The Fleeting Benefits of Vacation: How to Make the Positivity Last When You Return to Work


How do you feel about taking a vacation?  Are you excited and enthusiastic about having time away from work?  Or do you have nightmares about the amount of work that would pile up in your absence?  Many professionals are so anxious about what would go on at their job, that they choose not to take time off at all.  According to the American Psychological Association’s Work and Well-Being Survey, the majority of working Americans reported positive effects of taking vacation time and said when they return to work their mood is more positive (68%), they have more energy (66%), motivation (57%), and feel less stressed (57%).*  The benefits continued after employees returned work.  Adults reported that they were more productive (58%) and their work quality was better (55%).*

Unfortunately, many people have experienced fleeting benefits of vacation.  Twenty-four percent of workers say the positive effects of vacation time disappear immediately upon returning to work, and forty percent said the benefits only last a few days.*  This can be viewed as natural because once you return to your normal environment, it's easy to fall back into old habits and ways of thinking.  What if you could extend the impact of your vacation?  There are a few things you can do before, during, and after your time off to maintain the effects.  Here are five ways to make the positivity last when you return to work!

1. Plan before your trip

Do you know exactly who would cover each of your responsibilities while you’re away?  If not, it’s a good idea to list each of your responsibilities that are urgent and important.  Talk to your manager about how each task would be handled, so you can rest assured that everything is getting done.  If your role is being split up amongst other people, consider having a brief meeting or training with them to address any questions or concerns.  The goal is for them to be fully able to handle anything that may arise.  You might want to leave notes or process flows/outlines as a reference.

2. Fully disconnect

During your vacation, fully relax and be present to what you’ve planned.  Truly connect with yourself, family, and/or friends that traveled with you.  Try to avoid checking email constantly (if at all) or taking work-related calls that aren’t an emergency.  Consider limiting your time on social media and online.  If you’re spending a lot of time on the internet, you’re probably missing out on the impact a change of scenery can bring.  The more leisure time you have, the odds are that your stress levels will decrease.  Think about learning something new or trying out a different approach to your daily routine.  

3. Keep your energy up

When you return to the job, it’s time to get back to work.  In order to keep the feelings of positivity you established during your vacation, maintaining a high level of energy is imperative.  Simple things like getting enough sleep before work, eating nutritious food, and avoiding excessive amounts of alcohol can be extremely beneficial.  Thank any coworkers who managed your duties while you were away.  Ask them about their experience and see if they can provide any insight about your role that you might not have thought about.  In the event they have constructive criticism for you, be open-minded and don’t take it personally.   

4. Manage your stress

A high level of stress is one of the main reasons why professionals choose to take a vacation in the first place.  It is also one of the most noticeable changes employees experience once they return to their normal lives.  You can make the conscious choice not to be negatively influenced by the stress of others and your environment.  If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, stop and ask yourself, ‘Is this thought or feeling coming from someone else?’  If so, talk to them about the issue but preserve your own peace of mind. You can learn more about stress management here

5. Stay motivated

While things may have changed very little at your job during your vacation, it’s possible that you’ve changed a lot.  Many people come back to work feeling rejuvenated, with a different point of view.  Channel these thoughts and feelings into motivation to do your best.  Spend time talking to the colleagues who support you, a mentor, or a career coach.  These types of productive conversations can help you transition back to work in a productive way.  Just because your vacation is over doesn’t mean that you have to go back to the status quo at your job.   

You don’t have to dread returning to work after your vacation!  Planning properly before your vacation and fully disconnecting while you’re away can help you have peace of mind and truly enjoy your off time.  Maintaining your positive energy and low-stress levels can be achieved after your return by being aware of old habits and how to change them.  Finally, staying motivated on the job is a key to making the positivity last.  How will you plan for your next vacation?

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Porschia Parker is a Certified Coach, Professional Resume Writer, and Founder of Fly High Coaching. She empowers ambitious professionals and motivated executives to add $10K on average to their salaries.

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