5 tips for coming back to work after taking leave

I travel for many different reasons, be it food & wine, culture, adventure or just to relax and catch up on reading. However the one common goal across any of my trips is to come back with a fresh mindset so I can return as a better version of me! Here I’ll share some tips of how I recently approached coming back to work after 3 weeks in Portugal. I find that by having a strategy, I can extend that zen vacation feeling – and I actually look forward to returning to work to try out my new “tools”. These are the things that have worked for me!

  1. Ease yourself in

Especially when I return from a longer leave (1+ weeks), I block off the day I return to give myself time to catch up on emails and establish my new goals. If you don’t already, consider defensive calendaring to keep your calendar free of meetings that don’t align to your priorities. This has helped me feel in control of how I spend my time and given me more confidence to decline meetings when it’s not the right way for me to spend my time.

  1. Remind yourself of your Why

Believing in the job you’re doing is important for staying motivated and getting back into the swing of 9-5. When you first return you might be tempted to spend all your time working down your inbox but that can leave you feeling overwhelmed. One way to feel energized after a period of rest is to read an interesting study relevant to your industry/product or take a training to sharpen your skills. When I returned from our 3 week long Portugal trip, I dedicated a few hours on the first day back to read a research study about customer shopping behaviours which got me excited to apply the things I was learning and made me feel more connected to my purpose!

  1. Start with the parts of your job that are fun!

Maybe you know the Mark Twain quote “eat the frog”, meaning do the hardest thing first. What I’m suggesting is the opposite! Motivate yourself to dive back in by working on the things you enjoy the most. If you get energized by analysis, pick up where you left off in that spreadsheet you were working on and cleanup or automate the pieces you didn’t get to before. Or if ideating solutions to customer pain points is your jam, set aside time to brainstorm and work backwards from the customer. Reminding yourself about the parts of your job you love the most and exercising your strengths will remind you of your purpose. 

  1. Reconnect with colleagues 

Having an informal chat might not seem like the best use of time when your inbox is full but it can go a long way in helping you transition from vacation mode to work life. When a colleague shows interest in your time off, it smooths the edges between work time and fun – making it a bit easier to show up as your whole self. Research shows that people with a robust social network have better job performance, feel more fulfilled, and even live longer. When my colleague asked to have a catch up upon return from my trip to Portugal, I was surprised to get questions about my time off! But catching up with him made me feel more connected to our shared goals and reminded me that even when I’m at work, I can be appreciated for who I am as a person. 

5. Catch up on extra-curricular activities  

When it’s crunch time, some of your favourite non-work activities get sacrificed. The hours leading up to vacation are a mad dash to the finish line and my to-do list becomes an expanding target that, combined with packing, is impossible to complete. I avoid events the days before I leave for vacation because I know I’ll be spending extra hours getting my projects setup to avoid fires while I’m away. It’s worth it to put in the extra prep but it also means I have to ruthlessly prioritize my time. I love facilitating culture training, consulting for business teams, and mentoring PMs but when prepping for an extended leave I have to cut out these activities. On the flip side, when you return from a vacation business has adjusted to operating without you and likely doesn’t need you to fight any fires right away. This a very sacred time during which you can re-engage with those parts of your job that allow you to contribute to goals outside of your team. The week I returned from Portugal I taught a training on “Owning Change at Amazon” – and the discussions I had left me feeling energized and more integrated with the broader Amazon team. 

Maybe you’ve noticed, the pattern in these tips is emotional well being! Your business, your customers and your team has been doing FINE while you’ve been away. They will also be FINE for another a few more days while you orient yourself around your new priorities. If you can, take it easy the first week. Reschedule meetings that don’t need to happen right away, cut yourself off from working too late and remind yourself of the parts of your job that energize and inspire you. By approaching return to work in a gradual, balanced way you can hold onto that vacation feeling a little while longer! 

If you have other tips for returning to work, I’d love to hear them! Comment below or email me directly. 

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