Post-vacation syndrome (PVS), also known as post-vacation blues and post-travel depression, is one of the direct and most obvious consequences of the end of the summer season. Although there are many who begin to show symptoms at the end of August, it does not reach the maximum peak of cases until the beginning of September. A date when it becomes a trending topic, both in conversations between co-workers and in the media, filling their pages with flashy headlines about this issue.
Indeed, PVS should be taken seriously as a warning about the health status of the employees and their occupational situation. Indeed, it is the organization’s responsibility to adopt measures aimed at promoting and guaranteeing employee well-being, thus limiting the emergence of possible complications derived from post-vacation blues.
Remote and hybrid work emerge as possible solutions to mitigate the effects of this syndrome and make working conditions more flexible, thus guaranteeing a more bearable return to the daily grind. If you want to know more about post-vacation syndrome, its main symptoms and how remote work can help minimize its impact, don’t miss this article that reveals all you need to know.
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Getting back to routine after the holidays, especially after the summer months, can trigger numerous ailments such as fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, and stress. If we also consider the number of workers who have had to return to their full-time jobs in person this year, it seems that this month of September is going to be an uphill battle for many.
The dreaded post-vacation syndrome is defined, according to an academic publication for Elsevier, by J.A. Flórez Lozano, from the Department of Medicine, University of Oviedo (Spain) as a “psychological reactivity characterized by boredom, tiredness, disenchantment, inhibition, anhedonia, sadness, general malaise, anxiety, social phobia, etc.”. A problem of the “transient type that can really become something more worrying” if it persists over time, the publication underlines.
Therefore, every individual needs a period of adaptation to change, whether this involves moving from a period of less to greater activity, or vice versa. In the first of the cases, we find situations such as the return to the classroom or to work, as well as reincorporation after maternity or paternity leave and, also, from prolonged sick leave. On the other hand, we refer to post-vacation blues, when changes in rhythm in the activity mean leaving aside the daily routine, mainly work or academic, to rest during the summer holidays.
If we stop to analyze the symptomatology linked to PVS, according to the book ‘Why do we work? Work between stress and happiness’, by Francisco Alonso Fernández, it has a two-layer hierarchy. A mild level of “overwhelming frequency”, affects almost 20% of the working population in the form of physical discomfort, headaches, bodily ailments, behavioral disorders, irritability, anger, or anxiety. In contrast, the moderate level, although less common in the working population (only 3%), presents symptoms comparable to mild partial depression, focused on lack of energy, loss of appetite, and sleep disorders.
symptomatology post vacation blues
How can we prevent post-vacation syndrome?
Although the PVS is a benign and transitory condition, companies must adopt measures to heed this type of warning that affects employee health. Reviewing the occupational situation and adopting measures aimed at better protection against the emergence of possible complications, must prevail when it comes to ensuring worker well-being. Among the means available to facilitate or ensure a seamless return to work, we can highlight:
1. Balanced and healthy summer rest period
This means maintaining a balanced diet and limiting the intake of sugars, alcohol, and caffeine. Alcohol acts as a depressant of the central nervous system, slowing down its activity and, in addition, can exacerbate the symptoms of post-vacation blues. Furthermore, caffeine, present in coffee and other beverages, is a stimulant that contributes to increasing the feeling of stress or anxiety, as is the case with sugar. Limiting the consumption of these substances and opting to do sporting activities is highly recommended since it helps release endorphins that provide a feeling of fullness and well-being.
2. Gradual adaptation to work
Experts recommend having a couple of days off before returning to work. This helps employees to prepare themselves mentally for the return to the daily routine associated with their work life and put everything in order after their return from vacation. In this sense, remote working can become a great ally when it comes to reducing the effects of post-vacation blues. The flexibility that it provides, together with a better work-life balance, and less stress are benefits that improve the mental and physical well-being of the worker. This is due to the fact that employees can carry out their professional activity from home, in a safe environment that provides them with emotional well-being, with greater freedom of time that allows them to successfully balance their professional and personal lives.
3. Preventive guidelines
Adequate compliance with a series of individual preventive guidelines based on an active and regular life plan, a sufficient communicative relationship with others and maintaining a healthy sleep routine are vital to minimize the effects of PVS. In addition, the recommendation made by many experts encourages limiting vacation days, as a possible solution to reduce PVS. Thus, it would be advisable for the worker to divide vacations into periods of approximately 10 days, and not enjoy vacation periods that are too long, such as a full month, which contribute to increasing the symptoms of this disorder.
Remote work: a possible solution to post-vacation syndrome
The pandemic derived from COVID-19 forced many companies to accelerate their digitization process. A race against time to find technological solutions that would enable the creation of 100% digital work environments, facilitating the performance of professional activity remotely, and with a high degree of customization.
However, over time the remote working “boom” has deflated in some cases, as governments and companies have reduced restrictions in the workplace; while in others it has gained momentum, such as in Portugal, where the government wants to turn the country into a mecca for remote work.
In the case of Europe and according to a study published by the National Observatory of technology and society (ONTSI), even though the most severe restrictions against COVID-19 have been eliminated, some countries have increased the average number of weekly hours dedicated to remote work. Thus, during 2021, the average number of hours grew in Austria (12.5%), Cyprus (12%), Denmark (12.3%), Slovakia (10.6%), Estonia (15.3%), Finland (19.7%), France (18.6%), Greece (10%), Latvia (14.9%), Lithuania (16.4), Malta (14.7%), the Netherlands (19, 6%), Poland (15.9%), Portugal (17.3%) and Romania (11.2%), compared to the previous year. In contrast, other countries have experienced a slight reduction in the average number of hours (it does not exceed 4%), as is the case of Germany (12.4%), Austria (12.5%), Sweden (14.1% ) Italy (15.3%), Belgium (12.3%), Luxembourg (21%) and Spain (15.1%).
On the other hand, according to a study carried out by The Adecco Group entitled Remote Work in Western Europe, the number of job offers that included the term “remote work” during 2021 skyrocketed compared to 2019. This study channels the effect that the pandemic has had on working remotely, specifically, on the online job offers published in six Western European countries: Germany, the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Italy. Among the conclusions drawn in the document, it is highlighted how in the six countries studied, the number of job offers that included “remote work” grew by 126% between May 2020 and April 2021, with respect to the previous year. In addition, the report estimates that around 36% of jobs can be carried out completely remotely, compared to the remaining 64% that offer a hybrid modality.
All these figures show that remote work is on the rise, in the face of a labor market that demands greater flexibility from companies, as well as more inclusive work environments and an increase in digital capabilities. So much so that, according to the 2021 Hopes & Fears Survey report prepared by the international consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which studies the opinion of 32,500 workers from 19 countries, 72% opt for a combination of face-to-face and virtual work. In addition, the report highlights that 72% of those surveyed, who have worked remotely during the pandemic, prefer a hybrid way of working, compared to 9% who opt for completely presential work.
In short, everything suggests that in the coming years, companies, institutions and public and private organizations, will have to offer more flexible work formulas that support remote working and greater flexibility. Two issues that require the implementation of technologies, such as digital transformation platforms, which allow the creation of digital workspaces, aimed at promoting collaboration and teamwork, as well as increasing employee productivity.