15 Tips for a Smooth Transition Back to Work After Vacation

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Have you ever sailed down a river? You’re on the water, everything around you is rapidly changing. You have to be alert at all times, and that can be very overwhelming! But if you have never sailed down a river, it’s actually similar to returning to work after a vacation. Navigating a ton of incoming tasks, trying to keep up with your colleagues, and adapting back to your life at home. Uhh, we’re stressed just thinking about it!

To help you calm your anxious thoughts down and have a smooth start, we’ve gathered 9 mistakes to avoid when making your work re-entry. Read for productivity tips and Selzy employees’ stories and advice

Returning from a vacation can be bittersweet. While you may miss the freedom of being out of the office, you can make the transition back to work smoother. Follow these tips to hit the ground running after time off:

Prepare Before You Leave

Make your first day back easier by doing some preparation before your vacation:

  • Mark your return date in your work calendar and set reminders leading up to it,

  • Reconfirm important meetings or appointments scheduled for your first week back.

  • Alert colleagues you’ll be out and identify coverage needed.

  • Complete and submit any reports or projects that’ll be due soon after your return

  • Set your “out of office” message to manage expectations while you’re gone.

Gradually Ease Back Into Work Mode

If possible, give yourself at least a day or two before going back to ease out of vacation mode. During this transition time:

  • Start shifting your sleep schedule if you’ll be getting up earlier for work.

  • Limit indulgences like eating out or late nights to reset your routine.

  • Catch up with family or friends whom you didn’t see on your trip.

  • Take care of leftover errands, chores, or appointments.

  • Begin thinking about your priorities and goals for your first week back.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Burning the midnight oil before your return will make that first day back more painful. Be sure to:

  • Start transitioning yourself to your usual bedtime in the nights leading up to work.

  • Avoid screens late at night which can disrupt sleep.

  • Eliminate caffeine after noonish to allow it to wear off before bed.

  • Do relaxing activities before bedtime like reading, stretching, or taking a bath.

Waking up after a solid night’s sleep will make starting work again less of a shock to your system.

Review Your Calendar

A major hurdle when returning from vacation is remembering what’s on your plate. Before your first day back:

  • Review your work calendar to reacquaint yourself with upcoming meetings and deadlines.

  • Make note of any pressing projects or tasks you’ll need to tackle early on.

  • Flag any new appointments or meetings that arose while you were out.

  • Check for changes to existing commitments and confirm details.

Having a handle on your priorities will make diving back in far less overwhelming.

Block Your Time

Ease the adjustment by creating structure for yourself on your first day back:

  • Allot time to scan and prioritize emails. Don’t try to respond to everything at once.

  • Schedule meetings with key colleagues to touch base on your team’s status.

  • Block time for diving into pressing projects or finishing up lingering tasks.

  • Build in some buffer time in your calendar to allow flexibility for the unknown.

Don’t Lead with Email

It may be tempting to start your day by tackling your bulging inbox, but this can quickly consume your morning. Instead:

  • Skim senders and subject lines to identify any truly urgent messages requiring immediate response.

  • Move less critical items into your inbox tabs for later follow-up.

  • Set aside dedicated time slots for processing emails after you’ve completed higher priority tasks.

Eliminate Distractions

On your first day back, avoid unnecessary distractions that can derail your focus:

  • Silence notifications from non-work accounts like social media.

  • Close browser tabs not needed for work to limit temptation to surf the web.

  • Put your phone on silent or “Do Not Disturb” mode while working on important projects.

  • Politely ask colleagues to refrain from non-urgent matters until you’ve transitioned back.

Tackle a Manageable Workload

Returning to an avalanche of work will ramp up your stress fast. To control your workload:

  • If possible, request pushing back deadlines for less critical tasks until you’ve transitioned back.

  • Enlist help from colleagues to share the load on projects with tight turnarounds.

  • Let your manager know if your plate seems truly unmanageable coming off vacation.

  • Work overtime only when truly needed, not as a matter of routine.

Summarize Your Time Away

Get back up to speed quickly by setting up time with your manager and team to summarize:

  • Any notable developments, accomplishments, or issues that arose during your absence.

  • The current status on projects you had been working on before leaving.

  • Upcoming objectives or deadlines you should focus your attention on.

  • Any assistance or resources you’ll need to resume progress seamlessly.

Reconnect with Colleagues

Renew bonds with coworkers and get their insight into what you missed.

  • Schedule quick check-ins with colleagues you work closely with.

  • Ask if there are any team issues that arose that you should be filled in on.

  • Provide a short recap of your vacation highlights to break the ice.

  • Show interest in any notable developments your coworkers share with you.

Set Attainable Goals

Reset your motivation by defining realistic goals to accomplish in your first week back:

  • List the top 2-3 projects or tasks demanding your immediate focus.

  • Define specific, measurable goals for what success looks like on these priorities.

  • Sketch out how you’ll sequence your time to make steady progress.

  • Ensure your goals are realistic given competing demands on your time.

Prioritize Your Well-Being

Don’t neglect self-care as you transition back into your routine. Be sure to:

  • Take brief breaks to walk, stretch, or rest your eyes when you start feeling burnt out.

  • Hydrate frequently and pack healthy snacks and meals.

  • Leave work on time as much as possible to refresh and reset for the next day.

  • Discuss any excessive stresses with your manager and develop coping strategies.

With some discipline and forethought, you can ease back into work after vacation smoothly. Don’t view it as an end to your fun but rather a refreshed restart!

back to work after vacation

Mistake 1: Leaving in a hurry Source: Pinterest

Were you so excited about a vacation that you shut your laptop closed without planning a return? Well, that’s one reason why coming back may not be smooth. On your first day, you may need to tackle new tasks, remember where exactly you left off, and try to tie up some loose ends.

If you still can, plan your return beforehand.

back to work after vacation

Email marketer at Selzy

A recommendation that works for me personally is to create a work plan before a vacation. This way when you’re back to work, you will only need to add new tasks to your backlog, not create it from scratch. It will save you time and make the return less stressful.

Mistake 7: Tackling everything on your first day Source: Giphy

So you made a to-do list, and it’s probably quite lengthy. What’s the next logical step?

If you think it’s trying to fit everything into the first day, you’re wrong. You probably won’t finish everything in one day. And even if you do, you risk running yourself dry. That means you will get overwhelmed and tired quicker and start the next day without a smile on your face, to say the least.

back to work after vacation

HR People Partner at Selzy

Don’t try to finish all the tasks on your first day back. It took more than one day for these tasks to stack up, so they’re impossible to go through in one sitting. Instead, make a plan and spread these tasks over a week, for example.

back to work after vacation

Email marketer at Selzy

Don’t plan a lot of tasks on your first day, at least. The re-entry day is essentially for shoveling tasks you got during vacation. Some of those tasks can be urgent, so you generally have what to do. And if you have a “lighter” first day, the return back to your workload will be more gradual.

Well, if you shouldn’t jam-pack your schedule the first day, what can you fill it with besides the most urgent tasks? Rest and relaxation, actually.

back to work after vacation

For a smooth start, don’t go crazy trying to get everything done on your first two days back. The human brain can’t adapt that quickly! The good idea is to plan something nice for yourself during those adjusting days and plan periods of rest. That’s what helps to make the transition from total chill to a productive state smoother.

How To Transition Back To Work After Vacation

Should you go back to work after a vacation?

Not necessarily. Unfortunately, going back to work looms at the end of your vacation, threatening to ruin all of your good relaxation vibes. Do you feel like you absolutely loved your job before your break but struggle to make it through the day when you return?

What happens on your first day back at work after a vacation?

However, it’s now your first day back at work after your vacation. You’ve been in the office only an hour, and you’re not sure how you’ll survive to the end of the day. You have hundreds of unopened emails, a huge list of phone calls to return, two reports that are overdue, and three meetings to attend. And that’s just this morning!

How do I Start Back at work after a long vacation?

Starting back at work after a long vacation sure can be daunting. If you play a key role in the company, you might be faced with huge piles of to-do’s that all seem to be urgent and important. One of my best tips to help you tackle all those work tasks on your first day back is to start with the most intimidating task first.

Are You Ready to take a new job after a vacation?

Ignore the Urge to Tackle It All Congratulations are in order if your time off left you ready to take on your job with new vigor. Rejuvenation is a vital part of a vacation, but catching up on two weeks of work doesn’t happen instantly. Focus instead on prioritizing your tasks and setting realistic goals.

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