Beating the ‘back-to-work’ blues

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As people head back inside to the office, they may be feeling a vague sense of gloom at the end of their summer break. The good news is that, when playtime is over, there are things you can do to lighten the effect of the ‘back-to-work’ blues.

Judi Clements, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, recommended that people take care of themselves on the return to work, and that they should plan for their next holiday. “Try thinking about when your next break is so you’re not contemplating an endless work period without any break,” she told the New Zealand Herald.

If the blues persist, she advised people should see their doctor. She warned that this could be symptomatic of depression or anxiety.

Barbara Griffins, psychology lecturer at Macquarie University, told Radio New Zealand that the positive impact of a holiday could ‘fade-out’ quite quickly – within three to four weeks. However pursuing leisure activities after returning to work can be a big help. “Some of the fade-out effects are reduced if we continue to engage in relaxation activities when we leave work for the day,” she counselled.

Like Clements, Griffins suggested that thinking about your next holiday can help. She also mentioned that spacing out holidays could spread out their positive impact. “There is some research to say that the positive effect of holidays can occur for either a short holiday – like 4-6 days – or a longer holiday,” she explained.

Although the advice probably comes a little late, she observed that engaging in work-related activities while on holiday can erode its positive effects, and quicken the fade-out.

Definitely do not decide against taking holidays in the future to avoid the ‘back-to-work’ blues, however. “There’s plenty of evidence to show that holidays have a long-term positive effect and that they are really actually important to take,” according to Griffins.

Beating the ‘back-to-work’ blues:
 

  • Take care of yourselves on the return to work: eat well, sleep well, exercise.
  • Perhaps begin planning your next break – even if it’s just a short one.
  • Pursue leisure activities outside of work when you do go back.
  • Make sure that your holidays are genuine holidays in order to maximise their benefits.
  • Seek advice from your doctor if the ‘back-to-work’ blues fail to dissipate.

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