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Tuesday, 29 August, 2000, 12:55 GMT 13:55 UK
Beating post-holiday blues

As we plunge headlong into September, many workers returning from summer breaks will be wondering how to beat those post-holiday blues.

One minute it's all Greek salad days, sun tan lotion and sand between your toes, the next you're battling through the rush hour to a desk groaning under the weight of a packed in-tray.

"Hang on! This isn't Ibiza!"
For many Britons the August Bank Holiday is the death knell of summer - its passing signals a return to work without another break until Christmas.

While some may be eager to get back to the fray - for instance Prime Minister Tony Blair has seen his government's popularity rise in the polls during his holiday - most of us will be fighting a bad case of the post-holiday blues.

In a recent survey of workers around the world, it was found that the British are particularly unhappy in their jobs. Two-thirds said they dreaded Monday mornings.

A Monday morning after a holiday can be a cause for even greater depression, says Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology.

Mr Cooper says 76% of returning employees estimate their stress levels are back to pre-holiday highs within a week of returning to work.

Pig on a desk
Clear your desk of only the important things
This is partly due to the changing face of the UK economy. Where once factories closed for the annual holiday and slowly came to life in autumn, today's service industries whirl away 24/7, obliging returnees to hit the ground running.

Mr Cooper says this sudden change between holiday and work is a difficult adjustment, but can be managed in a few simple steps.

  • Stay in the holiday mood. Although your boss is not going to let you enjoy lie-ins or siestas, you shouldn't abandon the rhythm of your holiday altogether.

    Even if you have a mountain of work awaiting your return set a work "exit" time - say 5pm - and stick to it. Don't be tempted to stay late catching up.

    If you've been enjoying an activity such as swimming during you holiday, try to work it into your week.

  • Prioritise your work. Only tackle the really important tasks during your first few days. Colleagues may welcome your return with a deluge of "urgent" requests but "people are going to have to wait", says Mr Cooper.

  • End the tyranny of your e-mail inbox. British workers are said to send and receive 190 e-mails a day. A two-week break could leave you wading through upwards of 1,000 electronic messages.

    PM Tony Blair
    "Only 2,500 e-mails still to read."
    Mr Cooper - who had 175 e-mails awaiting him after the bank holiday - says we should not feel pressured into responding to every item.

    "We're overloaded with electronic messages. Colleagues send and send and send. Much of it is trivial and can wait."

  • Take a break. It may not be a substitute for dozing on a Mediterranean beach, but an hour in the canteen or five minutes by the water cooler can help keep you sane.

  • Plan more leave. Mr Cooper says more and more of us are neglecting to take our full holiday entitlement. With four busy months before Christmas, it could be worth taking some days off.

    Better still, he suggests lobbying our bosses for a extra bank holiday in the run-up to the festive season and another after January.

    "The UK lags behind the rest of Europe in terms of public holidays. We have eight, the French and Germans have around 14 and the Italians 16!"

    Brighton beach huts
    "Oh, the guilt."

  • Don't feel guilty. It's bad enough missing your sun lounger and 800-page beach novel, don't make it worse by feeling guilty for leaving your colleagues in the "lurch" while you were gone.

    Battling to make up for "slacking off" on holiday is a sure way to increase your stress levels.

Of course, your boss is not responsible for all the factors which contribute to post-holiday blues.

Autumn brings falling leaves, sliding temperatures and dark mornings.

Corfu, anyone?

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