Feelin’ a little sluggish returning to work after the holidays? For many, it can be difficult getting back into the work groove even after a three-day weekend that includes an observance such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial Day or Labor Day.
The good news: There are strategies you can use to make the transition back to work a little easier for yourself and your team. Start before the break begins by meeting with employees as a group or one-on-one, advised Jordan Zaslav, chief operating officer at internal communications software company Axios HQ.
“People will know what you all are going to focus on before they head out,” he explained. “They might not think about it during [their time off], but it will feel familiar once they’re back.”
This is a good time for managers and team members to tie up work-related loose ends and create to-do lists for their return, Zaslav said. It helps get you and them back into the workflow when the time off has ended.
Zaslav noted that Axios research found employees were more likely to engage with company updates if they are sent the night before returning to work.
These updates “should be warm and human, but also lay out action items and important reminders,” highlighting goals and priorities for the short week ahead, he said.
“They might not read it [the night before their return], but it will be the first thing they tackle the next morning when they have a few minutes to spare,” Zaslav added.
Once employees return from their break, consider:
1. Giving them a chance to regroup on their first day back.
This gives them time to wade through emails and phone messages, as well as plan their week.
“Whether you have 10 minutes or half a day, that moment is important to recentering,” said Luck Dookchitra, vice president of people at Leapsome, a provider of HR management tools.
Let employees know it’s OK to collect themselves after a break, she advised.
“Not everyone does it because we’re so frantic” to jump back into the routine, but taking a calmer approach is healthy, Dookchitra noted.
“That pause is a wellness initiative,” she said. Normalizing that behavior requires leaders to take “a strong stance on this” by recognizing the human behind the work.
2. Meeting with your team on the second day.
“Really reconnect with your team members,” Dookchitra said. This is an opportunity to communicate changes that occurred during the time off and update employees on projects and assignments “to make sure people are working on the right priorities.”
3. Adding some variety to the schedule.
“Once everyone’s back in the flow, it can be helpful to change up meeting times or [meeting] types sometimes,” Zaslav said. “Maybe on a short week, you need a few quick 9 a.m. standup [meetings]. Then on a longer week, you flip back to your usual midweek team meeting.”
4. Being realistic about priorities.
Don’t make every project “urgent” when employees return.
“I’ve seen that happen,” Dookchitra said. “All of that works in the oppositive direction and is probably less productive” because employees then feel overwhelmed.
“You can only process so many things,” she continued. “Are [the tasks] really all that urgent? What are the top three things for this month? This day? What really needs to be done? Trust them to understand what’s going on, what’s prioritized and what’s not.”
5. Setting team norms and expectations.
Employees may feel pressured to check email or do some work during their time off so they don’t feel behind when they return. Dookchitra advised managers to set boundaries, model desired behavior and communicate the importance of wellness.
“If you don’t have those team norms, the start of the year is a good time to start them,” she said. “It takes time to do those things, but starting the conversation makes it easier later.”