Around this time of the year, and during a pandemic, a lot of people find themselves interrupted in their workflow. Almost anybody takes at least a week off at some point in the summer, trying to take a bit of a distance from work, to recharge batteries and enjoy the weather. But also involuntarily, with perhaps more sickness-related absences due to COVID-19 than we are used to, our day-to-day is often disrupted.
Having experienced both a short sickness and a week of vacation in the past two months, I have realised that these interruptions affected my productivity and satisfaction. Following this, I did some research and had conversations on what we can do to make these disruptions, whether welcome or not, as beneficial for us as possible.
I found a few tips and tricks that can help you feel energised, capitalise on the rest you got, and avoid being overwhelmed after your holiday. In many cases, as I will show, taking a well-deserved break can have a positive impact on work. Especially when it comes to organisational learning. As often, a key step is to integrate it into day-to-day practices, breaks can be a great opportunity to focus with more intent on learning.
A key to a smooth transition, and a clear mind, is a strategic approach to re-engaging with work. By planning beforehand your return to work, writing out priorities, and drafting a schedule for getting started with your projects, you can be sure to enjoy your time off from work worry free. A few prompts of what to think about when planning:
- What is the project timeline for the projects I am currently working on?
- What are the priorities?
- Who will be taking care of my day-to-day commitments during my absence?
- Who will update me about what has been done during my absence?
- What can I take care of before my absence?
- What are goals that I have and want to pursue after I come back?
- What are learnings from the last few weeks that I want to integrate in my work when I return?
Block (half) a day
A lot of sources recommend blocking at least half a day after holiday or sickness that you use to settle in and do general housekeeping. When returning to work, a full e-mail inbox or a pile of documents on the desk demand our attention, and it takes some skill not to lose the tranquil and positive post-holiday spirit.
This “buffer day” can also be used to get acquainted with the progress that has been made while you were gone, review your schedule, and plan ahead. Take it slow, to get the most out of it!
Catch up with your team
In order to get back into a flow, it is important to make an effort to dive into the information stream. Both a formal update, for instance from your superior, and informal catching up with your peers, is recommended for a healthy start. In a fast-paced and project-oriented environment such as International Development, getting back in the loop is crucial for your individual productivity, as well as your mental health.
Talking about your vacation, and what your colleagues did, over a cup of coffee also positively affects your work environment. Make sure to ask about important learnings and insights that your peers had while you were away as well, to bolster knowledge-sharing and learn from each other!
Use the momentum
All of these were ideas on how to ensure your break does not negatively disrupt your workflow. However, in many cases, taking a step back from work and relaxing for a bit can positively affect your work if you harness it properly. The time after a summer break, for instance, is an excellent moment to re-evaluate your personal or organisational goals and strategy, especially concerning the long term.
Any ideas about a project that you wanted to kick off, a re-organisation of your office space, or a professional connection you wanted to follow up on for a long time? Well thought-out breaks can be a great way to gain a fresh perspective on big-picture changes, allow you to approach work difficulties with more energy, and a more open mind. Importantly, learning counts to these overarching tasks!
You can take the time to set your learning goals, and plan individual learning opportunities and activities. It is also a great opportunity to implement or improve organisational learning strategies. We promise, it will pay off!
So remember these four things when going on, and coming back from holiday:
- Make a plan ahead of leaving
- Block (half) a day upon returning
- Make an effort to catch up with your team
- Use the momentum of your break, and start learning!