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4 ways to survive post-holiday blues

Assuming you (a) live in the Northern hemisphere and (b) you are reading this at the time of publication you will know that the summer holiday season is upon us. This can only mean one thing: There is a post-holiday blues epidemic about to hit your workplace.

That statement assumes that everyone suffers from post-holiday blues (PHB), but even if you are a super being, immune to PHB, you will be witnessing it in others. Symptoms include:

  1. leaving their Out of Office on, despite the fact that they are most definitely back in the office

  2. spending 90% of their first 3 days back in the office chatting about their amazing holiday and how they wish they booked it for longer

  3. being unresponsive to requests because they are still going through their 4,000 unread emails a week after getting back and claiming they are still “getting back up to speed” when they are actually ducking a thorny problem that was supposed to miraculously solve itself whilst they were lounging by the hotel pool.

I am a sufferer of PHB.

The night before going back to the office I have a heavy feeling in my chest. I trudge into the office mentally rehearsing my “it’s good to be back” routine. Upon arrival the “it’s good to be back” routine is convincing for about 12 seconds, then someone approaches me, asks a couple of softener questions about my holiday and then hits me with their work issue.

They are talking to me, but the voice in my head is saying “What is this person’s problem? Don’t they realise that we are all just shaven monkeys, bashing keyboards and trying to impress the boss monkeys so that we get thrown some more bananas?”

desk monkey

I then hide behind my computer pretending to wade through emails whilst waiting for the next opportunity to tell someone else what a great time I had before those treasured holiday memories fade.

OK, so you get the picture of the symptoms of PHB and what it’s like to suffer from PHB. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?

So here’s some good news. PHB cannot be passed via email or conference call. The only way you can get it is by actually going on holiday, so you could completely avoid it yourself by forgoing your annual leave.

As Noel has mentioned before that is definitely not a good option, so here are my suggested coping strategies:

  1. Book another holiday as soon as you get into the office, so you can start looking forward to your next break

  2. Tackle your emails swiftly – preferably before lunchtime on your first day. Be VERY liberal with the delete button. If it’s really important you’ll get a follow up email about it soon enough. Or you could convince your company to take a leaf out of Daimler’s book – what they do is quite simply amazing…

  3. Plan to do something new and interesting the first week you are back to make it feel like a fresh start

  4. Bring some regional holiday sweets / cakes in for your team and then make sure you tuck in to a few treats yourself

If you do find yourself with a bad case PHB in the next few weeks, you have my sympathy. Try putting these coping strategies to use and find solace in the knowledge that it won’t last forever, and actually those treasured holiday memories will always be there.

Even a crappy first day / week back at work isn’t enough to take that away.

hawian shirt


This is a guest post from a friend and former colleague – Steve Keightley, who got the inspiration after recently returning to work from a 3 week break only to find the first few days a real hard slog.

Thanks for sharing this Steve – great advice!

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