How to survive work once your vacation ends


When he walked back into work last month after a two-week vacation at the Jersey Shore, “it was into a firestorm,” says Raymond, a Hoboken, NJ, resident who’d prefer not to use his real name. The digital-transformation project his team had been working on for almost a year had been, to use his word, “raped” by a managing director a week earlier.

“People were pointing fingers,” says the 26-year-old business analyst, who works for a Wall Street bank.

While Smith was too low in the pecking order to be held responsible for the mess, in his absence he was assigned the grunt work involved in finding out what had gone wrong.

“I would never have agreed to take that on,” he says, explaining that while he was fully expecting to have to weed through two weeks of unread e-mails, as well as get the downloads from the meetings he had missed, this new project — digging through months of Slack (office chat) conversations, to find out where things on the project went wrong — wasn’t on his radar.

“It’s time-consuming, boring, and it’s eating up all of my time,” he says. “On an hourly basis, I’d make just as much money selling hot dogs on the boardwalk. And if I had that job, at least I could surf before work.”

In part because of the fear of this kind of re-entry, slightly more than half of US workers are too afraid to even take time off in the first place. According to the study State of American Vacation 2018, which looked at 4,349 US-based employees, 52 percent left employer-paid time off on the table last year. “That’s more than 705 million unused days, forfeited,” says Katie Denis, vice president of Project: Time Off which sponsored the study.

Not only that, but another study conducted by software maker Kimble Applications found that fear of returning to too much work was one of the primary reasons why workers chose the office over spending time with their families and friends.

But, “That won’t happen if you have a [post] vacation action plan,” says Rich Deosingh, senior regional vice president at Robert Half staffing agency.

What he and other experts suggest is that you arrive at work early on your first day back from vacation so that you can go through your e-mail before everyone else gets in.

“Block off two hours on your calendar to get caught up,” says Jill Jacinto, a career advisor for millennials at CareerContessa. com. But bear in mind that if you’ve been on a long vacation you may need to allocate more time, considering that some workers get as many as 250 work-related e-mails most workdays and another 100 over the weekend.

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