After the rush of the holiday season, getting back into the swing of things can be difficult. The thought of tackling a massive backlog of work can be overwhelming. With emails building up in inboxes and tasks stacking up since the break began, it’s not uncommon for you (and countless others) to feel swamped as you slink back to your workplace—whether at home, in the office, or hybrid work.
Not only must you face work backlog, but you must also contend with the stressors that come with being back in an office setting—meetings, difficult co-workers, and deadlines. All these things affect work performance and productivity.
Returning to the work routine after a lengthy holiday can also mean returning to the dreaded overtime. Workers today are logging more hours than ever before, with 50 hours per week no longer considered unusual. It’s no wonder 83% of workers in America suffer from work-related stress, and the employee burnout rate is at an all-time high.
If you work from home, you can never fully “clock out” from the day’s tasks since you can now respond to emails and do other work-related activities from anywhere at any time. In other words, your flexibility and accessibility disrupt your work-life balance.
It doesn’t have to be that way. By making adjustments in your work routine, you can achieve a healthy work-life balance after the holidays, whether you’re an employee, a freelancer, or an entrepreneur.
The Importance of a Healthy Work-Life Balance
Achieving a healthy work-life balance means taking time away from work to focus on other priorities such as family, friends, hobbies, or leisure activities. This helps you to take a break from your daily routines and recharge physically and mentally so that you can be more productive when you are back at work, especially after a long holiday.
However, you may feel that it’s an elusive goal. Sure, you can manage to squeeze in time for both work and recreation, but the pressure to do more often leaves you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.
Working long hours is no longer just a corporate culture; it’s become the norm in most modern workplaces. This is particularly true when you have to clear backlogs after a vacation.
A healthy work-life balance helps you achieve the following:
Burnout occurs when you become overwhelmed by your workload, leading to feelings of exhaustion and diminished job satisfaction. If left unchecked, burnout can creep back after a holiday and significantly reduce your performance and ability to complete tasks on time. Burnout can also affect your team members.
Common signs of burnout include frequent absences from work or showing up late, falling behind on deadlines, difficulty focusing or concentrating on tasks, feeling unmotivated or apathetic about work assignments, and neglecting self-care activities, such as exercising and eating healthy meals.
If your personal and work life is in equilibrium, you have adequate time to rest, recharge, and recover from burnout.
You can spend time with family and friends, pursue hobbies, and engage in self-care practices to reduce stress. You’re less likely to experience exhaustion and overwhelm because you know when to stop working and when to have quiet time for yourself. This will prevent burnout on its tracks.
Improves Work Productivity
Having a healthy work-life balance has been proven to significantly improve workplace productivity. Workers who can take regular breaks, enjoy leisure activities, and disconnect from their job after hours or on weekends tend to be more productive during the workday than those that don’t.
The key is ensuring you have ample opportunity for rest and relaxation both in and out of the office. Companies play a critical role in making this happen by offering flexible scheduling, providing access to mental health support services, allowing employees time off when needed, and encouraging them to take breaks throughout their day.
Not only will this benefit everyone involved mentally and physically, but it can also lead to improved employee performance and increased job satisfaction. This is not only good for employees but also good for businesses.
Reduces Absenteeism Due to Illness
Chronic work stress can lead to serious health issues. Prolonged exposure to stressful events has been linked to an increased risk of developing illnesses such as heart disease, fatigue, depression, and anxiety.
Working long hours with little time for rest or relaxation can cause your body to become overwhelmed and affect both your physical and mental well-being. When it becomes too much, your body can break down and malfunction, rendering you unfit to work because of illness.
A healthy work-life balance means having enough hours off each week for recreational activities and restorative sleep to reduce stress levels.
Creates Positive Effects on Personal Relationships
A healthy work-life balance means having more energy and enthusiasm when around others, making the interactions more enjoyable and meaningful. If you make an effort to interact with your peers, you can develop strong connections with them and cultivate close relationships.
When you have the opportunity to nurture relationships outside of work, it gives you a sense of purpose and well-being that carries over into your professional roles. It also allows you to build strong social networks, which can be beneficial in times of need or support during difficult times.
How to Achieve a Healthy Work-Life Balance After the Holidays
1. Communicate with Your Family
Your journey to a healthy work-life balance after the holidays begins with figuring out how to communicate effectively with family members. If you work from home with very young kids or teenagers while schools are not yet in session, it’s crucial to find a way to create common ground between family and business priorities.
It’s okay to have boundaries when it comes to work and leisure time, as long it respects everyone’s needs for rest and recreation. Communicating expectations ahead of time creates an environment of understanding and allows everyone in your family to engage in meaningful conversations. During this process, it’s helpful for all parties involved to think about the potential amount of pressure one can cope with.
Your family should be aware of your working hours and point out that any domestic issues shouldn’t interfere with productivity goals like household chores, family errands, or other activities during work hours.
Try setting aside specific times throughout each day dedicated to completing any tasks unrelated to work. This could include meal breaks, quick household chores, playing with pets, and even catching up on the news or watching TV together.
It could be challenging for everyone in the family when transitioning back into the after-holiday routine, but understanding individual concerns goes a long way toward creating peace and balance at home while you try to get work done.
2. Update Your Workspace
After the holidays, it can seem overwhelming to jump back into regular routines. One way to make the transition more manageable is by decluttering and reorganizing your workspace.
The Japanese concept of Seiso teaches that cleaning your space helps reduce stress and bring clarity to your mind. So, before you start working, clear off everything on your desk except for items you absolutely need, such as your laptop, a light source, and perhaps some writing implements or notepads.
Aim for a minimalist look—the fewer distractions, the better! This will reduce visual clutter, making it easier for you to focus on tasks. Take inventory of what’s left and consider if there are other things you should move out of sight, like extra papers or knickknacks, that could impact productivity levels.
Clearing away any unnecessary items from this area will give you the mental space required for effectively tackling the day’s tasks without feeling overwhelmed.
Additionally, having a tidy desk is beneficial for long-term motivation; once chores are done early in the day, your subconscious cues you to continue being productive instead of being attracted by distractions around your workspace. This can give an added boost towards achieving a healthy work-life balance during these post-holiday months. So don’t forget to take some time to declutter and clean up your area!
3. Slowly Ease Your Return to Work
After a holiday break, it can be tempting to hit the ground running and make up for lost time—but slow and steady is the key to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. So, instead of saving all your energy for the first day of work, try to ease your way back by simulating your routine days in advance.
For example, set your alarm clock 10 minutes earlier each morning and increase the time incrementally until you reach your desired wake-up time. It will be helpful to train yourself to get up early so that you’ll have an extra hour or two in the morning when you don’t have other obligations or distractions from work emails or calls.
You can use this time for yourself to have an early morning walk or yoga—something enjoyable for yourself before the morning rush. This gradual transition will help you avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed.
A foolproof tip to achieve a healthy work-life balance, especially after the holidays, is to plan the night before what you need to accomplish for the day ahead and have a contingency plan in case of a snafu. Break down any large tasks into smaller chunks, making them more manageable. Write out a list of priorities for yourself and ensure that everything gets done by the end of the day. Just remember not to overload yourself with too much at once.
Finally, try not to get bogged down in perfectionism; being mindful and realistic about what you can achieve within a specific time will prevent unnecessary stress or anxiety. This will help you start off on the right foot and help you get through the rest of the day.
4. Reduce Your To-Do List by Half
After the holidays, it can be challenging to transition back into work mode. So, it’s vital that you take steps to reduce your tasks list and create a realistic plan for how you will spend your time.
You can start by reducing your to-do list by half. This will help you focus on what needs immediate attention and figure out what tasks you might be able to do right away, delegate, defer for later, and delete and forget.
- One of the best ways to reduce your to-do list is by doing things immediately. If something needs urgent attention or has a deadline coming up soon, get it done, so it’s out of the way. This will free up more time since it won’t be lingering on your list anymore.
- Delegating tasks also helps ease some of the burden—see if someone else can assist with some of the tasks on your list so that you are not left feeling overwhelmed all of the time.
- You can also learn how to defer specific tasks for later when they become too much to handle in one day; this will help divide larger projects into smaller manageable pieces over time.
- And lastly, delete and forget about any unnecessary items cluttering your list—why waste time worrying about them when they won’t impact anything?
By utilizing these strategies, you should be able to restore a better balance between life and work after a busy holiday season.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Say “No”
The holiday cheers and festivities can extend days or even weeks after the actual holidays. It’s usually at this time when you get invited by friends and colleagues to social events and gatherings. You don’t want to be that person who turns down an invite, but sometimes, it’s necessary for your mental and physical health if you want to prepare yourself to get back to work and have a healthy work-life balance.
Saying “no” is perfectly okay. It’s a way to set your own boundaries as far as what requests or events you could commit to during the post-holiday recovery period. This could mean creating a list of priorities that best aligns with your set time constraints for work or personal goals.
Knowing your priorities will help guide your decisions and ensure you spend quality time on the most important activities to create a balanced life.
Proper time management can help make sure choices align within desired boundaries. After prioritizing things accordingly, you will find yourself much better equipped when it comes to meeting deadlines and being realistic about commitments with your timelines.
Be mindful that a healthy working lifestyle always requires some effort—don’t be afraid to politely say “no” if necessary after the holidays to maintain balance throughout the year.
6. Steer Clear of Any Meetings Within the First Week
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed after taking time off and jumping right into gruelling days that involve long hours with unprepared colleagues. To ensure you don’t waste valuable time that could be put toward more productive activities, know the agenda for each meeting before attending.
Unproductive meetings led by disorganized individuals can drain your energy and potentially cause unwanted stress throughout the day. Meeting organizers should know what needs to be discussed and provide clear direction for attendees ahead of time, so participants to make the most out of their time spent together.
Know what you need from the meeting to be productive, but also prioritize yourself and consider whether attending a particular meeting is worth your valuable energy. If not, you can skip the meeting.
Your physical, mental and emotional health should always come first no matter how important a given meeting might seem—overall well-being will create a better work product in the end anyways.
7. Disconnect After Work
You know you’re on your way to finding a healthy work-life balance when you learn to emotionally detach from work after office hours. It may be hard to do, but if you appreciate the benefits of going off the grid and committing to a schedule, you’ll learn to ignore work-related push notifications.
The best way to do this is to establish that your time is precious to you and should be respected as such. Time is a scarce resource that must be used wisely.
Ensure you don’t entertain any work-related messages or emails after you are finished for the day. Remember that your time is an investment, and it’s your turn to invest in yourself.
After work, make sure you’re doing things that you enjoy—whether taking a leisurely walk outside, reading a book, practicing yoga or mindfulness, or enjoying hobbies like baking or gardening. Spending time with family and friends who can give you joy and connection in times of stress and anxiety is also beneficial.
Most importantly, remember to enjoy your downtime by turning off notifications from all devices after hours and disconnecting from demanding schedules as much as possible. Allow yourself some space for self-care so physical and emotional exhaustion and work burnout do not take over!
By actively making an effort to have physical downtime away from screens, you will acquire positive habits in managing stress better while decreasing fatigue levels over time.
Finding a healthy work-life balance after the holidays has enormous challenges you must overcome. With a change in mindset, prioritization, streamlining, and a solid commitment to self-care, you can achieve the balance that you thought was elusive.
Switching to work mode immediately after a long holiday can be overwhelming, so it’s essential to ease your way back to the work routine. Once you’re physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared to work, you must create a plan to prioritize tasks, cut your to-do list in half, minimize distractions, and, most importantly, set boundaries.
This will magically create time for you to do things that matter to you most, which can tip the scale to a more balanced life. If you take care of yourself first, then all other obligations will fall into place as you go about tackling deadlines and projects with more energy and enthusiasm.