Pre-vacation strategies to make the return to work easier

Several business friends were lucky enough to take extended holiday vacations this year. A couple spent the holiday season “up north” while others enjoyed southern warmth.

No matter which direction you go, getting back to reality — re-entry into your work life after a restful, stress-free break — is an adjustment. Each of these friends prepared ahead of time for their ultimate return to their offices; however, even with planning there were roadblocks to sitting right back down and being productive on day one.

When we return from a vacation some of us expect to get right back into the swing of things with renewed creativity and endless energy — which lasts right until we’re faced the barrage of email and voicemail messages that piled up during our time away. According to Julie Morgenstern, productivity consultant and author of Never Check Email in the Morning, you’ve got to set yourself up so there’s minimum pileup while you’re gone. She also suggests building in some transition time and not filling your schedule for the first day back at work.

Many people like to leave a clean office, as well as a clean home, before leaving on a business trip or vacation. Those who do this say returning to the daily routine is so much easier because it makes tackling our various inboxes more manageable.

A few of my business friends like to take an extra day at the end of their vacations to “recover” and ease into the daily routine. Then when they do return to work they arrive an hour earlier than usual so they can deal with any top-of-the-pile “emergencies” before coworkers arrive and before the usual daily interruptions begin. Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, suggests returning home from vacation on a Saturday instead of Sunday to give yourself time to “re-enter” without pressure.

Debbie Rosemont, CPO, productivity consultant and certified professional organizer, suggests that before you go on vacation you should let your team and your customers know what to expect with regard to the projects you are responsible for. She notes, “There is a difference between going on vacation and dropping the ball,” and reminds us that failure to communicate and manage project expectations before leaving can sabotage a successful re-entry upon return.

Rosemont goes on to suggest that leaving auto-responses or outgoing messages in your email and voicemail that direct people to another team member for emergencies and acknowledge the dates you will be away from the office helps with the return challenge of too many messages to answer. While most of us already do this for extended absences, there are still many times people forget to turn on those out-of-office replies before they leave. To prevent any misunderstandings that may result from an unexplained absence, always schedule a few minutes in your pre-vacation to-do list to set your outgoing messages before you head out the door.

Time away from work is important to our health, wellbeing, and productivity. Using these strategies will help make your re-entry easier and less stressful, and ensure you aren’t negating the benefits of that time off. Isn’t it time for a winter getaway?

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