5 tips for getting back to work after a vacation

3rd January 2017

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Written by: Amanda Cai

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. Once you invest in that process once, it becomes an automated process.

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 organised 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 maximise vacation time by coming home Sunday night, consider an earlier-than-last-minute return.

Consider coming back on Saturday instead of Sunday, giving yourself some 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.

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.

Resist your tendency to try to make up for all the meetings you miss straight away, but try to push those to the second day or the afternoon to give yourself a bit of space.

Build in some transition time. Don’t book anything for your first day in the office, allot the time and block off the time in your calendar. If it looks like you’re available, people are going to put things on your calendar. 

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

Your out-of -office auto-reply needs to be straightforward, helpful, and honest–but not that honest. 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.

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. It’s ok to suggest people follow up because you just might not get to their email.

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.’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.

You should try to be indispensable – but realising that you’re not might make you a better contractor

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, especially as a contractor. 

Learn to plan ahead, rely on your co-workers, 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.

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