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Summer-up the workplace

Creativity tactics fight 'back-to-work blues'

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I looked out on my yard the other day and horror of horrors, I saw a number of unexpected fall-coloured leaves on the ground! Oh no, is it that time already? Good gosh, don't tell me summer is passing by and I haven't had a vacation yet? That can't be! Not only that, it's downright depressing to see others go on vacation while I am still working away.

Believe it or not, envy has never been part of my vocabulary but I feel it quickly creeping into my soul. I just want to go on a vacation!

By the tone of my writing, I am sure it is easy to determine I really do need a vacation. And believe it or not, I'm not alone. In fact, I suspect there are many employees just waiting for their last day of work and essentially longing for their vacation to start. And I also suspect the more employees are standing in line waiting for their vacation turn, the more potential there is for an outbreak of depression as well as an accompanying decline in productivity. In fact, summer can be downright depressing unless you are already at a beach or travelling to far-away fun places.

I know waiting for your vacation date is hard, but vacations can also cause many challenges for employers; staff scheduling being a major one. Typically, managers do indeed pay close attention to scheduling issues so everyone receives fair treatment. However, I doubt much attention is focused on the psychological impact of the overall vacation issue; either the stress of pending vacations or issues that might arise from those suffering from the "return-to-work blues."

In fact, some folks don't believe there is such a thing as return-to-work blues, but the phenomenon is very real. For instance, those employees who find it difficult to turn off their holiday mindset appear disoriented and just can't seem to concentrate but instead may spend much of their first few days visiting and retelling their vacation stories before being able to settle down to getting work done. In other words, the potential of accumulating a number of non-productive days is very real.

So, in my mind, employers should make more of a concerted effort to keep spirits high for those employees who are still working during the summer vacation months. There are certainly a number of creative tactics beyond the one and only summer staff barbecue. Some of these include the following:

-- Summer is all about food and fun so where possible, place picnic tables or outdoor seating alongside your workplace where employees can eat lunch or be outside for their breaks.

-- Consider conducting some of your work meetings outside, weather permitting.

-- Hire a local food truck to come to your workplace for an employer paid Friday lunch and/or cook hotdogs and hamburgers on a grill.

-- If there is space, initiate an outside low-stress game such as croquet and/or an inside game day during lunch hour.

-- Relax your dress code and add a theme such as dressing in Hawaii-related clothing.

-- Schedule a company event such as attending a local sports or cultural event where people can mix and mingle.

-- Arrange for a fun-type raffle and/or a draw with the prize being something special such as a music concert, attendance at a local sports or cultural event.

-- Find a reason to celebrate; this could be personal birthdays or first-time grandparents and/or much more work related such as achieving a new goal.

-- Invite returning vacationers to share their photos and adventure during a lunch hour.

-- Consider reducing your summer work hours overall and/or enable employees to leave early for the weekend.

On the other hand, employees also have a personal responsibility to manage their own post-vacation blues and get back into the work mode as quickly as possible following their vacation. Some of the strategies that work on an individual basis include the following:

-- Plan to return to your home at least one to two days prior to returning to work. This helps you to reorient to your former routine. Use the time to review and sort through photos you might share at work.

-- Empty the suitcase and do your laundry immediately -- this helps you return to routine. Let's face it, the longer you leave it, the harder this task is to complete.

-- If you travelled far and wide and tasted different foods, try to recreate these recipes once you return to home as it will bring back pleasant memories.

-- Take time to settle down and watch a good movie. This will help you to relax while creating enjoyment.

-- Make calls to your family and friends, begin to reconnect and share your vacation stories with them.

-- Be sure to give yourself a couple of good nights' rest because it's amazing how tired you feel after a vacation.

-- Get out and drive around your own neighbourhood to reacquaint yourself.

-- Read one last book or magazine as a means to relax.

-- Review your vacation mementoes and select something you could bring to work to remind you of your good times.

Summer vacation stresses are very real. Some people are franticly waiting for their vacation to start and then there are those that suffer post-vacation blues upon their return. But no matter what, the issue of vacation and the challenges it can cause is not simply an individual issue, but it is also an issue an employer should address. After all, employee productivity is a year-round challenge.

 

Source: How to get over your post-vacation blues, Julianne Lowell, SmarterTravel.com, USA Today, January 16, 2014

 

Barbara J. Bowes is president of Legacy Bowes Group and president of Career Partners International, Manitoba. She can be reached at barb@legacybowes.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 2, 2014 H1

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