How to have a stress-free return to work after the Christmas holidays

This week marks the return to work after the Christmas holidays. After a week or two of celebrations with our loved ones (and days on end in stretchy pants), it can be easy to forget about working life. The transition back to the 9-to-5 in early January can be jarring, and you might be finding it difficult to get back into the swing of things.

However, whether you’re going back to the office or working from home, we’ve got you covered with some top tips for starting the new year on the right foot. Read on to find out some ways to minimise stress and maximise productivity during your first week back at work after the Christmas break. 

Set yourself some goals

Although having professional goals is important, you should also make the time to consider what you personally want to achieve in 2022. You might want to set targets to achieve within 3 months, 6 months and/or 12 months, so you can keep track of your progress over the coming year. These could be anything from getting a promotion to making a habit of going to the gym more regularly – the possibilities are endless! 

By setting your intentions for the year, you’ll be able to return to work with a clear focus of what you want to achieve, which will help you get back on track. You could even consider sharing your new year’s resolutions with your colleagues to help keep yourself accountable.

Ease back into routines

You might have quickly gotten used to having a lie-in during the Christmas break, or spending hours bingeing the latest Netflix shows. This rest time is important for both your physical and mental health, but it can be very challenging to shift gears back into being productive once you’re back at work. You can prepare for this in advance by getting used to waking up at an earlier time, and keeping yourself busy during the day with household chores and other tasks to get back into the right mindset. 

After having time off work, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need to work harder and for longer to make up for lost time. However, this stress can actually be counterproductive, and affect your longer term productivity and energy levels. Holidays are an important part of having a good work-life balance, so don’t beat yourself up if your normal work routine is taking you some time to get used to again. Give yourself (and your colleagues) some time to get back into the swing of things – if a task can wait a week or so to be done, try to delay it until then so your team isn’t immediately swamped with work while they’re still trying to come out of holiday mode. 

Consider setting up a ‘delay’ message for your emails

Emails are a great way to communicate with your colleagues and with other professionals – in fact, Statista reports that more than 376 billion emails will be sent and received worldwide by 2025. However, coming back from a holiday to see dozens of unread emails in your inbox can be overwhelming, and you can burn yourself out by trying to clear this backlog as fast as possible.

Most email providers have the option for you to set up an automatic out of office message for when you’re not working, so using this auto-response feature during your first week back can help you save time and energy. In your delay message, try to commit to a reply within a short timeframe – for example, within 24 hours – unless an email is particularly critical or time-sensitive. Similarly, unless you have an urgent message, you should expect a day or two for a reply for any emails you send yourself.

Clear out your inbox

Speaking of emails, the new year is a great time to declutter your inbox. Mailings lists that you forgot you signed up for, irrelevant messages you were CC’ed on, or links to funny videos can distract you from more important emails, and be an overall drain on your productivity. During your first week back, take the time to ruthlessly delete or archive anything that you won’t be needing to refer to again. 

If you haven’t done so already, you may want to consider an organisation system for your emails, for example by setting up different folders to represent their importance. This can help you keep track of certain reminders or chains of correspondence, and by streamlining your inbox this way, you’ll be able to improve your overall productivity well into the future. 

Make time to catch up with your team

The first few days back at work can be a lot of fun, as everyone shares their stories of what they got up to over the Christmas break. A quick coffee break during the work day can be a great time to have a catch up with your colleagues and help reduce stress levels. Additionally, these casual conversations can have a positive impact on the workplace by helping to build and maintain morale, especially during the winter months. 

However, it’s easy to get caught up in a good conversation and end up wasting time. Although it’s good to reconnect with the people you enjoy working with, try to keep it within your designated break times, and be respectful of their time and the fact that they’ll have their own tasks to catch up on too!

Stay hydrated and eat well

Did you know that a 4% drop in hydration can lead to a productivity drop of up to 50%? Having a healthy diet and regularly drinking water will help maintain your energy levels, and help you to stay focused at work. Try to eat foods that will keep your brain and body in top form, and avoid sugary snacks that can cause energy spikes and slumps. 

You should also try to take lunch and your other breaks away from your desk, no matter how busy you are. A change of scenery will help keep your mind stimulated, and while you might think working through lunch will help you get more done, making a regular habit out of this can contribute to fatigue and burnout. Regular, balanced meals and snacks will go a long way in stabilising your energy levels and ability to focus, so try to maintain a healthy diet as much as possible.

Final thoughts 

One of the best parts of having a Christmas break from work is that you come back feeling refreshed and ready to keep performing at your best. Hopefully by following these tips, by the end of your first week or two back at your job, you’ll be back into your groove and well-prepared for a productive and successful year ahead.

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