Getting back to work: five tips to get yourself working at full pelt quickly

Wednesday 02 September 2015
As the summer holidays draw to a close, insights takes a look at the best ways to rediscover your office groove
Man with a rubber ring around him, holding a back to work sign

After lying on a beach or by a swimming pool in the sunshine with your loved ones, returning to the hustle and bustle of work can be both daunting and uninspiring.

Therefore, Insights has come up with five simple steps for shaking off the cobwebs and getting seamlessly back into the daily grind.

Actively plan for your return

Similar to the process of organising tasks and responsibilities before departing for annual leave, managers should also spend significant time planning the duties they expect to be consumed by upon their return to the office.

Workplace management expert Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, advises workers to spend the day before returning to work forward planning, she said: "consider coming back on Saturday instead of Sunday.” By doing so, she argues it gives individuals time to transition back into work-mode by taking an early jump into emails and messages, and familiarising themselves with upcoming deadlines.

Without this time to settle, many workers who walk straight into the office without a plan of action can find themselves overwhelmed by the large workload.

Reassess Career goals

Annual leave can also work as a well-timed break to reassess individual and team achievements in line with career progression ambitions. Are you happy with your current position, remuneration and responsibilities? Where does this stand among your short-term (12 to 18 months) and long-term (three to five years) goals?

These are all key questions that will help managers to evaluate their performance and create measurable goals to achieve before their next long break from the office. As a result, workers could choose to take on new opportunities, such as volunteering and mentoring, or extra skills training that add value to their CV and provide a much-needed boost to morale and motivation.

Avoid The Temptation To Procrastinate

Faced with a hundred emails, getting back into the flow of working can be especially difficult after a holiday, and the stress and anxiety can often lead workers to procrastinate. However, ignoring the large workload will only allow it to get bigger.

Based on their extensive research on workplace productivity, Stockholm University researchers Timothy Pychyl, Piers Steel and Alexander Rozental advise that workers break down their tasks into smaller steps and get started as soon as possible – while remembering that finishing the task now will be very helpful in the future.

Dr. Andrew J Oswald, Professor of Economics at the University of Warwick advises bosses to give employees some leeway on their first day back, if possible, to ease their way back into work.

He said: “I suggest giving employees some extra small freedoms on the first day back. Little bits of extra autonomy are very good for job satisfaction, according to standard research, and happiness does boost productivity. So everyone would win.”

Transform your workspace

Restarting work by clearing away old and unused desk items can be both liberating and refreshing, as well as a key method in boosting work productivity. As a series of studies have demonstrated, workers who have a cleaner and ordered workspace are likely to think more clearly, thus producing better results.

The average worker wastes close to one week a year searching for misplaced items, which only adds to the daily stress on employees working in fast-paced environments. According to Princeton University Neuroscience Institute researchers, removing clutter from office desks allows the individual to avoid distraction from unnecessary objects and focus on essential work items such as computers, telephones and documents.

Don't make any drastic career decisions immediately

After an enjoyable and peaceful summer holiday, the thought of recommitting to the endless emails, phone calls and office politics can prompt many employees to quit their job or make other extreme work decisions.

Career psychologist Meredith Fuller advises, however, that workers refrain from making any major judgements right after a break, and thoroughly assess whether the gloom they are experiencing is more about no longer being on holiday than their actual job.