Dreading Going Back to Work after the Holidays

We are all familiar with the excitement we get when switching our “out of office” on. It is often the final thing we do at work before the long-needed holiday. But that excitement is often overshadowed by a sinking feeling, of what will be waiting for us when we return to the workplace.

Whether you are worried about mounting emails, incomplete tasks, or important meetings which are scheduled for when you return, these worries are far from uncommon. Taking a break from work can often give us a very needed headspace to think about issues that we tend to push to the back of our minds (for instance, worries about an overwhelming workload, an unclear career path, or problematic relationships and colleagues). These deeper-seated problems can come to the surface when we take time out, and leave us dreading going back to work, especially after a great holiday.

Establish a more positive mindset before your first day back at work.

Moving from a negative mindset to a positive mindset will not happen overnight, but practicing positivity in the days leading up to your return can help. Those who practice a happy approach to life are able to see the good aspects of their work environment.

When you are thinking about your first day, instead of focusing on your full inbox or a daunting client meeting, think about the elements within your role that you do enjoy. Whether it is working on a particular project, spending time with a colleague, or even visiting your favourite coffee shop during your lunch hour. Focus your mind on things you look forward to.

Think about how you can add more variety and spontaneity to your working day

If your normal workday leaves you feeling bored and you find yourself watching the clock, the prospect of returning to the same old routine after a fun-filled holiday will mean that the prospect is returning and is not filling you with joy.

Instead of dwelling on what makes your days drag, spend time working out what could add some variety to your week. E.g. If your commute is long, buy some new books, subscribe to some podcasts, or watch your favourite TV programs. If the day itself is leaving you restless, take a walk during your lunch hour or find a nearby gym where you can do a short exercise class. These endorphins will improve your mood and could even help your productivity. You can also learn new skills or offer to train other colleagues, the variety will give you something new to focus on and reduce your levels of boredom.

A change of scenery can also help. Try to sit in a new place within the office or have lunch with some colleagues which whom you do not get a chance to speak during daily activities. Another way to introduce some variety is to organise an event or involve yourself in a committee.

Personalize your workspace

Creating a tidy and more personal workspace can improve your mood. Try adding simple touches such as a treasured photo or plants which will give you an instant lift.

Natural light can improve the work environment, so instead of sitting near fluorescent lights, ask for a seat near a window. These are very simple steps that could instantly improve your mindset when you return to work.

Come to terms that your inbox will be full

It is important to accept that your mailbox will be full and there will be lots of catching up to do. It is possible to reduce the immediate pressure by setting your email expectations within your “out-of-office” message, making it clear when you will be returning to the office.

Another tip is to keep your first day back at the office as free as possible. Avoid scheduling lots of meetings and calls, instead, schedule time in your calendar to work through your inbox. Start by focusing on the emails which you know are a priority.

Deeper-issues? Identify the root of the problem and create a plan

While the above steps are quick solutions to help your return to work more bearable in the short term, they are unlikely to solve bigger issues that may be at the core of your feelings of dread.

Try to establish exactly why it is making you feel so down about returning to work. Identifying the bigger problems, it will make it much easier to create a plan of action to solve them.

What about your job makes you dread going back? Maybe you no longer feel challenged and don’t feel invested in it, which is leading you to feel bored and unmotivated. Perhaps a lack of support from your boss has seen you turned down for a promotion, meaning you are unable to see a clear career path with your current employer. Or perhaps you are not coping with the increasing workload which is causing high levels of stress and leaving you feeling burnt out.

If you have not made your manager aware of the problems, they will not know that you need help, and therefore won’t be able to put measures in place to help put things right. So the first step is to have an open and honest conversation with your manager and discuss ways in which you can work together to address the issues you are struggling with.

Is it time to look for a new job?

If you have already tried talking to your manager or boss but feel like little progress is being made, perhaps it might be time to follow your instincts and consider finding a new position.

Spend some time thinking about the type of role you would like to find, this will give you something positive to focus on and a plan of action for kicking off your job search when you return.

It is important to understand that most people will experience some degree of back-to-work blues as they contemplate returning to work after a holiday, but these feelings of dread can be alleviated by some actions mentioned above.

If you feel you are struggling too much and need guidance, contact Laurian Ward.