Vacation Over? Return to Work Successfully

It’s 7 p.m. on Sunday and you’ve just landed at the airport from a relaxing vacation. On the way home, you’re dreading unpacking your bags and as you nestle into bed, the lyrics to a classic soul jam play in your head as you think about returning to work in the morning: “Back to liiife, back to realityyyy…”

Sound familiar?

Returning to work after vacation may be one of the least anticipated treks on earth, but with a little forethought it can be manageable. What you do before you leave can have a significant impact on your ability to handle the madness when you return.

Dump emails and voicemails received while you’re away. 

Nothing ruins vacation zen like hundreds of unread emails and a full voicemail inbox. Here’s where using your “out of office” notification wisely can come in handy. Instead of promising to respond to messages when you return, draft your out of office note to say messages received while you’re away will be deleted and instruct senders to reach out to you again after you return. The Huffington Post made headlines recently for incorporating this strategy via an auto-delete vacation notification system. Your company may not do this, but give it a try on your own.

Unplug. Completely.

Just do it. If leaving your work devices at home while you’re miles away gives you a slight panic attack, then simply turn them off and store them in the hotel safe during your trip. If you receive your work emails on the same device as your personal emails, calls, and texts then simply go into the email settings on your device and turn off the mail notifications associated with your work email account. Do not turn it back on until you’re ready to engage with work again.

Return to work later in the week.

This is one of my favorite vacation hacks.  Who says you have to return to work on a Monday? Ease back into work and hold on to your relaxed state of mind a bit longer by returning to work on a Wednesday, Thursday , or Friday. Getting back into the groove of things at the office is easier and less overwhelming if you only have to get through a couple of work days before enjoying another break, also known as the weekend.

Plan your next vacation ASAP.

This is my other favorite vacation hack. I discovered recently that I was in a better mood when I returned to work from vacation because I knew I was going away again in just a few months. The day I walked into the office from my trip I could literally count the weeks until my next one. It was pretty hard to kill my vibe. Planning time off well in advance can be tricky for a lot of reasons, but if you can do this it’ll work wonders for your mindset when you head back to the office grind.


Danielle Robinson Bell has been providing business & brand intelligence to Fortune 500 brand teams, small business leaders, and entrepreneurs for 15 years. Her passion is helping others build, engage, inspire, and connect. Based in NYC, Danielle is also a freelance business writer currently covering career & workplace management for JET. Her work has also been featured in EBONY,, and The Atlantic. You can follow her on Twitter at @ByDRob.