Relaxing in the pool before returning to work
People + Culture

Returning to work: Three tips to survive post-holiday blues

Don’t let the post-holiday blues derail your first few weeks back.

The feeling of waking up without an alarm clock and enjoying days without deadlines can feel like a distant memory in the first week of returning to work following a holiday.

And it’s no wonder; we work proudly to accrue leave, thoughtfully planning what to do with our free calendar space. It’s understandable we may return to work wistfully or even be overwhelmed.

While experts say that falling victim to the post-holiday blues is a feeling shared by most—even those who love their job and generally have high employee engagement—it doesn’t have to derail your first few weeks back.

Post holiday blues are normal when returning to work after a holiday

Three tips to beat post-holiday blues

  1. Be realistic and ease back into work

A holiday is a great way to switch off from the pace of work and truly destress. A 2018 study reports a majority of employees to feel more motivated and productive in the immediate days following their return to work. This effect, however, exponentially decreased if the employee felt that they returned to an insurmountable number of tasks or deadlines. 

The fix? Start small and slowly amp up to your normal work pace. Tackle easy wins such as checking your email, creating kick-off meetings and ticking off admin tasks that will set you up for the year ahead. Book your time each day based on three priority tasks which are the non-negotiable ‘must-dos’; everything else is secondary to these key items.

Plan your days when returning to work after a holiday

  1. Schedule tasks according to your energy levels

In the same vein, it’s important to make the working day work for you. If you’re borderline non-functional before two-morning coffees, save the energy-consuming tasks for later in the day. Similarly, if you’re victim to the afternoon lag, save emails or routine admin work for the afternoon.

  1. Change your perspective

Dr Melissa Weinberg of Deakin University reframes the concept of post-holiday blues entirely, instead referring to ‘post-holiday normalisation’. The brain has a habit of “disproportionately remembering the parts of the holiday we enjoyed”. In our brain’s attempt to overcorrect, we end up feeling more deflated than usual.

As a practice of mindfulness in the workplace, release the pressure on yourself to be 100% ‘on’. Take a feather from Weinberg’s cap and reframe the situation. While we may be losing a sense of spontaneity with the end of a holiday, returning to work offers routine and familiarity and a sense of workplace inclusion which does wonders for our well-being.


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