The secret to managing back-to-work blues

By now, everyone is back-to-work.

Yuletide greetings are over, the season of merry is behind us. Here is 2020, the start of a new decade, a new beginning and the return to real-life — work.

No matter the occasion, going back-to-work whether it’s from a normal weekend to extended holidays can be stressful for workers. Past research has shown that most American workers feel anxiety normally returning to work after the weekend. In fact, 81% said they experience elevated anxiety on Sunday in anticipation of work the following Monday, according to research by The Sleep Judge. With that information, it’s easy to assume that those levels of anxiety can be even higher after returning following an extended vacation away from work.

Past research has shown that American workers feel anxiety normally returning to work after the weekend. Eighty-one percent, in fact, said they experience elevated anxiety on Sunday in anticipation of work the following Monday, according to research by The Sleep Judge. Using that information, one can assume that the level of anxiety is even higher after an extended break away from work.

While escaping your inlaws might be a breath of fresh air, returning to work brings back your day-to-day. Maybe it’s returning to a poor relationship with your boss or tackling work put off due to the holidays, finding your working groove after an extended break can take a while and it requires patience.

“Returning to work after the holidays can be daunting,” Hibob CEO Ronni Zehavi told Ladders this week. “After an extended period of time off, the biggest hurdle for workers is getting back into a healthy and productive routine at work. After spending time vacationing, seeing family, throwing and attending holiday parties and taking time to relax as the year comes to a close, coming back to work can seem like a bleak reality and it may be difficult to get back into the swing of things.”

Anxiety at work can be harmful to both the worker and the company. A study by the University of Toronto in 2015 found that workers experiencing anxiety can hurt job performance, suggesting that bosses who feel their workers are on edge should lend an ear and listen as it can help ease some of that uneasy feeling. Specifically for post-holiday blues, Zehavi suggested the most important thing for a worker to manage anxiety is to get organized immediately.

“Build time into your schedule to catch up with superiors or direct reports,” he said. “You should also speak to team members about where everyone can jump in to pick up anything that may have been dropped during the break, and comb through your email inbox and respond to any emails that may have been missed or require the next steps. Getting organized and feeling in the loop on projects will help you more easily assimilate back into a routine. The more organized employees feel, the more in control and less stress they will ultimately feel.”

How to get back-on-track and back-to-work

Finding the working rhythm isn’t going to happen when you walk right into your office after a long break. In order for workers to get themselves back into a groove is by setting realistic professional goals for the year to comes.

“By setting goals, workers can ensure they have a look into their future and not just the immediate week ahead, which encourages growth and hard work,” Zehavi said. “Goal-setting can also get workers out of a post-holiday productivity rut as it will give them something to look forward to and focus on. Additionally, it’s important for workers to understand that getting back into a working rhythm doesn’t mean you have to dive into all of your missed work at once.

“Making a list and prioritizing activities is key to being productive at work after returning from a long holiday break. This way, feelings of stress are minimized, and top concerns can take precedent over less important, peripheral tasks. Workers should also know that if they are feeling overwhelmed, they can always seek help from their manager or HR department on best practices to mitigate the stress surrounding coming back to work.”

While goals will help guide you in the year ahead, there are some workers who might be reentering a bleak situation that’s still there from the holidays. Finding the positives, like being employed, is an important first step, but Zehavi suggests throwing yourself a curveball if you still can’t get your head on straight.

“It’s also vital to shake things up and find variety in your daily routine if you’re still feeling off,” he said. “Consider pitching an idea to your boss on a project you’d like to work on, take a lunch break if you don’t usually do that in order to decompress, or find ways to challenge yourself and keep busy through activities outside of work such as exercising, cooking or socializing. Ultimately, creating a plan of action for yourself can help alleviate some of the stressors associated with the unknown of your work situation, and even introduce you to new things that challenge you both professionally and personally.”