Beating Holiday Hangover at Work: All it Takes is a Plan, a Purpose, a Project

HR can help ease the "hangover" employees have when coming back to work after a long holiday off.

Editor’s Note: This is only TLNT’s second holiday season, but there’s a lot of great content you might have missed at this time last year. For the last two weeks we’ve been republishing a “Classic TLNT” holiday post that might help you cope with the season (and your workplace) a little bit better.

You’ve been out of the office for a week and a half and it’s the day before you go back to work. You just spent that time dealing with crazy relatives, fatty foods, crappy travel, and now, you have to go to the office? You need a vacation from your vacation.

Holiday hangover isn’t because of something you drank (though it can be), it comes from being overwhelmed about the stress that can get to you during the holidays. And if you have to add in a bad job, all the worse.

I had a colleague at a company I work for confess that he didn’t like taking vacations because all he thought about leading up to and during it was the fact that he had to come back.

Holiday hangover can be beat, though.

Have a plan

I’ve seen the looks on employee’s faces as they walked in malaise about the week ahead. I’ve been in that boat, too. Unfortunately when you’re in HR or staffing, everyone wants to have a meeting about this year’s staffing levels or about something that happened in the last few weeks that was swept under a rug because of the holidays.

In times like these, it helps to have a plan. Go to bed early (my biggest vice is sleeping in during the holidays) and perhaps grabbing another cup of coffee has always been essential for that first day back.

For your employees though, you can help them out. Don’t overwhelm them with meeting requests the first couple of days back and put off having major decisions made until later that week. You want to have good decisions being made and you want people to adjust to the idea of being back at work. A gentle reminder to managers can be helpful, too.

That being said, it isn’t excuse not to get something done.

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Have a purpose

At  one company I worked for, we had a B2B division and Q1 was an ideal time to sell. In fact, we made almost 75 percent of our sales during the first two quarters. While we didn’t mind if people took it easy in December, January was a pretty critical time. The best thing you can do during that is reemphasize the goals of the coming months and go over some of the strategies that you developed in the previous months.

The expectations game can be had in HR departments too. For example, we knew we were going to be shopping benefits that year. We started planning out touch points during the coming months that would keep us on track for a successful process. We had a couple of immediate actions as well as ones for every month until renewal and roll out.

Have a project

Depending on the way the workload is handled at your workplace, January is a great time to start a project. Most of the month of January was pretty slow when I was in HR, so I would use that as an opportunity to schedule a project. I’ve done full file audits, training courses and the like in January because much of my slate was clean from previous months.

Even with jobs that I wasn’t incredibly excited about, this gave me ample opportunity to focus on a task and accomplish something big. Some of those projects turned out to be useful to future employers too, so it helped my career as well.

I’ve also found this time of year is a great time to connect with employees. The time away from work can be a great time to gather feedback about work. Not only is the every day familiarity gone with some time off but it is likely that many of your employees talked to family members about work. That can make them contemplative about workplace issues.

Plug into work

In any case, it’s all about plugging into work and making the transition to the long stretch many of us have in between New Year Day and Memorial Day. It doesn’t need to be jarring or difficult if you ease into it. And if you are dealing with that holiday hangover at work, I can guarantee some of your employees are too, so make some time to help them and their managers get something accomplished.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.