Working from home

How to face your first day back at work after holiday

First day back at work after holiday - laptop and coffee
Photo by Adelou Eletu on Unsplash

So you’re back from your trip and it’s time to face reality. Do you have that dreaded feeling about the first day back at work after holiday? And the longer you’re away, the harder it is right?

In order to smooth your return to work after leave or vacation, make sure you’re prepped and managing expectations. There’s no need to ruin those holiday vibes by stressing yourself out about that first day back. But you need to be prepared and have a plan.

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1. Ease yourself in…

Be kind to yourself this first day (and week) back and manage both your own and anyone else’s expectations. It’s only fair that you need a bit of time for your re-entry, so don’t over commit yourself before or immediately after your leave.

And make sure you’ve factored in a buffer day for your personal stuff too. I used to max out my leave and so my first day back at work after holiday was often hours after landing!

Now I allow myself a whole day at home to do my washing, get food shopping in, and allow for headspace which reduces the return to work anxiety too.

2. Keep a low profile when you come back

Your first day back at work after holiday should be low key and discreet slide back. Don’t even highlight that you’re back at work. Only reach out to your manager and any other key people as necessary. Be stealthy!

You might spend the best part of your first day back simply clearing out your inbox, (see below) and responding to urgent messages. This is not the day to have meetings booked in or be bombarded by your colleagues.

So be as quiet as possible to allow yourself the time and privacy to work out your priorities.

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How to face your first day back at work after holiday

3. It’s all about the inbox

Either start with the oldest messages and work your way through (if you’re worried to miss something) or go to the most recent. You may find things have already been responded to, or are no longer an issue. Other key tips include:

  • Block out some time straight away in your calendar for ‘focus time’ or similar. This gives you precious email clear out time today
  • Do a search on certain subjects to group things up such as ‘news bulletin’, ‘staff updates’ or regular newsletters you subscribe to. Then you can also bulk delete items that are out of date or no longer relevant.
  • Don’t be quick to start answering. Flag up messages you need to respond to but go through your entire inbox because as stated above, some things may have already been resolved and no longer need your response.

4. Make it a short week

If possible try not to return on a Monday which is an anxiety-inducing day at the best of times. If you’re able to start on Tuesday or find another way to have a shorter week, it will make things less stressful and buy you more time when you can tell others it’s not your first full week back.

This goes back to managing the expectations of others. This is essential if you’ve been on long leave and need time to get your head back in the game. You want to re-familiarise yourself with things and get up to speed on any changes since you’ve been away.

There are lots of great studies and books such as the 4 hour work week which can give you further tips on how to be more effective in less time going forward, and help you work more efficiently. No, I don’t work a four work work week but I’ve gone from five days to four and wish I’d done it years ago!

First day back at work after holiday - laptop and cup
Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

5. Reach out for support

Ask for support from colleagues and management if you really feel overwhelmed at work and struggling with it all. You might need someone to help you meet a deadline or cover you at an unexpected meeting, or at least give you a good handover or briefing beforehand.

Ideally, you would have already checked out the ‘Too busy at work to take a holiday’ post because, like most things, preparation is key and gives you a better chance of minimising stress. The post also highlights the importance of asking for help when you need it.

But if you’ve not done the prep and are back at work tomorrow, don’t worry, you can make it through by applying the above and going easy on yourself.

Beat the dread of your first day back at work after holiday…

Sometimes it’s so stressful just thinking about your first day back at work after holiday and the backlog, that you wonder if you should have taken a holiday at all! A stressful first week back can leave you feeling like you need another holiday altogether. This isn’t how it should be!

So go easy on yourself, do as much prep as you can beforehand and then be realistic about what you can manage on your first day back at work after holiday. And remember, be as quiet as you can when you get back to buy yourself some time to catch up without interruption.

How do you feel about your first day back at work after holiday, is it as bad as expected? Have you ever felt like the experience completely undoes all the lovely calming time off you’ve just enjoyed? Share your thoughts and coping mechanisms below.

If you’ve been away a really long time on maternity leave, then read the post on how to handle your return. Or perhaps you are struggling to work at home with a baby or toddler around unexpectedly! Find plenty more support and tips on The Curious Dig homepage.

Pin this for later so you can be prepared for the next holiday (or vacation/break) and beyond!

First day back after holiday


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