ: How to run effective meetings


5. Maybe keep that out of office on for a little bit longer


Your most immediate reports are going to know that you’re back in the building, but if you’re in a larger organisation, does everybody need to know you’re back on the first day?

Of course you should follow up with messages you get on the day, but having the out of office on will give you a bit of breathing room to only respond to the most pressing of matters.

You can’t literally hide but having your out of office on for another day can give you a bit of respite from having to answer everything immediately.


6. Get coffee or lunch with key colleagues


We’ve all got those colleagues we end up working with closer than others – so it makes sense that they’re going to have all the info on what happened while you’re gone that’s going to be applicable to you.

Everybody’s busy, but if you’re able to cajole them into a casual debrief with a free coffee or a free sandwich, you’ll find that you’re caught up a whole lot quicker.

There’s only so much context you can glean from emails, after all.


7. Leave the office on time


You’re going to have a lot to do on your first day back, and you will have done a lot.

It’s really, really tempting to knock out the catching up in one go so you can get back into things as quickly as possible, but sometimes you’ve just got to leave things for another day.

The idea on the first day back in the office should be to ease yourself back into the swing of things – but if you’re still juggling things after hours, that can be a huge cause of stress.

Instead, make sure you head home on time – at least today.

You’ll turn up to Day Two having survived, instead of being a mess, and that’s better for everybody.