Returning to work after a long leave is not always an uplifting experience. The mind and metabolism are likely to have adapted to a more leisurely pace, and one may have taken active steps to dissociate from work pressures during the period of leave. This is especially true if the period of leave has been an extended one.

Even if the leave was for attending to personal work rather than for pure relaxation, an employee is bound to experience a disconnect from day-to-day work life on returning to it. There may an overload of emails to attend to, and a number of other accumulated tasks – which would have usually been tackled on a day-to-day basis – to address. Many employees also entertain subtle or overt fears of redundancy even before taking long leave. Specifically, they fear that being absent from work for a long-enough time would cause them to be replaced.

Another variant of the redundancy fear is, “What if they have found out that they don’t really need me at all?” This fear is not uncommon in a scenario where companies are actively ‘right-sizing’ their employee force in order to cut costs. The psychological stress of this fear can cause many employees to feel extremely intimidated during the first couple of days at work after returning from long leave.

Redundancy fears will wane on their own once the employee has got back into a regular work routine. However, the realities of accumulated work remain. Progressive managers will factor in this very understandable phenomenon and allow the employee a couple of days of readjustment to the workplace routine.

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All said and done, one should not expect too much from oneself immediately upon returning from a long leave. It is best to schedule important meetings for a couple of days after being back in harness, and to avoid having an overload of commitments waiting to be tackled. A quick email to one’s manager before returning, asking for a day or two of slower pace till one is fully into the workplace routine again, is perfectly acceptable.

Above all, it is important not to squander the energy generated during a period of R&R on work-related worries, but rather to harness and utilize it in a graded manner for optimal and sustained productivity. This will benefit everyone concerned. It makes sense for employees returning from long leave to spare a few hours prior to actually returning to the office in planning the first three days of work.

Jappreet Sethi

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