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5 tips for getting back to work after a vacation

With a few preparations and a bit of a buffer, you can transition from your trip away to the office desk without killing your productivity.

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Woman looking at laptop and being overwhelmed While it might be tempting to use every free moment on your vacation, a buffer day gives you space to catch up with minimal pressure (Getty Images/JGI/Jamie Grill)

Vacations are crucial. And as hard as it can be to unplug, taking time away from work means you can be more productive when you return. Unfortunately for some, turning the work switch back on is a difficult transition.

“Life goes at a much more frenetic pace than it has in decades past,” says CPA Melanie Schroeder, a B.C.-based holistic accountant, coach and counsellor. “We work at paces that keep our brains in an alert and ready mode, which is not natural for long periods of time. This makes the transition from work to holiday and back again difficult.” 

Here are five ways to ease the transition. 

1) BOOK MORE VACATIONS 

No, this doesn’t mean simply extend your trip—but Schroeder’s No. 1 tip is to take more frequent vacations. “If we know the next one is only a few months away, it’s easier to hop back to work. We are refreshed and ready to get back to it as soon as we get back,” she says. “Not being ready to get back to work and having a hard transition is a sign that work/life has become unbalanced.” 

While it may not always be financially feasible to take extra vacation time, don’t let the amount of work you have interfere with booking time away. 

2) PREPARE FOR BEING AWAY 

The more prep you can do before the vacation, the easier it will be to get caught up. You can often set up an out-of-office email several days in advance, so you don’t forget. And when you do set it, be clear whether you will be checking messages while you’re away. 

An even better way to prepare for being away is to get someone else to take care of your inbox if appropriate, says Schroeder, so you’re not overwhelmed by emails upon your return. “Cross-training for your position, or for solo-preneurs, having another practitioner that you can contract to while you are on vacation, can allow you to have time away and return caught up and jump right in,” she says. 

3) TAKE A BUFFER PERIOD

While it might be tempting to use every free moment on your vacation, a buffer day gives you space to catch up with minimal pressure.  

“For some travellers, getting back from vacation on a Sunday and returning to work on Monday is the norm, but you may want to reconsider that,” says Barry Choi, a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert.  

“Travelling is tiring and sometimes you need a vacation from your vacation,” he says. “I always recommend people give themselves at least a full day off before heading back to work. By doing this, you can mentally prepare yourself for the upcoming work week and get any chores out of the way such as laundry or meal prep.” 

Freelance or remote workers, he adds, may want to consider talking a few days off. “From sending emails to completing projects, there’s always something to do. If you schedule a few days off when you’re back, it forces you to refocus and adjust back.” 

4) GET BACK TO YOUR ROUTINE

If you’ve given yourself some buffer time, use that time to get back to your regular routines.  

“This gives you a chance to get back to the ‘real’ world and get ready for work,” adds Schroeder. “Do your laundry, do meal prep, get groceries—all your regular self-care you normally do while working so that your return to work feels just like returning from a regular weekend off.” 

Once you do get back to work, make sure you interact with your co-workers. Not only will you need to catch up on the work you missed, but engaging with your team will help you get back to business. 

5) DON’T FORGET YOUR FINANCES 

It will be challenging to focus on your work if your latest jaunt has thrown your finances into disarray. 

“As soon as I get back from my vacation, I like to take a look at my online banking to ensure there are no suspicious transactions on my credit cards,” says Choi. “I also will change my PIN on my credit and debit cards. This is a proactive approach in hopes I won’t be a victim of fraud.” 

Choi also recommends tallying up how much you spent on your trip. “If all goes well, you’ve come under budget. However, if you spent more than you expected, you need to come up with a debt repayment plan.” 

BE MORE EFFICIENT AT WORK 

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