From festive to focused: tips to overcome the post-holiday blues

January 10, 2024

Returning to the office after the holidays need not be an exercise in despair. While few of us will be unfamiliar with the feeling of having to get back into work mode after the holidays – a feeling the Urban Dictionary calls ‘after holiday syndrome’ – getting in the right headspace can make a huge difference, a leadership expert says.

“Starting out motivated and on a high and harnessing the energy from the holidays to take it into the new year will make a huge difference to your mental well-being and performance,” says Dr Linda Meyer, MD at The Independent Institute of Education’s Rosebank College.

“And it really can be done by getting in the right headspace and strategising your return. As we all inevitably face this shift, the importance of a smooth reintegration into the workplace cannot be overstated. And there are some concrete ways in which professionals can navigate the post-holiday office landscape gracefully and efficiently,” she says.

Embracing gradual re-entry – Start slow, aim high: The first step in re-adapting is acknowledging the need for a gradual transition. Rather than diving headfirst into a sea of pending tasks, starting with a manageable pace is crucial. This approach allows you to recalibrate your focus and rekindle work momentum without the risk of immediate burnout. Don’t aim to get everything done. Just aim to get one thing done, and then another.

Upon returning, tackling every task at once is tempting. However, setting realistic, achievable goals is more effective. Breaking down tasks into smaller, manageable steps ensures steady progress and provides a sense of accomplishment that fuels further productivity.

Prioritisation and organisation – Navigating the to-do maze: The post-holiday workload can be overwhelming. Effective prioritisation and organisation are key. This involves sorting tasks by urgency and importance and decluttering the physical and digital workspace to create a conducive environment for focused work.

A flooded inbox is a common post-holiday scenario. Tackling this effectively requires a strategy – prioritising emails, setting aside dedicated times for responses, and using organisational tools like folders and flags- which can transform a daunting task into a manageable one.

Re-establishing routines – The power of consistency: Holidays often disrupt our daily routines. Re-establishing these routines is vital. This means realigning sleep patterns, mealtimes, and exercise regimes to pre-holiday schedules. The comfort of routine can provide a much-needed anchor amidst back-to-work demands. 

Reconnecting with colleagues – Building bridges: Human connections can significantly ease the transition. Engaging with colleagues, sharing holiday experiences, and updating oneself on significant developments during the absence can rejuvenate the office’s sense of belonging and teamwork.

Planning the year – Have something to look forward to: Getting back to the same-old-same-old can be hugely demoralising. That is why looking at the year ahead is important, as is planning something to work towards. Whether that be your next holiday, training or upskilling opportunity, or a new hobby, resolve to ensure that you bring something fresh and new into your life so that you can have something to look forward to or work towards.


“A positive mindset can dramatically influence the ease of readjustment. Accepting that it takes time to regain one’s professional rhythm can help mitigate frustration and help you maintain a constructive outlook,” says Dr Meyer.

“Remember to take regular breaks. They are not a luxury but a necessity, as they provide much-needed mental rest, prevent burnout, and support productivity throughout the day.” It’s also important to remember that seeking support and feedback is not a sign of weakness, but of professionalism. Collaborating with colleagues and supervisors for advice or assistance can provide new perspectives and solutions, making the transition smoother.

“Adapting to the office after a long holiday is an art that involves balancing personal well-being with professional responsibilities. By embracing the above strategies, individuals can ease their transition, enhance their overall productivity, and job satisfaction, ultimately contributing to a more dynamic and harmonious workplace.”