5 Tips For Getting Back To Work After A Vacation

Good morning, Highlanders! Here’s part 2 of the “Vacation Series” on the Alumni Blog. This was originally posted on Forbes.com on June 26, 2016 by Kathryn Dill. Last week we talked about getting ready for a vacation, and this week we’re going to discuss how to get back into work mode after your long and relaxing time away. I will be inserting my comments with italics.

The vision of returning to the office after vacation and the reality usually have very little in common. While many of us expect to sit down at our desks after time away filled with boundless energy and restored creativity that will fuel new projects, what usually ends up happening is that we spend several scattered hours (or days) trying to process a deluge of emails and falling further behind on tasks that have built up in the interim.

“You’ve got to set yourself up so there’s the minimum pileup while you’re gone,” says Julie Morgenstern, productivity consultant and author of Never Check Email In The Morning. “Once you invest in that process once, it becomes an automated process. ‘Every time I go away, this is my coverage bible.’”

How can you avoid the post-vacation crush and hang on to that refreshed glow?

Actively plan for your return.

When planning time away from work, most people focus on getting organized for departure. Avoid undoing all that restoration by treating your return as something that needs to be managed in advance as well.

While many of us try to maximize vacation time by coming home Sunday night, Laura Vanderkam, author of I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time, suggests considering an earlier-than-last-minute return.

“Consider coming back on Saturday instead of Sunday,” says Vanderkam, emphasizing that time to unpack, pick up a few essential groceries, and get a quiet, uninterrupted jump on email can lessen the impact that first day back in the office. *I think this is SO necessary. I made this mistake my first vacation from work and Monday was miserable. All I was thinking about was how tired I was, all the laundry piled up at home and how I needed to go grocery shopping for the week. Plus our flight got in late Sunday night so there was little transition time from vacation to work. My suggestion would be to come back early, or to schedule an additional vacation day to the end off the trip so you have time to regroup.

Factor in some triage.

Don’t just walk back into the office after a vacation without a plan of attack–unless you want to be steamrolled.

“The tendency is to try to make up for all the meetings you miss,” says Vanderkam. “As much as possible, try to push those to the second day or the afternoon so it gives you a little bit of space.”

Morgenstern suggests you protect the time you’ve set aside to get caught up the way you would a meeting or a presentation. It’s just as necessary–so treat it that way.

“Build in some transition time. Don’t book anything for your first day in the office, allot the time,” says Morgenstern. “And block off the time in your calendar. If it looks like you’re available, people are going to put things on your calendar. These are meetings with your to-dos.” *Schedule your time for emails, checking voicemails and necessary meetings for your day back. If you’re the person who receives hundreds of emails a day, I’d suggest checking email the night before returning to work and delete all the junk so that the next day, you’re ready to tackle the important emails. First thing I do when I come back to work is delete all the unnecessary emails that clutter my inbox, which makes responding more manageable. 

Your out-of-office response is your first line of defense–wield it to your advantage.

Your out-of -office autoreply needs to be straightforward (ditch the phrase “much-needed vacation,” please), helpful, and honest–but not that honest. Vanderkam recommends leaving it up through that catch-up period; your coworkers will know you’re available but it will help stem the tidal wave of outside inquiries, or at least lower the expectation of an immediate response.

She and Morgenstern agree that an out-of-office message directed at external parties should include directions for who to contact according to contingencies. Assess who’s going to be emailing you along two or three broad categories and let them know who to reach out to instead or when they might expect a response. *Be sure to touch base with these colleagues so they’re aware of the types of questions that they might get asked while you’re away. Try not to forget your out of office reply, especially when your offices are closed or when you’re going out for a long period of time. 

Morgenstern adds that it’s ok to suggest people follow up because you just might not get to their email. *If you’re the person getting hundreds of emails, this might be a good thing to state in your autoreply. 

“Everybody who emails understands the volume problem and that things can get lost when someone is away. It’s not really a shock to anybody—you’re just warning people: ‘It may get lost or buried, please feel free to follow up with me.’” *I think this is an excellent suggestion. We’re all human and sometimes if your email is buried, we don’t see it. Especially if something is urgent or necessary to a project, following up is key to keeping the project flowing and allowing the collaboration to happen.

Feeling especially brave? Skip the days of wading through email and nuke your inbox.

The very thought of losing the contents of your inbox likely sends a chill down most spines, but some argue that a post-vacation email purge  can be just the thing you need to get back on track without losing an entire day to email maintenance.

“Some people take a quick look at what’s flagged, see what’s interesting, and then delete everything,” says Vanderkam. *When you have the “follow up” verbiage within your email autoreply or you’ve been out on a long vacation, I would say that this is absolutely appropriate. You’ll feel a lot better about your inbox and your workload when your email doesn’t look so overwhelming. 

You should try to be indispensable–but realizing that you’re not might make you a better employee. 

Vanderkam says planning for and returning from a vacation can be a good time for an adjustment of your professional outlook. We’re all striving to be the go-to team member, but believing the company actually can’t function without us can be damaging in the long run.

She describes a five-day vacation she once took where she believed WiFi would be readily available and discovered it was not. Having done all she could to prepare for time away, she realized her only option was to change her outlook on needing to be connected.

“No armies were waiting for my word to invade countries,” says Vanderkam. “I missed a few things, but I could apologize to a few people when I got back. I missed a few opportunities. There will be others.”

Learn to plan ahead, rely on your coworkers, and understand that sometimes, it’s inevitable that you’ll miss out on that last-minute request, and you’ll be that much more productive when you return.

1 Comment

  • under armour st patrick's day shirt says:

    Thanks for the good writeup. It in reality was once a leisure account it. Glance complex to far added agreeable from you! By the way, how could we keep in touch?

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: