6 Tips for returning to work stress-free after a vacation

Coming back to work after a long holiday break has never been easy. This year, holidays have been different than usual for everyone. While some people have decided to spend their holidays in the same city or country, commonly known as staycation, others were able to travel abroad.

Regardless of the type of vacation, getting back on track can be challenging, and on some occasions, there may be cases of what we know as post-holiday blues. In this article, we explore post-vacation syndrome and gather some tips for an optimal return to work.

What is post-vacation syndrome?

Also known as ‘holiday blues’, post-vacation syndrome is a low mood that appears after a period of intense emotions or stress. Some of the main symptoms of post-vacation disorder are insomnia, low energy, short temper, lack of concentration and anxiousness. Post-holiday syndrome can be described as the result of a sudden release of stress hormones after an important event, like a wedding or holidays.

A survey showed 87% of people admitted being apprehensive when returning to work after taking a vacation. Here are some of the top reasons explaining the results:

  • Getting back to the routine, 37%
  • Catching up with backlogged work, 31%
  • A busy environment, 27%
  • The volume of unread emails, 26%

These figures may seem overwhelming; however, post-holiday blues can be prevented by implementing some specific tips.

6 Tips for a stress-free return to work

It is always a good idea to have a plan to avoid the overwhelming feeling of stress when returning from holidays. Here are some efficient tips to get back to work with recharged batteries:

1. Establish a list of things to do before leaving for the holidays

Before leaving for holidays, it is important to prioritize tasks and make a to-do list; this will help to reduce backlogged work before you go on holiday. It is crucial to make an accurate list.  Avoid creating a checklist with hundreds of tasks as this could increase stress levels before leaving and complicate detachment from work. Tick all the boxes before leaving and get ready to disconnect.

2. Block out your calendar for the first morning back to create a plan

It can be important to step back for the sake of your mental health and to give you a chance to understand the current situation. Coming back to work with a day full of meetings may impede moving forward with the tasks that have accumulated while you were away. Blocking out your calendar helps you to have a general look at what’s been going on in your absence, organize a plan of action, and prioritize tasks.

3. Plan an email strategy

Emails are the predominant communication tool for businesses.  According to Statista, by 2025, 376 billion emails will be sent and received worldwide.

An essential tip is to avoid stressing about the quantity of emails, as these may be ads, conversation chains or spam. Instead, organizing emails is the best way to go through them, categorizing and dividing them by tasks and priorities; this will give a better picture of your inbox without drowning in the numbers.

4. Catch up with colleagues

Even though the workload can be high, an excellent way to disconnect for a couple of minutes is having a coffee break with colleagues. Talking about holidays, experiences, and anecdotes helps to reduce stress levels and get you up to speed on what’s been going on in the organization.  

Communication between teammates positively impacts the workplace, affecting employees, managers, and the company’s environment. Ultimately, a conversation with colleagues can make the first week after vacation more bearable.

5. Don’t overdo it

After any absence, it is easy to believe that in order to catch-up you need to extend your working hours. However, this can lead to additional stress and it will most likely negatively impact your productivity in the long-term even if you have the feeling you are doing more in the short-term.

Holidays are an important part of a work life balance. As such, any feeling of guilt about taking time off needs to be eliminated and you should avoid overworking when coming back to keep the positive energy accumulated during your holidays as long as possible.

Here is when teamwork comes into play; all organizations need to be able to carry on without certain individuals over different periods throughout the year. Making sure you have a plan in place to delegate tasks and keep projects moving while you’re away can help to mitigate the need for extra efforts upon your return.

6. Prioritize self-care

Getting back into a daily routine can facilitate the back-to-work adjustment process. Try to return home from holiday a couple of days before you begin working again; this will allow you some time to complete everyday tasks like grocery shopping or house cleaning. Imagine arriving home on a Sunday evening, with no food on the fridge, a disorganized house and having to wake up early in the morning to go to work; sounds stressful, right?

Start by organizing the house, go for a nice walk or a yoga session, try to wake up early to re-adjust your sleeping hours, and get back on track with a healthy diet. These little tricks can all help to ease the process of getting back to your routine.


On that note, it might be a good time for you to take a few minutes to catch up with a colleague or even just relax and meditate.

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