Back to work – fight the post-holiday slump


If you’re feeling a little flat after returning to work — or outright hate your job — you’re not alone.

#BackToWork is trending for Australia on TikTok, with many users lamenting their return to the office. A growing body of research also shows that this feeling is quite common.

But while the return to work is nothing new, few companies have a strategy to ease the adjustment to work after a vacation.

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There’s nothing new about return-to-work blues. Photo: Getty

What does the research say?

One study showed that workers’ health and well-being increased rapidly during the holidays, peaking on the eighth day of vacation and quickly returning to baseline levels within the first week of returning to work.

Another found: “Short breaks have an advantage over longer holidays in some respects, and this can be explained by characteristics of the environment and activities that holidaymakers engaged in.”

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But while you may feel uninspired in your first week back, persevere: Research has shown that employees find themselves more creative two weeks after returning from vacation.

Many of us dreaded work for the Christmas holidays.

A December 2022 survey of 100 working adults on LinkedIn found that 60 percent felt they had worked too much in 2022, while another survey found 46 percent of Australian workers feel burnt out.

The pandemic has introduced new stressors to almost every area of ​​our lives. As many of these stressors persist for several years, the risk of burnout increases.

One study found that employees notice that they are more creative two weeks after returning from vacation. Photo: Getty

A psychologically safe workplace

In a recent report on mental health and the workplace, the Australia Economic Development Committee noted that poor mental health costs the Australian economy about $70 billion a year.

Employers must provide a psychologically safe workplace and access to mental health services.

Taking regular breaks, creating boundaries to keep work from spilling into our personal lives, getting exercise, and having other interests outside of work are important for reducing stress.

Taking a vacation is also essential. One study found that “health and well-being improve during vacation, but these positive vacation effects fade within the first week after returning to work.”

Still, the same researchers noted that vacations “can act as a buffer against future stressors.”

But an October 2022 survey found that 75 per cent of Australians didn’t take their annual leave due to work and financial pressures.

This points to a broader problem that will not be solved by the announcement of a new employee wellness initiative.

Fads don’t work if the cause persists

Organizations should be aware that wellness fads and symbolic mindfulness programs do nothing to address stressors such as poor job design, overtime, inadequate management capacity, and poor organizational and leadership culture.

All the free office lunches and massages in the world are of no use if you work in a toxic culture or have a narcissistic boss.

Sometimes a system change is needed. That may mean redesigning jobs, reviewing compensation, changing organizational structure, and meeting workload expectations.

Offering overworked employees yoga sessions, stress reduction workshops, meal vouchers, or personal resilience sessions probably won’t make a difference.

What is needed is an approach that addresses the root causes of employee burnout.

If I dread work so much, should I look for a new job?

While it’s normal to feel a little sluggish at work after a vacation for a few weeks, some indicators suggest it’s time for a new job (or a longer break).

If you’re still not feeling well a month after your return, it’s probably more than the post-holiday slump.

Getting support to discuss the causes is an important first step.

If your stressors are largely caused by the pressures of balancing responsibilities outside of work, ask your employer for flexibility with hours or working from home.

And while many companies have been offering more flexibility since the pandemic, recent changes to federal law will make it easier for employees to request flexible work.

So you’ve discussed your concerns with your manager – now what?

If there’s a lack of real action to address poor organizational culture, inadequate leadership capabilities, persistent overtime, and poor job design, then it’s probably a good idea to get a new job.The conversation

Libby (Elizabeth) Sander, MBA Director and Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior, Bond Business School, Bond University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.