Top 5 tips to beat the post-vacation blues at work

Aaaahhh… Summer vacation. Depending on your fancy it’s time to lie on the beach with a good book, wear out your shoe soles exploring a strange city or scream your head off skydiving or in some other adrenaline-driven pursuit.

But invariably the vacation ends and you go back to work, and that transition can be a little rough.

Do you know that feeling? You come back to work happy and full of energy but by the end of the first work day, you’re already feeling tired an unhappy. It’s almost like you didn’t have a vacation at all.

So here are a five tips to help you stay happy when you get back to work.

1: While you’re away, get away

Don’t take the company mobile and laptop on vacation. Don’t check your voice mail and email.

The point of a vacation is to get away and go to a different mental space, and if you’re preoccupied with work, chances are you’ll both enjoy your vacation less and get less relaxation out of it.

2: Let yourself get behind

When you get back from your vacation, you will invariably have fallen behind and have a lot of work to catch up on. There will be a ton of voice mails, emails and tasks that need your attention. THAT’S FINE!!! It’s unavoidable and it’s not your fault.

Look at it this way: If you can leave the company for two weeks and there’s no work waiting for you, you’re not really needed there.

So don’t expect to have a clear desk on your first day back allow yourself to be behind and to catch up steadily.

3: Start with some easy tasks

When you get back to work, don’t immediately throw yourself at the toughest, hairiest most complicated tasks you have. Ease into work by doing something easy and simple something you know you can do. Once you’re back in full swing you can go at the tough tasks.

4: Don’t overwork to catch up

It can be really tempting to work long hours to catch up after your vacation. DON’T!!! Work regular hours and stick to point 2 above.

5: Ask for help if you need it

If you find it difficult to catch up, don’t be afraid to ask your co-workers or manager for help. It’s important for you to be aware of any outstanding tasks that may have become critically late in your absence, and if you could use some help it’s your responsibility to ask for it! It also greatly increases the chance that you will actually get help.

If you use these tips, you may find that your vacations feel more like vacations and that you can be even happier at work.

But on a fundamental level, there is something wrong with the idea that work drains you of energy and weekends and vacations recharge you. I know that this is how most people feel – but that’s not how it should be.

If work typically drains you of energy – if every week ends up draining you of life so you barely make it to Friday afternoon where you can finally relax – then something’s wrong. Don’t accept that state of affairs just because everyone else does.

When you’re happy at work, work can actually be a regenerative activity that leaves you with more energy so you leave the workplace with a spring in your step most days!

And THAT is the ultimate way to beat the post-vacation blues: Have a job you actually like!

Your take

Do you ever get the post-vacation blues? What do you do to beat’em? Have you also noticed that vacations these days seem to be more tiring than work (as this article says)?

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18 thoughts on “Top 5 tips to beat the post-vacation blues at work”

  1. While on vacation, enjoy what you are doing now. Don’t get caught up in measuring the passing time and watching the approaching end of the vacation.

    After vacation is over, you still have the memories you created — it’s not really over.

    View your return from vacation as a fresh start. Use it as a chance to put your old bagage at work behind you, and come to work with the same fresh attitude that you had the first day you started the job when all you saw was opportunity.

    If you aren’t able to reenergize and start fresh — get a new job because life is too short too suffer.

  2. I am watching the comments here, since I hope to find inspiration for coming back after my vacation (still at work though) – so post more! :D

    One thing I try this time is “return slowly” – I planned to return home in “one go” on a sunday. But now I resheduled and I will return halfway on sunday, staying with my parents another night and then return home on monday. I think this will help to get back smoothly a lot! Instead of travelling 6 hours on the last day of my vacation, getting home exhausted and tired with a load of laundry to do, I will now travel 3 hours to my parents and then another 3 hours on said monday (and probably my mom will insist on doing some laundry, hehe, I love my mom! In her eyes I am probably still a small boy, although my hair is getting grey slowly)

    And I really appreciate. how flexible my employer is about getting a day off :)

  3. First 2 points I have mastered (think about hiking in the mountains or going to Svalbard, makes the trick). Will work on the other 3. What really set me off was when a swedish IDG paper a coupe off weeks ago came with the advice to get offline during vacation and ONLY check emails 3 times a day. What kind of vacation is that? leave the work phone at the office or just turn it off. The reason we are getting so drained is the constant pressure to be available all the time, even on our vacations. Just refuse that and be free for those few precious weeks. No one is that important for their job so that they cant be offline.

  4. What great tips! Sometimes we find ourselves falling into the trap of taking work with us, but in all honesty, it is vital for an employee to become refreshed and detached from work while on vacation.

    Excellent post!

  5. I love this post. I haven’t had a real vacation in years…years. I’m desperately burned out but it’s not just work, it’s life. And I know it’s my job as well – but I’ve changed several times – it’s my profession I’m not happy in. But student loan debt prevents pursuing any other career…

    I dream of a beautiful getaway where there is no pressures in the world – sun, ziplining, new people, fresh food!!! Oh, but to dream.

  6. This is a great post – enjoying a vacation I know can actually become stressful, both because there’s so much from your real life on your mind AND then you worry because you feel you might waste your vacation worrying. it’s a vicious cycle. at we’re trying to give people guidance similar to this, step-by-step plans that lead people to learn, succeed, be happy. anyway, I really appreciated this share and hope that the flow of “positive sharing” (great website name btw) keeps coming.


  7. Great tips. I just got back to work this morning after 9 days off. Three thoughts,comments:
    1) I am returning to work on Friday – which I believe will help me get back into the grind slowly since Friday is a low key day then 2 days of weekend.
    2) Dont do your work while on vacation. I did open my blackberry once and read through my work emails – awful. It raised my very low tension level to very high – just reading my emails. I wish I didnt even open my blackberry – not even once.
    3) It seems like everytime I take a vacation something always dramatic happens at work – someone fired, questions about value, fear about my job security. Don’t worry – what will happen will happen.

  8. Vacation is fun and it can reduce stress, either on business or family matters, but the fate as a regular employee must be willing to enjoy vacation that time is not enough and returned to the office routine and your tips are very useful for those who feel less excited when returning to work in the office

    Thanks for sharing :)

  9. Your last statement is spot-on, Alexander. The key to being happy in your job is doing something that you enjoy and that you’re good at – and finding a workplace whose culture fits you. Being in a position you enjoy makes everything easier during the longer, more grinding periods – and especially when you get back from vacation.

  10. Agree with your points, but HOW do you forget about everything?! With technology these days it is so hard to just drop everything and be completely free from your phone, laptop and Internet. I have the upmost respect for people that do!

  11. Alex, did you happen to catch a recent BBC editorial from someone advocating for the “worliday” — basically, the work-holiday that seems to be the opposite of what you suggest?

    Article is here:
    And responses are here:

    Unsurprisingly, most people seemed to hate the idea. And I’m with them. When I take breaks, it’s a… near-total break. My coworkers can email me if I’m on vacation, since then I can respond on my own terms, but I’d never spend more than a few minutes chiming in on something (if at all). Though I rather like my job, so I don’t mind spending a minute or two in the morning seeing if anything really needs my attention.

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