Back to life, back to reality … when we return to work without a smile
Back to life, back to reality … when we return to work without a smile

return to work via mass transit after holidaysEach day countless people will return to work after taking some much-needed time off for a summer ‘staycation’ or holiday. But with the arrival of September and the shedding of summer leaves, most of us have now returned to our routines. This means students all over are settling into classes, assignments and tests. They aren’t the only ones grumbling that summer came and went too soon. For many adults, including teachers and parents, there is similar resistance while getting back into work roles.


Why does it seem difficult and discouraging to return to these typical habits and schedules after the holidays? Often, we’re resuming a familiar role … so it should be as natural as getting back on your bike or sleeping in your own bed again, right? This ‘getting back in the saddle’ attitude should be simple and almost trivial, but for many folks, it’s just not. Yes, I get that it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that most of us would rather sleep in, hang out with friends and family while on a beach or near a lake, with BBQ’s and pools as our backdrop instead of classrooms and offices. Of course, most would prefer that environment instead of the hectic routine of running to catch your kids’ school bus or working overtime on a report for a new client.


view from holidays, before a dreaded return to work

I fully understand why it’s hard to return to work and to resume other tasks and responsibilities. The changes can feel tedious, earlier bedtimes, sticking with a more efficient morning ritual, navigating through traffic and other annoying commuting issues.  But even once those boxes have been checked, you may still experience other difficulties such as feeling socially or professionally disconnected, uninspired, or overqualified for your work role. Or it could be something more complicated like returning an emotionally unhealthy or toxic work environment where you’re constantly on edge … or worse.


After being back to work for a week or two or more, if you’re still feeling out of sorts, that might be a gentle reminder from the universe that there’s something deeper at play.


What are some Signs that You May Need a New Role?


It’s hard to avoid calling in sad …

From my experience as a Career Coach with specialization as a Work and Business Psychologist, easily 20% – 30% of my clients who have taken short or long-term disability leave are legitimately suffering from anxiety, depression, burnout, or related issues. What’s troubling is that these problems are often symptoms of what’s happening to them at work. In other words, there is some issue within their work environment that’s contributing to their diminished well-being. It could be a difficult boss; a difficult co-worker, a lack of support or proper tools to do their job. In some cases, they are in a position or on a career path that is unsuitable for them. Occasionally there’s a poor match between them and the management style or organizational culture.

In other cases, there are serious interpersonal problems at play, such as bullying or sexual harassment. When someone is in a role or environment that is a poor match for them, over time, the stress of it can contribute to burnout or other psycho-emotional consequences like anxiety or depression.


Death by 1000 paper cuts really hurts …

For many, dealing with workplace irritations has been minimized and normalized as just ‘part of the job.’ When we get to take a break from things that have been bothering us, those things may feel even worse when we get back to them. It can feel intolerable when we’re trying to tune out unwanted sights, sounds and other distractions. The cognitive load can be heavy. It’s exhausting to get through the day while also remaining productive.


One is Too Lonely

return to work as 'the only' can be hardWhen we take holidays, often we’re able to spend time with people who we like/love – and who enjoy our company. Once we’ve had a reminder of what it’s like to feel welcome, included, and respected … it’s almost painful to give it up. Although Canada is a multicultural society where diversity and inclusion are getting a lot of attention, it’s easy to argue that people from certain cultures are treated better than others. In practice, this means that when one is the only member of an underrepresented group working in an otherwise homogeneous environment, it can be a very isolating experience. Often, the ‘outlier’ is not considered for certain desirable assignments, projects, or promotions. This person may be overlooked as the person who warrants special attention from a mentor or sponsor. On a day-to-day basis in the short-term, this is survivable, but in the longer term, this ends poorly if/when the person becomes underemployed and fails to live up to their personal and financial potential.


This list isn’t exhaustive. There are other subtle signals that may suggest that it’s time to consider greener pastures. If you’re curious, please feel free to reach out for a short and confidential call.


Do you need help navigating the world of work? Contact Dr. Helen today for a free and confidential initial consultation by phoneemail, or via direct message on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn. If something urgent comes up, I’m also available by a voice or video on Magnifi, an expertise-on-demand app.


Have you ever wished you could get inside the head of a hiring manager? You can. Dr. Helen Ofosu is a Career Coach/Counsellor with a difference. She has worked for organizations to create hiring and screening tools. She’s created countless pre-screening tests, interviews, simulations, and role-plays for organizations of all kinds.


Dr. Helen’s training in Industrial and Organizational (I/O) Psychology means she is a genuine expert in evaluating work-related behaviours. She uses those skills to help hiring managers tell the difference between people who say the right things during interviews and people who actually deliver on the job. In other words, Dr. Helen understands first-hand how job candidates are assessed.


More than career coaching, it’s career psychology®.


I/O Advisory Services – Building Resilient Careers and Organizations.

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