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Your First Day Back To Work
Leaving the rest behind and returning well
A note re. August Office Hours:
Have questions about how you lead? Thinking about how you gear yourself up for the second half of the year?
This August I’m holding ‘office hours’ each week, for Spark readers only.
It’s a complimentary 20 minutes with me, one on one, to talk about your leadership and help you fuel your fire for the rest of 2023.
I’m setting aside two hours each Thursday, across timezones. It’s an opportunity to bring the writing into your real life and I’ll answer your questions, share insight on the themes you read about here, and help you tackle other leadership challenges you’re personally facing. There are a limited number of slots and as there’s no charge, book early.
As ever, thank you for being a valued reader and a vital part of the growing Spark community.
Your First Day Back To Work
This post has been developed from a piece originally shared last year - and it was a piece that to date I have received the most direct emails about.
If it struck a chord with you too, take the opportunity to reflect on what’s changed in how you navigate the transition between rest and return to work.
What are you doing now that you weren’t doing last year?
What minor changes have been effective - and what needs more work?
The thing about taking a break from work is that you inevitably need to return.
It can be tempting to try and pick up directly where you left off and hit the ground running. And to want to be the leader who can get back in the game at a moment’s notice.
To return as if you’ve not been away.
But you have been away. And you took a break for a reason.
Research shows that taking a break from work can be great for your performance and your brain. Holidays create space to think, re-energise and re-focus - mentally, physically, and emotionally.
When you return you have two choices; put the break behind you and pick up where you left off; or take the opportunity for a re-set.
The challenge is that so often today's reality means the default is that you're sucked into day-to-day drama and decisions before you’ve even had a chance to consider them.
Last week we explored how to prepare for pre-holiday pressure. This week’s issue will help you manage your return to work, post-holiday, and how you can use a refreshed mindset to enhance your performance.
Don’t return as if you never left. Return as if you had left.
Here are five things to help you.
Meantime if you haven’t already, you know what to do ⤵️
Reflect: A lot can be learned by reflecting on past experiences. Cast yourself back to your last break from work and your subsequent first day back.
What was great about it? Why?
What wasn’t perfect? Why?
What two things can you do next time around to make your return the way you want it?
Read: Over 40% of people dread returning to work after a break and leaders are not immune. Alyse Kalish has some useful tips about how to ease yourself in and minimize internal anxiety.
Energise: It’s probably obvious that you can’t hit a button and transition between holiday and work mode in a minute. It will take a little time to get back into the swing of things, no matter how much support you have around you. Struggling to focus, wavering concentration and mid-afternoon tiredness are common.
How do you want to feel on your first day back?
What would you have to put in place to believe you feel this way?
What brings you energy that you can build into your first day back?
Model: Tempting as it might be to log in the day before and arrive fully briefed and ready to go, the way you behave will be replicated by those you lead and set unwritten expectations that stretch beyond your team. Your last day of your holiday is your last day of your holiday. Not your first day back.
What do you want your team to see in you?
What culture could this create?
What specific behaviours, attitudes and beliefs do you need to possess and demonstrate to make that happen?
What 3 actions could you plan to put yourself on that path?
Be intentional: Very few leaders would say that managing their email is their most important responsibility, yet for many it’s still the first point of action when returning from a break.
On your first day back your energy will need maintaining too, and clearing your emails is unlikely to do that. Think about what energizes you at work, where you are really needed, and what those around you need from you.
Thinking ahead, what would your first morning or day back at work look like?
Who are the key people you need to interact with? In what sequence?
What are your largest priorities right how? How does your first day back plan reflect those?
Know another leader who needs this? This post is free, and public, so feel free to share it.
If you’ve enjoyed this week’s issue please hit the 🤍 button below so more leaders can find it.