Returning to the Office

by Country Inns & Suites
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

With strategic planning and a fresh outlook, returning from vacation doesn’t have to be painful.  Here’s how to ease back into the 9-to-5 routine. By Beth D’Addono

Kevin Beyer has seen the light. Beyer, a senior account director for Quaker City Mercantile, a Philadelphia-based advertising/branding firm, used to check e-mails, take calls and work on his laptop during vacation. “I never felt recharged,” he says.

No more. Beyer, who travels for business, now unplugs completely when he vacations. “It takes advance preparation,” he says, “but it’s so worth it.”

To cut down on stress, Los Angeles psychologist Robert Butterworth recommends setting reasonable deadlines as vacation nears. “Make arrangements for your work to be covered while you’re gone.” Another way to minimize backlog is to route phone calls to a colleague instead of letting them roll to voice mail. Just be prepared to return the favor.

A few weeks before he leaves, Beyer creates a status spreadsheet that lists everything that needs to be done while he’s away. He then delegates tasks to his 10-person team, giving clear, detailed direction. “All that’s left is the execution,” he says. He brings a copy with him on vacation—just in case.

A study on work and vacation habits by Robert Half International suggests making the return transition easier by strategically planning your daily schedule rather than immediately springing into action. Unless there is an urgent phone call to make or meeting to attend, spend the first few hours refreshing your memory about assignments, deadlines and deliverables. The longer you were out, the more time you may need to pick up where you left off. If you catch up slowly, you won’t feel overloaded.

“Come into work with the attitude of ‘Not everything has to be done now,’” recommends Mimi Donaldson, speaker and co-author (with C. Leslie Charles) of Bless Your Stress: It Means You’re Still Alive “Create three piles on your desk: now, soon and later,” she says. And give yourself permission not to get to the “soon” and “later” piles immediately. “Procrastinate means ‘to put off intentionally,’ meaning you meant to put it off—it’s no accident,” she adds. In other words, do what you can and don’t feel guilty.

When you do return, it’s best to focus on the job instead of dwelling on vacation memories. You’ll be most productive if you become fully engaged with the office routine. Beyer is actually energized by the volume of work awaiting him upon his return. “I love being away, but I also love coming back and feeling needed,” he says. “It gives me a sense of accomplishment.”

Author Bio: Beth D’Addono admits to checking her e-mail on her last vacation at Paws Up Resort in Montana.