You’ve worked hard for months on important projects, and it is a time of year when those of us who live in the northern hemisphere start daydreaming about sunny skies and beach escapes. Whether it is time spent lounging on the beaches in the tropics, or a staycation in your own town, we all get to a point where we can’t wait to get out of the office and leave our daily cares behind. This is great, but you will eventually have to get back to your normal routine.
Here are a few ways we can make that transition back to the office refreshed, relaxed and ready to take on the challenges that will be thrown our way.
While on vacation:
- Relax! You have earned it. That means no work email (I know, some of you are rolling your eyes reading this right now). Ideally, you can get away from your normal routine and enjoy living without project and work stress. Checking into work while on vacation seems to be a growing trend. A lot of us don’t like this trend at all. If we work while on vacation, what is the point of vacation? Studies have proven that an employee that works while on vacation does not reap the full benefits of vacation. Keep that Blackberry powered off and that laptop closed. Breathe! Enjoy this rare time to be yourself.
- Seek new experiences. Go off the beaten path. Stay at an Air BnB instead of a hotel; take the local bus instead of renting a car in a different city. Opt for a small family run restaurant instead of a large food chain. Use a paper map instead of a GPS. Sometimes if we get out of our routines and comfort zones, it forces us to look at situations with a different lens. This is beneficial to our problem-solving skills when we are back in the office. Sometimes approaching situations or problems a different way can make all the difference.
- Treat yourself. Why do we work so hard if we are not allowed to treat ourselves occasionally? Get that extra scoop of ice cream (just do not make it a habit). Go on that winery tour. Stay in that fancy hotel you have had your eye on. Upgrade that cruise stateroom to one with a balcony. Sometimes it is OK to go for the extras that will make your time off from work that much better.
- Allow yourself to sleep in. Enjoy the experience of waking up when your body, not the alarm clock, decides that it is time for you to wake up.
- Enjoy the little things. Take advantage of not being tied to a work schedule. Read the paper (web or paper-based) from cover to cover. Catch up on all those magazines you are subscribed to. Sit in a café and enjoy your cappuccino while you people watch. Go on a bike ride. Visit the local library or museum. Take the dog for a walk on the beach at sunrise. Go see that movie during the afternoon showing, or check out that new record store at the other end of town. Make time for the small things that make life really great.
- Make time for fresh air and exercise. Vacation means you are not cooped up inside for 8+ hours or tied to meeting schedules, cubicles or harsh neon lights. Take advantage of the weather (rain, sun or snow) and get outside and enjoy the day. There are so many benefits of being outdoors and your body and mind will thank you for it.
Making the transition from Vacation to work
So it’s time to think about getting back. Vacation cannot last forever * (*See retirement or winning the lottery) so let’s get ourselves ready for the inevitable.
- Buy yourself a new return to work outfit (or two). A wardrobe refresh is always a nice way to return to work. Like the first day of school, sometimes a wardrobe refresh can boost your confidence and help you put your best face forward when you get back from your vacation time and into that first meeting. It can be something as simple as a new scarf, tie, or shoes. Maybe something more elaborate like a new work wardrobe. Do whatever fits into your budget.
- Allow yourself a “Work Preparation Day.” If it is possible, have a day or half day set aside to get ready for returning to the office (and the kids back to school if they were on holidays with you). You may have to grocery shop, prepare lunches, get your work wardrobe ready, pick up dry cleaning, etc. Having a “buffer day” between vacation and back to work can make Monday morning go a lot smoother, and is so much easier than running around at 11 pm the night before buying juice boxes and sandwich bags. There is nothing more stressful then waking up and realizing that your work pants are sitting in the laundry, and you only have 45 minutes to get ready before you must leave for the office.
- Dedicate the first few hours to catching up. You will need some time to ease back into your busy schedule. If you are afforded the luxury and don’t have to hit the ground running, block off some time in your calendar to read those hundreds of emails, sit with your project team and get the updates on where things are at. One method is to block this time off in your calendar BEFORE you go on holiday. That way when people are scheduling meetings they will see that you are unavailable at this time and will have to schedule around it.
- Put your best face forward. It can be difficult to return to work after a great time off, but putting your best self out there can help to make the first day back tolerable.