As summer ends – do you have back to work blues?
How do you feel about returning to the office? Is it back to work blues or something more?
In many parts of the northern hemisphere people are returning from summer vacations. You might be thinking of all the things you would rather be doing than getting out of bed. Images of sparkling blue sea, clear mountain air, meals al fresco and time chilling doing whatever you enjoy most. You ignore your flip-flops and shorts and squeeze your holiday feet into a pair of professional work shoes, which have mysteriously shrunk a size while you’ve been away. The speed at which you head for the door makes a tortoise look like Usain Bolt.
It’s important to ask yourself, what is going on? Is this a bad case of back to work blues, or is it something deeper and you need a bigger change than two weeks in Tuscany, Tampa or Torquay? Is it time to change jobs?
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Assess how you feel
If before you headed off on your holiday you were feeling tired, under the weather, anxious or short-tempered it may be a question of the volume of your workload being too great, rather than the nature of the job itself. You were just tired and this is short term back to work blues which will pass probably within a day, if not earlier.
If you now look forward to the prospect of being with your colleagues, catching up on projects with your boss and getting a status update from your team – you simply needed a break to re-charge the flagging batteries.
However, it is very different if the feelings are more significant. They might relate to lack of recognition, disconnection from colleagues or conflicts with your boss or team mates. These could be signs that you need to reflect on your career and decide if it’s time to change jobs, or even the organisation itself. Do you feel that you can have open and constructive discussions with your work mates, or do you have to monitor your approach to fit in? Ask yourself if you are exhibiting some of the signs of pre-burnout.
Check for other pre-burn out red flags as they can be a serious warning.
Differences make a difference
There is a big difference between needing a break, whether it’s a long weekend or holiday, or signals that you need to evaluate your life style or even change your job. The signs come in different forms and can be a matter of degree. The key question will be if there are solutions to the issues and will they make you happy?
Sometimes you can get caught up in 24/7 availability for responding to emails and messages. This doesn’t leave time for self-care and can cause you to neglect your relationships. You may have the possibility to raise this with your boss and negotiate some guidelines or boundaries. Perhaps you can even recruit another team member. If the company is a sweat shop with a hiring freeze, then the only option is out. At the other end of the scale, it might be lack of interest and stimulation or a feeling of being under-utilised that are causing you to feel jaded. Are there opportunities for promotion or transfer? Once again discuss with your boss or the HR department. If not then your back to work blues are indicative of something more profound.
Deep dive check
If you feel re-energised and raring to go, but have some nagging doubts, you can systematically assess your current situation by using the GROW model: Goal, Reality, Options and Way forward. This means taking some time to really think about your career, life and where you want to be.
Download the 3Plus Career Reflections Worksheets to help you.
- Goals: What are your goals in life, both professional and personal? What is your vision and passion?
- Reality: Think about the elements of your job you really like and the ones that you don’t. Evaluate the negative issues on a scale 1-10. How bad are they really and can they be changed or improved? Can you offload work to colleagues or reports? Remember that women do the lion share of invisible work in the office and at home. Is it time to have a difficult conversation with your partner?
- Options: Think about your options. If the stuff that gets you down can be changed, what action can you take personally to make that happen? It might be something where there is a solution, rather than something intrinsically wrong with the job itself or the company.
- Way forward: Make a plan to make things happen.
If the back to work blues persist and you feel completely stuck – now might be the time to look for professional support. It will help you gain clarity around what’s going on for you, identify growth opportunities so you can work out your next steps and move forward.