Munif Ali

4 Reasons Why You Struggle Transitioning From Vacation Back to Work

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transitioning from vacation back to work

Picture your ideal vacation from work. You might be thinking of the ocean waves and bright, sunny sky. Perhaps you envision climbing mountains and hiking to the summit. You could also be pining for the quiet countryside with an excellent book and coffee.

Before you get lost in dreamland, many people imagine a relaxing vacation is the best way to de-stress from work. In many cases, it’s true. Some downtime away from the office can give your mind a break and re-energize when you return.

However, even after a week or two of a well-deserved rest, some people find their productivity has fallen. They may feel slow or feel unmotivated once they return from work. While this is normal, it can be problematic if you want to start working effectively. Here are four reasons why it’s tough when you’re transitioning from vacation back to work.

1. Falling Back Into Routine

Many of us treat work as a routine. It’s a day-to-day schedule of tasks and outputs that can grow boring and uninteresting over time. A vacation should be an excellent way to break the habit and refresh your mind before returning. However, some may struggle to return because they dread returning to the same cycle of paperwork and reports.

2. Backlogs Strike Back

Another reason why people have a hard time transitioning from vacation back to work is their backlogs. This problem may be harder for those in leadership roles, as they will have to catch up on the week’s previous events and reports. It can feel tiring to try and regain lost time with extra work. Others might think they have to do overtime to compensate for the backlogs, which might drain their renewed energy quickly.

3. Sense of Obligation Returns

At work, we have to answer to certain people and authorities. From your general manager to your department head, many of us need to check-in and follow a procedure. When we go on vacation, the sense of obligation disappears quickly. We get more free time to do what we want and enjoy ourselves. For example, you’re not bound to an eight-hour shift that requires you to sleep early.

Some people find it hard to return to work after a long vacation. Their duties and tasks require them to be more responsible and controlled in their actions. If you feel like you’re struggling to do your assignments, it could be that you’re trying to reel in your instincts and focus on being a professional once again. It’s not easy transitioning from vacation back to work when you’re still focused on the rest you want.

4. You Didn’t Take a Proper Vacation

Sometimes, we don’t get the proper vacation we dream of. Even if we go abroad or travel across the country, there’s a chance that we’ll bring some work alongside us. Some people get their work laptops with them to catch up and prepare for their return quickly. Others might read constant email updates and text messages about the upcoming week’s tasks. The problem is that it can keep your mind occupied and busy when it should be resting. A vacation needs to lighten the load. While you can still work to an extent, you won’t be able to properly relax if you still do every task while away from the office.

Ten Ways to Effectively Transition from Vacation back to Work

With these four reasons, it’s easier to understand why we struggle to get back into the work grind. Becoming productive again may be challenging even after we’ve rested our bodies. However, there are ways to boost yourself back into the right mindset. Here are ten ways to effectively return from work, especially after a long vacation.

1. Plan Your Return Ahead of Time

Many vacationers like to focus only on what they’ll do when resting and relaxing. This can be problematic because they are unprepared for how they’ll come back to work. Planning your transition from the beach to the desk is vital to securing your productivity once again.

Transitioning From Vacation Back to Work plan ahead

For example, when planning a week-long trip to the countryside, keep your first day clear of any meetings or heavy tasks. Let yourself slowly ease into work as you start your transition. Try focusing on smaller jobs and easy backlogs. This will save you rest while preparing your body to repeat the day-to-day cycle of office shifts. After a few days, you should be ready to go back into total working capacity.

2. List Your Tasks Upon Your Return

Sometimes, the reason why we struggle to work again is that we don’t know what to start on. A lack of direction can make work feel confusing and unproductive. When you plan your return, take some time to list down what your tasks will be upon returning. Perhaps you have some unfinished projects to attend to. You might have an important e-mail that you postponed. 

Knowing where to start can slowly bring your mind back to focus when you’re transitioning from vacation back to work.

3. Take A Short Break to Relax

Some of us cling to the feeling of the vacation mood after returning. We might still be reminiscing about the sand or the autumn breeze. Instead of hiding or holding that feeling inside, bring out and recall the energy you felt on vacation. Doing so during a break is best because you can give your mind time to enjoy and relax before you fall back to work. Slowly but surely, that vibe will disappear, and you’ll be able to concentrate better at work.

Transitioning From Vacation Back to Work Take a break

4. Chat With Coworkers

Your colleagues at work might have many questions about your vacation. They’ll probably ask about the place you went to or the things you did. Take the time to entertain their questions. It’ll help you share that feeling of relief, and you’ll also get to remember how much you enjoyed your vacation. You can also ask them about their favorite or most recent time-off. It’ll be a good icebreaker and help you ease back into work and enjoy the office again.

5. Bring Something to Remember Back

Seeing your favorite trinket or picture from your time-off can bring joy and comfort as you work. We recommend getting something back for your desk or office space. It could be a local trinket or a gift shop item. As long it helps you remember your vacation, you can always glance back and recall the good times you had. Plus, it’s a nice visual reminder of the time you spent on yourself as you start transitioning from vacation back to work.

6. Play Music

Sometimes, the feeling of vacation is so strong that we get sleepy for the first few days. We might have jet lag or a different sleep schedule than when we were at work. To keep yourself awake, play some relaxing and upbeat music as you go through the day. It will help you stay focused while keeping you from dozing off at your desk.

7. Review All Out-of-Work Messages

You might have turned off your work e-mails and contacts while away when you leave work for a bit. Before you do so, we recommend that you inform those who need to know that you are on vacation, such as your boss and your department head. Once you get back, it’s a good idea to catch up on what you’ve missed. It’ll help you decide which tasks to go to first.

Transitioning From Vacation Back to Work

8. Ask Others For Help

Whether you are gone for a couple of days or weeks, there will be backlogs for your job. To make these tasks easier, pass them over to people in the office that you trust. Clarify why you need their help and ask if they are willing to help. Those that can lend a helping hand will be able to clear your mind of any obligations during your time away. It’ll also give you less to compensate for once you transition from vacation back to work.

9. Bring Some Work Along

Earlier, we said that some people don’t know how to stop bringing work with them during vacation. Now, let’s be clear: you don’t have to keep working while on vacation. If you prefer to relax and shut off everything work-related, do so. However, if you want to do some work while you’re away, we recommend choosing easy and simple tasks. Since it’s your time away, consider what work can be done without taking too much time or energy. This will keep you productive and give you enough time to rest.

10. Push Yourself to Work

Sometimes, the simplest solution is to power through your exhaustion. We all have that feeling of not wanting to work even when it’s time to start. Our brains may try to convince us that we should rest more before continuing. However, your body and mind will slowly adjust if you push through and begin working. In other words, transitioning from vacation back to work might require a stubborn mindset. Within the next hour, you’ll be back in a productive mood as you go through the day.


Transitioning from vacation back to work is difficult. Many of us feel unmotivated and tired when we even think about all the work we must compensate for. Some might even feel they didn’t get enough rest during their downtime. With these ten different methods, you can help yourself re-energize and ease back into the work grind. It’ll help you stay productive as you look forward to the next vacation on your calendar.

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