Getting Back on Track After Getting Back to Work

by Lisbeth O’Malley, Employee Development Specialist, Beaumont Health System


You’ve been planning your vacation all year – maybe it’s a week with your family, maybe a few days up north or maybe a trip of a lifetime (two weeks in Europe or the sandy beaches of the Bahamas). Whatever you planned, wherever you went, that inevitable “back to reality” feeling hits and you’re dreading heading back to work.

What now?  How can you get back into the swing of things? You’ll commonly hear people say that they, “need a vacation after vacation” and I know that all too often we feel that way.  I have found that you can have that great vacation AND an easy transition back into work mode just by following a few key steps.

  • Getting the best transition back to work requires some forward thinking. Before you actually take that much-needed time off, really prepare for a smooth transition back. Set your phone to an extended away message. Give callers an alternate phone number for people who can assist them while you are away. Don’t forget to let those people know that you are giving out their number! Let them know that you have full trust and faith in them that they can help the people who call. In doing that, you have freed your mind from worrying that you will have countless crises when you return. Things will have been handled in a timely manner. You will know that you have taken care of the people here while you are there. And remember, delegation is one of the best forms of time management!
  • Get your desk or work station in order. It’s so nice to come back to an organized work space. Your mind will be uncluttered – so too should your area be! Knowing that you have cleaned up the loose ends before you set out allows you to know that coming back after won’t be messy.

  • Set an away message on your email.  Again, give people an option of who they can contact in any emergency or time-sensitive issues. Filter your messages. Set up that junk mail folder that you have been meaning to get to. There is something wonderful about getting back to your desk and not seeing 100s of junk mail messages waiting for you to sift through.
  • If you can, schedule your first day or two back lightly. Knowing that there will be meetings that you have to attend, mail that you will have to answer and people who you will have to deal with that first day back might not be the best time to go to that conference or take that class. Give yourself a few open blocks of time to actually read those emails, answer those calls, and catch up with the others in your department. Not only will they want to hear all about your wonderful time off, but you will need a bit of time to catch up on the happenings while you were away. Getting too involved in the fast-paced thick of things when you get back only makes you feel overwhelmed and wondering if that vacation was really worth it!
  • Resist the urge to stay late to “finish up a few things.” When we do that, we have already put the notion in our head that maybe that wonderful time off really wasn’t that wonderful. It will all be there tomorrow.
  • Use the time-management skills that work for you. Do that first pass through your mail and delete the ones that you know you don’t need to deal with. Get on the new FAD diet of messages – File – Act On – Delete. If it needs your attention, but it takes further time, file it for later. If it’s a simple answer to a question or easy reply – Act on it now! Why wait and continue to think about it. If it really is not anything you need to deal with – Delete it, trash it, get it off your plate and out of your site. Think of how great you feel when your messages are down to 10… or less! It is possible!

Get into the habit of feeling great about your vacation and great about getting back, too. It really is possible. You’re worth it! Remember that you need to take care of yourself before you can ever take care of anyone else. Breathe in that wonderful vacation air and come back refreshed and ready to go.

See you when you get back!

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