The returning-from-vacation blues

Four out of 10 employees feel their life is out of balance. Bruce Katcher, the founder of Discovery Surveys, shares tips for facing some work-related realities.

It's the vacation season. Earlier this month I spent a week with a good friend at his lake house in Minnesota. He and his family spend two weeks there each year taking in the sun and wake boarding. During the last several days of the vacation, he kept saying, "I'm dreading going back to work." His job as a doctor at a large hospital is very demanding. In fact, he plans to retire in a year or so at the age of 53.

Dreading going back to work is a common problem. Just recently, the Monday following his vacation, the Chief Executive Officer of one of my clients said, "It's just terrible coming back to work. I wish I was still on vacation." I hear this all the time.

The Problem

Who wouldn't rather play than work? But how effective can employees be if they would rather be somewhere else? How satisfied can people be with their lives when they are constantly counting the days until their next vacation and view their work as an annoying interruption to their personal lives?

Here are some reasons why people dread going back to work:

 

  1. For Some People The Stress is Unbearable
    The pressures associated with tyrannical bosses, uncooperative coworkers, demanding customers, and tight timelines can be oppressive. No one relishes returning to a stressful work environment.
     
  2. Lack of Work Life Balance
    Many employees are totally consumed by the demands of their work and don't have the time or energy to fully enjoy their family or pursue their other interests. If vacations provide the only opportunity for one to enjoy life, is it any wonder that employees dread going back to work?
     
  3. Work Has Lost Its Meaning
    When employees lose sight of why they work, they begin to lose interest and enthusiasm. Some originally viewed their work as a method to amass as much money as possible. Others saw it as an opportunity to help others in need, or a chance to contribute to a very important cause. Still others thought they would build their own business, or at least have an opportunity to use their creativity.

All of these issues can impact the work mindset. However, losing sight of what originally inspired them to take their current job may make them dread Monday morning.

What To Do

 
The returning-from-vacation blues
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It is possible to love your work so much that you actually look forward to returning from vacation.

 

  1. Get Back to the Basics
    Employees need to continually remind themselves of why they are working. They should be asking, other than supporting my family, why did I choose this line of work? Why did I decide to work for this particular organization? Are those reasons still valid? What personal meaning do I derive from work and how can I increase this meaning?
     
  2. Move to the Tension
    This is a piece of advice my dissertation advisor gave me many years ago. If something is bothering you, try to meet it head on. Leaving it for another day only prolongs and intensifies the anxiety. If your boss, a coworker, or a customer is causing you anxiety, try to immediately confront the situation and reach a peaceful resolution.
     
  3. Blend Your Work and Personal Life Every Day
    Many workers maintain a rigid separation between their work and personal lives. Their personal activities are restricted to exhausted nights and weekends. It doesn't have to be this way. Many employees can integrate into their work running errands in the middle of the day, watching their daughter's tennis match, and spending time talking to a good friend. Those employees whose work situation does not allow them to take advantage of these opportunities might want to consider negotiating a different arrangement with their employer, working part time, changing jobs, or changing careers.
     
  4. Don't Be Afraid to Change Your Situation
    Don't become complacent in a difficult situation. There are many employers and many other ways to make a living using the skills and experience you currently possess. You only live once. Don't be afraid to take some prudent risks with your work life so that you can improve your entire life.

About the author
Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D., is president of Discovery Surveys, Inc. and author of 30 Reasons Employees Hate Their Managers.
 

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