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Back to work after a break? Ease into it
Craig D'Mello
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July 24, 2007

As you step through office, you notice a few changes. Your boss has a new look, the receptionist is married, and the annoying guy in the adjoining cubicle quit a while ago.


It may have been a week or two or a few months, but, no matter what the timeframe, returning to work after a long gap does tend to create unnecessary stress. Psychologists advise employees against jumping straight into the routine, as our minds (like the body) needs time to acclimatise and readjust.


Easing into the same ol' same old


Maybe you were on a sabbatical, or an illness had you bedridden, or some family circumstances required your presence. There may be a kaleidoscope of reasons why you were unable to attend work, which means, once you get back, you most likely will have a lot of catching-up to do.


Simple ways to ease yourself into the routine: 


~ Speak to your colleagues


It is vital that you speak to a few colleagues before you resume. Talk to them; find out what happened while you were away. This will also give you details helping you on your first day back. Basically, it will ensure you stay in the loop. Moreover, you will not be surprised or burdened with an overload of information when you get back. Remember, the only one away was you; the office functioned along the usual routine.


~ Speak to your boss


More than anyone else, you should ensure that you speak to your boss before you return. Even a day before will help. Although this may seem unnecessary, it helps break the ice with your boss. This helps steer clear of the awkward morning and your boss overloading you on your first day back.


~ Don't jump into projects midway


The biggest mistake you could make is to try and join a project that is halfway through. This is not the crazy Monday after a weekend off. While away you may have missed a few projects -- let them go, there will be many more to come your way.

 ~ Get re-oriented on the first day


Most of us are finely tuned to a routine; right from the time we leave for work to the way we work. But after a long break, it is not right to assume that the old routine will come naturally. Take the time to ease into the routine, first by re-familiarising yourself with how you used to go about things.


~ Avoid any excess physical strain


If back from an illness, this should be on your priority list. Avoid eating canteen food, avoid working late, and if you have some injury, make sure there is no exertion. Work till you feel comfortable; straining yourself will serve no purpose, you may even have to take sick leave again. If your job demands a certain amount of physical activity, consult your doctor about the situation. Ensure that your boss is fully aware of your medical condition.


~ Start small


Okay, you're back. But, that doesn't mean you take on the most demanding task at the meeting or volunteer to attempt the impossible (that is what business is about anyway, but on this occasion, take a breather). Start with smaller tasks; don't rush into anything, and once you settle down which should probably take a few days at the most, you can take on that mammoth project you had your eye on.


~ Workaholics Anonymous


There may be countless theories and postulations when it comes to getting back into the groove, but most only apply to the 'normal' work-person. There is whole other strain of the working population, who thrive under pressure; in fact the 'workaholics' live for their work, unlike the 'eat to live' philosophy.

Maybe they like to work longer hours (because have nothing better to do, or conversely, spend enough time at work to have no time for anything else) or simply are very passionate about their job. It would be safe to say, their minds are wired differently, and getting back to office might be the break they need.


The toughest test will be for a person who thrives on a hypersonically paced, caffeine-powered 9 to anytime type of job. How do you not start everything on arrival? It's like meditation, you have to block the chaos and work with a mind that dwells in a state of peace.


There is no guidebook to a situation like this; there are no rights or wrongs, as each individual has a unique style of working. It is much like dressing -- we all wear clothes, sometimes they are similar, but what creates the difference is the way we wear them. It's the same with work culture, how an individual reacts in his or her work environment can be solely attributed to the individual and no one else.


The choice of how to get back into the saddle is only yours. So if you feel that easing into the routine is just an excuse to fool around at work, then jumping right in is for you.

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