Post-vacation Blues — How Hard Is It To Switch Back to Work Mode

Vacation usually means putting your feet up, forgetting about work, and just living in the moment. It’s a chance to escape from your regular everyday life and give yourself time to unwind. Unfortunately, though, there comes a moment when you have to come back and wave those carefree days goodbye.

What happens after that is what we call a post-vacation blues. It’s a brutal confrontation with the reality of coming back to work that some might even call a post-vacation depression. 

Join us as we take a closer look at a study conducted by Passport Photo Online and examine how we cope with switching back to work mode, just how much it can affect our job performances, and how to combat the feeling of exhaustion right after coming back from holidays.

Does vacation blues affect our holiday plans?

Anyone who’s ever experienced post-vacation blues will tell you that returning to work after holidays is the worst. Those first few days, or even weeks, can prove to be quite a challenge. Some may need just a few days to get used to the routine again, while others end up still suffering from it after a week or two.

It can be such an inconvenience, as well as something that effectively lowers your productivity, that some might even avoid taking vacations altogether – just to avoid post-vacation blues.

According to the survey, it is not unheard of for Americans to do just that – refuse to take vacations as a precaution. They’re still in the minority (8,45%), but that statistic alone paints an unfortunate picture.

Still, however, the vast majority of surveyed Americans seem to think that post-vacation blues is unavoidable and not a reason to abandon vacation plans.

  • ~41% kept the issue in mind but never let it ruin their vacation;
  • ~26% have never even considered post-vacation blues;
  • ~24% have admitted to a certain reluctance but still went ahead with their trips.

As we can see, in the end, the advantages of taking a long-awaited vacation outweigh the consequences and the need to reprogram themselves again from vacation mode. Americans are quite aware of how these post-vacation days or weeks might look like; they do take it into consideration, but in most cases, it ultimately doesn’t matter.

Still, however, it is worth noting that avoiding vacations for the sole purpose of not having to deal with post-vacation blues is a real thing. Those 8% do not seem like much, but their experiences show us the unfortunate reality of those who, perhaps, cannot afford to go through this post-vacation syndrome.

According to the study, 20% of professionals regularly avoid trips to not risk falling prey to post-vacation blues, while as much as 37% have done it at least several times. Be it the effect of hustle culture or just being okay with postponing plans, a percentage of Americans just prefer to play it safe.

Symptoms of post-vacation blues

It would certainly be fair to say that coming back to any job after a vacation is tough. Even if you like what you do and have endless passion for it, getting back to work mode may feel exhausting. All the social and psychological benefits of your vacation suddenly clash with the reality of having to get your head down and putting all your effort in again.

The most common issue for those getting back to normal routine is lack of motivation. To accompany that, our mood shifts significantly, and we find ourselves daydreaming about either our last vacation or the next one.

In the worst-case scenario, things can spiral out of control as your sleep routine changes, you experience fatigue and general mental exhaustion. It will go away at one point, of course, and sometimes you just have to be patient.

Male vs. female reactions

What’s interesting is that our reactions can differ quite a lot based on our gender. We may cope with post-vacation blues in various fashions and experience its effects in unique ways as compared to the opposite sex.

Women tend to suffer more from lack of motivation, fatigue, or even irritability.

Men, on the other hand, have to deal with difficulties in concentrating and discomfort in a more general sense.

That being said, we’re all different, and we have our own ways to cope with that tough post-vacation period. One might even argue that it’s a bit like children who have to come back to school after the summer season. Some of them need a while to get up to speed again, while others waste no time in getting back to business, as it were.

Main reasons behind post-vacation blues

As it often is in life, the most important part of discussing a problem is realizing what precisely gave rise to it in the first place. Going back to its roots helps us figure out solutions and ways to prevent it in the future. Who knows? Perhaps the next time you go on a trip, you’ll then be ready to get right back to work with no fuss.

Once we realize what factors into our feelings of exhaustion or difficulties in concentration, we can move forward, and the study shines a light on the most important aspects of post-vacation blues.

  • A whopping 40% of surveyed admitted that vacation costs and other financial matters are big contributors to post-vacation difficulties;
  • 39% said that readjusting to work schedules causes most problems;
  • 38% pointed to being jetlagged as the main culprit behind post-vacation blues;

Besides those factors, it’s also worth mentioning the difficulties that come after almost every trip, regardless of their length. Finding it hard to get back to work at full potential can also be attributed to being overwhelmed by all the work that has accumulated while you were gone. There are emails to respond to, lengthy projects you start or come back to, and other responsibilities you’d otherwise be preoccupied with.

Lastly, sometimes it’s just hard getting used to all the housework that needs to be done and other responsibilities. In truth, it doesn’t even have to be something tiring or requiring significant effort. It’s just so much different from what you were accustomed to while on vacation, and that can take a while, too.

Getting back up — how much time do we need?

After you get back from vacation, sometimes even unpacking can take a while, and you’re either postponing doing it properly or sheepishly get to it and spend the next hour or two emptying the suitcase.

What after that, you ask? Then, it’s time to go to work, and this may take even longer, especially if you can’t stop thinking about the trip. It’s not exactly a matter of flipping a switch and immediately getting in the zone, and the study pinpoints very well how much time you might need based on your age. Each generation has its own quirks, similarities, and differences, and it’s no different this time.

Gen Z’ers are the most likely to require more than two weeks to readjust (17,51%), while Baby Boomers stay on the opposite end, with just 7,84% stating they need the same amount of time.

In general, the most common answer (31% on average) for all generations across the board is that one week is enough. What’s interesting, however, is that a very similar percentage (29%) thinks that they don’t require even a week to get back to work properly.

It’s either a sign of great resilience and hard work or, perhaps, higher expectations from employers. 

How to beat post-vacation blues?

So now comes the big question – how do we beat this sinking feeling of having to readjust for work after a trip? There’s no single strategy to get rid of that exhaustion, but the study does point to several ways in which you can combat the difficulties of getting used to your work schedule again.

  1. Mindfulness exercises can be of real help if you struggle with getting back on track at work. Practicing mindfulness may involve a certain form of meditation, breathing exercises, or even yoga. It can lift your spirits and help ease you into the “new” role you’re trying to fill once again.
  2. Any form of physical activity will likely help, as working out stimulates your brain in a way that helps your organism relax and eliminate the stress or anxiety you might feel at work.
  3. You can also try to maintain some of the vacation habits that you picked up. Perhaps you can find a nice spot to sunbathe nearby or visit a local swimming pool. It’s especially a good tip for those who aren’t fond of sudden changes.

To sum up

Post-vacation blues is no joke, and it sure can make going back to work somewhat difficult. You may feel irritated, lack motivation to perform at the highest level, or even have difficulties concentrating. These are all very common issues that arise after coming back from vacation, but the good news is that they’re not unbeatable.

Whatever causes these feelings can be remedied through physical activity, for instance, and you may end up completely fine and up to speed within a week or even less. Just remember that it’s perfectly fine to need a moment to readjust after vacation. We’ve all been there.