Were you filled with dread on Sunday night, knowing you “had” to go back to work the next day? 

Have you “survived” your first week back on deck? 

Not so Ai Group’s National Manager – Work Health Safety Consulting Services Trinette Jaeschke, who returned from annual leave refreshed, relishing the thought of reconnecting with colleagues and ready to reflect on the year just gone and the one ahead. 

“Before I even go on leave, I establish a plan about how I will return to work and the very first thing I do is block out the first day,” she says. 

“On Monday, when I came back to work, I didn’t have anything booked at all. That was my ease-in day.  

“I always spend my first day back at work doing a lot of reflection. I reflect on the year that has passed, not only on work goals but I went through our business plan to see if it was still relevant and whether we were on track. 

“I look at the types of things I need to plan in terms of our team moving forward. I also look at my own personal goals outside of work.  

“I ask myself: ‘What have I done in the past 12 months that has worked really well?’ 

“I think about all the challenges I’ve faced and all the skills and strengths that worked brilliantly.  

“Then I look at the areas which possibly didn’t go the best and consider what I can do to improve it. This gives a solid framework for setting personal goals. You can do the same with work goals. It’s what I focus on during my first day when I come back.” 

Focus on the positive, Ms Jaeschke says. 

“There are a lot of people who have that dread before going back to work so I purposely think about all the positive things that I love about my job,” she said. 

“I think about how great it will be to hear the stories of my team and what they’ve done. 

“Think about all the positive aspects of your job; all the reasons you love it and what it is that draws you to it. That positive mindset is important. 

“When you go back into your office — in the workplace or at home — it’s also satisfying to declutter and start afresh. That’s a great way to feel like you've accomplished something.” 

What else does our wellness guru do to turn back-to-work dread into delight? 

  • Prepare healthy meals ahead of time. “You’re usually pretty exhausted by the end of the first day or week. Make sure you’ve done the shopping so you’re not scrambling to work out what you’re going to eat.” 
  • Get back into the routine you usually follow — get up at the right time, have breakfast, and move your body.  
  • Forget about New Year’s resolutions. “It’s better to find small habits you would like to change in a positive way. This is more sustainable over the long term and will improve your performance at work or your relationships.”  
  • Ease back into work. “I spend most of my first day back connecting with people,” Ms Jaeschke says. “This is important because you’ve been away from them. Reconnecting can really boost your mood.” 
  • Take breaks. “Establish a good routine about taking breaks. If you are working from home, consider taking active breaks: prune a rosebush, check in on a neighbour, do a quick workout. Little things like that provide a good mind break.” 

Take these tips on board if your first day is yet to come!  

How to work through those New Year's fears

Wendy Larter

Wendy Larter is the Senior Content Writer at Ai Group. She is a journalist with more than 20 years’ experience as a reporter, features writer, contributor and sub-editor for newspapers and magazines including The Courier-Mail in Brisbane and Metro, News of the World, The Times and Elle in the UK.