On average, Filipinos enjoy up to a maximum of 11 long weekends per year. Long weekends mean vacations and more time spent with family and friends. This time is also their chance to rest, relax, and re-energize.

However, along with the highs of a long break come the lows of getting back to work. Everyone feels that feeling of dread; an after-vacation dip extending to the workplace. It usually takes a couple of days for your employees to get back into a routine and pick up the pace at work.

Why is it so hard to come back to work after a long break?

Well, for one, getting back to work after a vacation means they’re back to reality.

That and a host of other challenges like:

Getting back into a routine
After long stretches of pleasurable days where anything goes, nothing prepares your employees for the shock of re-entering the workplace and routine office work.

Being overwhelmed with tasks and responsibilities
They can only do so much to tie up loose ends at the office before heading to their vacation. The reality is, there’s still so much to be done upon their return. Trying to catch up again for fear of falling behind is a normal human response.

Facing work-related stress and anxiety
The fear of falling behind forces them to work harder and faster, making them more anxious and stressed.

Experiencing post-vacation blues
Imagine what’s it like for them to wake up at 5 am on a Monday after a long break. It’s an awful feeling, right? They’re probably already missing the vacation they just had and can’t wait for the next one.

The good news is that you can help them move past those difficulties with back-to-work strategies so they feel excited and confident to pick up where left off.

Here are 10 ways to motivate your employees after a long break:

1. A long break for your employees is equivalent to eating all they can get their hands on.
A “return-to-work-after-a-vacation” email promoting healthy habits is a great way to jumpstart them into their first day back. Explain how food is a fuel that powers the mind. Include this fact: just a 1% decrease in hydration can lead to a nearly 12% reduction in productivity.

2. That office space will be dusty upon their return, so how about this? Make “Day 1” a cleaning/organizing day to help build their momentum at work.

3. Maintain a positive and fresh environment.
A study by Dr. Kate Lee of the University of Melbourne shows that looking at something green (40 seconds tops) boosts concentration and promotes a zen-like calmness.

4. Encourage them to take breaks and socialize with other colleagues.
“Breaks can improve our moods, overall well-being, and performance capacity,” says Charlotte Fritz, Ph.D., an associate professor in industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology at Portland State University in Oregon.

“People who take breaks from work experience fewer headaches, eye strain, and lower back pain. They also have higher job satisfaction and fewer burnouts,” says Ph.D. (I/O) associate professors and psychologists Emily Hunter and Cindy Wu of Baylor University in Texas.

5. Engage them in stress-reducing activities.
Introduce some fun time by organizing a mini-party on their first day at work. If that’s not possible, quickly stop by their workstations with a coffee-and-donut treat to see how they’re doing.

6. Talk to them about establishing boundaries to avoid burnout.
The World Health Organization defines burnout as a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.

Let them know the company cares and that it is important to prioritize mental health which includes setting and sticking to personal boundaries.

7. Set up a plan to gradually ease them into a work routine.
The Harvard Business Review (HBR) says easing the pain of returning to work can be managed by working on tasks your employees enjoy doing, and then, moving on to more complex tasks.

8. Guide them in managing expectations and setting realistic goals.
HBR suggests managing organizational expectations in their pre-vacation emails e.g. when they’ll be back and when they’ll get back to colleagues in your company upon their return to work. Furthermore, tell them it’s good for productivity to avoid back-to-back meetings immediately upon their return. Instead, encourage them to block off significant chunks of their day for a meeting or two, maximum.

9. Recognize the importance of a work-life balance.
As HRs, you are to lead by example in balancing work and life. A work-life balance means recognizing the difference between work and personal time. You have the responsibility of helping your employees manage the demands of work and their personal time. This means showing them how it’s done.

Aviva, one of the UK’s leading workplace pension providers reveals, “More workers said they were attracted to their current role for the work-life balance (41%) than the salary (36%).

Furthermore, let them know that “no” is a good word. Learning to gracefully and politely say no is a skill you can help them practice. Have them start with “I’ll get back to you on that” or “Great, let me see and get back to you on that.”

Another skill you can teach them is getting good at disconnecting. Clocking out at work means no more work-related calls or emails during everyone’s personal time.

Achieving a work-life balance is also lawful, literally, as per House Bill 10717 filed by Senator Francis Tolentino.

House Bill 10717, also known as the Workers’ Rest Law, forbids employers from giving non-urgent calls to employees after work hours. With this bill, employees can enjoy their free time with their loved ones without worrying about their boss calling them out of the blue.

10. Use Human Resource Management Systems (HRMS).
HRMS supports return-to-work paperless/digital processes, helps HRs avoid costly errors in computing holiday pay including long weekends, and ensures compliance with all government-mandated rules.

  • Self-service portals: An HRMS provides employees with self-service portals to access their vacation time, benefits, and other HR-related information. This helps employees feel more in control of their work and personal lives as they return from a vacation.
    • Payruler’s Empower is an HRMS self-service portal for all those tasks.
  • Time and attendance tracking: An HRMS provides accurate and automated time and attendance tracking so everyone stays on top of work hours and schedules as they return from a vacation.
    • Payruler’s Track is an HRMS time-and-attendance portal for managers. It also works for Employee Self-Service (ESS) accounts.
  • Time-off tracking: With an HRMS, employees can easily track their vacation time and see how much they have left. This is perfect for planning a vacation or Paid Time Off (PTO) on the most ideal dates.
    • Employees can do this on Payruler’s Empower portal in their ESS.

In summary

The stress and anxiety of returning to a routine after a long vacation are understandable. However, that overwhelming feeling of coping with work-related duties and responsibilities will soon be replaced by eagerness and excitement to return to work by encouraging your employees to start with small tasks, reminding them to take mini breaks, gently nudging them to make better food choices underscoring the importance of hydration, leading by example with work-life balance and using comprehensive and efficient technology, specifically HRMS tools like Empower, Track, and ESS from Payruler.

With those HRMS portals in place, work becomes lighter, more productive, and more efficient.

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