Settling back into work immediately after returning from holiday is a process that can be challenging for many of us – the return-to-work blues are real! In this article, our team at Umbrella shares practical strategies to help your team members become re-engaged with work tasks and get the motivation going. 

For those of us who have enjoyed our summer break, returning to work is a transition. Transitions usually require a psychological shift with three distinct phases: 

  • ending 
  • neutrality 
  • new beginnings. 

That might show up as post-holiday blues, followed by apathy and low motivation, which in time turns to commitment and excitement for the new year and what it will bring. Understanding and recognising these psychological shifts is helpful, as it normalises our experiences and provides hope that we will regain our work mojo as the year progresses.  

To help your people navigate this transition, it’s important to keep reminding them that after-work leisure time is a way to recover and boost positive emotions, and both are important for our psychological and physical wellbeing. Small, everyday actions can help ease our psychological transition. Ideas include:

  • planning and actioning fun summer activities outside of work hours, so we feel like we can continue to experience the joys of summer, e.g. picnics in the park, walks with the dog along the beach, post work tennis games etc. 
  • wearing casual summer clothes to work (when not client-facing) can be a mood-boosting choice.
  • pre-planning and booking holidays for the year means we can shine the light on upcoming holidays, and enjoy the benefits of anticipation.

At work, to help people get back to their usual level of engagement and productivity, you might want to discuss what they want to achieve this year, personally and professionally. Defining specific goals, followed by an actionable plan and allocation of resources to support those ideas, helps people achieve them and have a clearer roadmap for the year. 

Re-establishing connections with colleagues and stakeholders can be another great way to re-engage at work. After everyone has shared their holiday fun activities, people will be ready to check on work priorities and exchange ideas about upcoming projects. Encouraging your people to reconnect, spend lunchtime together or catch up over a coffee is a good practice that we do at Umbrella. The first week back is all about team members being able to connect again. 

Planning professional development opportunities and projects will add extra motivation and things to look forward to throughout the year. Having a sense of control over one’s professional development is a source of satisfaction, and helps people feel they are moving towards something important and meaningful for them. Providing training opportunities is usually perceived as a means of support from the employer and impacts on employee-employer relationships, enhancing loyalty to the company. 

Giving back to others is another way to boost positive emotions, align with your sense of purpose and tap into gratitude for what you have and what you can share with others. Having time dedicated to volunteer for our community helps to keep sight of the big picture and increases our sense of belonging. Sharing information about the charity organisations and not-for-profits your company supports can be a prompt for people to consider volunteering this year. 

Encourage conversations about wellbeing as part of business-as-usual within your workplace, with leaders proactively driving those conversations. Fostering trust within the leader-manager-team member relationship increases the likelihood that people will feel able to share relevant aspects of their personal life, enabling effective support to be put in place if needed. It is important to communicate to everyone the rationale of having routine conversations about wellbeing – you don’t want the first time a manager asks you how you are to be when there’s something going wrong!

Managers can also model reflecting on their personal challenges and holding good boundaries around work/life balance, including having conversations with people about boundaries around email and out-of-office working. We call it leading loudly.

Celebrating small wins of the week or month will also help us transition better from holidays back into work. Noticing and celebrating one’s success (however great or small) is beneficial for our health, wellbeing, engagement and performance. Having a team conversation about how we would like to recognise and celebrate successes (which can be about process as much as outcome) will enable collaborative buy-in and build motivation. 

Acknowledging the challenges of the transition back to work after a summer break can help your team accept what’s going on for them and learn new strategies to better manage emotions related to a change. Being able to adapt to change is part of being resilient, and supports long-term wellbeing. To learn more about enhancing the resilience of your people, get in touch with our team today to discuss training opportunities.