3 Tips for returning to work after vacation

We write this on the weekend before labor day. Summer is officially over in the United States and many people will be going back to work. The kids are back in school and the new season begins. Life in management starts again.

It is not uncommon to feel anxious about going back to work. Not knowing who did what while you were away and uncertainty about the progress of a project or the new challenges facing your business may all contribute to the feeling of uneasiness when going back to work that first morning.

There is a lot of advice we can give but for me the main points in getting back in the groove of things are the following:

Manage expectations

Don’t expect that you will catch up on day one. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day. Prioritize the work and take some time doing that instead of diving in immediately without a good overview of all issues that will need your attention. Understand that the people you have delegated to will have done things different than you would have done them. Different does not mean worse but just, well…, different. That can feel awkward but if you think about it there probably is little reason to correct the things they decided or did. During a road trip my daughter, of 21 years, wondered why I didn’t let her drive and asked if I thought she was a bad driver. It is not that but when someone else drives you, in the shotgun seat, pay attention too and they will do things different. Take that corner faster or slower, pull the handbrake at the traffic light, or not and switch lanes sooner or later than you would have done. Well it is not worse, you get safe from one place to the other, but it feels different and you may feel uncomfortable. The same goes for the way your team has handled your absence. They will have approved things that you would have questioned, or questioned things that you would have move quickly but manage your expectations, it isn’t necessarily worse, just different.

Start Slow

Work is a marathon rather than a sprint so take it slow and pace yourself or you will be burned out after the first week back. Listen to your voice-mails and resist the urge to respond until you have heard them all, changes are the crisis presented in the first voicemail was resolved after two other voice-mails. Check the inbox and categorize them or try sort by sender for a change to catch up on what your people have sent you or your clients. We don’t get much paper snail-mail these days but go through the stack if there is one and only focus on the ones your really believe are overdue for handling or answering. Switch off the “out of office” message or when you were smart enough to put your return date a day later than your actual date, keep it on for one more day and use the day to catch up on things. Use your time in meetings to listen and learn how things went rather than take charge and talk a lot without being totally caught up yet.


As always your most powerful tool of management is your communication. Talk to your “second in command” and get the overall scoop of things. Call the boss, call some peers and find out what has happened and what the most urgent challenges are. This is mostly the listening part of your communications skills that we need. Send some emails to key people to see how they are doing and to ask them how your team did in your absence. Remember this was the opportunity for your team to shine without you. Walk around the office and follow up with the ones you see. Ask them how they are doing and what their challenges are, changes are that you will learn a lot about how the weeks without you have been. Don’t bore your staff with the pictures of you and the family in that grandiose resort, they may not appreciate over-sharing and I have a strict policy of keeping the family and the colleagues separated.

Welcome Back! Enjoy your day!

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