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Holidays ending and back to work? It might be even harder than usual

Returning to work after a holiday is never easy. This year the coronavirus and telecommuting may make it even tougher.

Retrieverin media-analyysipäällikkö Sanna Kranjc
The transition from vacation to work in the same space did not feel like starting work again, says Sanna Kranjc. Image: Berislav Jurišić / Yle

This year, for many people going back to work after a summer holiday will not mean changing into business clothes and making the commute to an office.

Instead, it is more likely to happen sitting at the kitchen table or on the sofa at home with a laptop.

And for some people, making the transition from free time to company time under these circumstances may be really difficult.

Some of us find telecommuting a good fit, but not meeting colleagues face to face can also have negative effects, says occupational psychologist Liisa Uusitalo-Arola.

Story continues after the photo.

Psykologi Liisa Uusitalo-Arola.
Occupational psychologist Liisa Uusitalo-Arola mostly works from home, and in recent months her level of telecommuting has increased even more. Image: Sasha Silvala / Yle

"People start to feel that they are drifting away from their work community. We all need the support of a professional work community and this is an important part of life for an adult. When the connection there is eroded, the person is left much more on their own," Uusitalo-Arola explains.

Energy from co-workers

For Helsinki resident Sanna Kranjc the summer vacation was a time to rest and recharge, even though a planned trip to Mexico was cancelled and the family spent part of the summer with their grandmother in Slovenia.

The family spent quarantine after the trip to their grandmother's at home in Helsinki. Kranjc also worked during that time, at home, for the first week following her vacation. The transition from vacation to work in the same space did not feel like returning to her job.

"The first week was a time of reorientation. It only felt like actually returning to work when I got back to the office," says Kranjc.

In mid-July, she returned to her workplace in the offices of the media monitoring company Retriever in the centre of Helsinki.

Story continues after the photo.

Retrieverin media-analyysipäällikkö Sanna Kranjc
According to Sanna Kranjc, mandatory telecommuting has also been beneficial, as remote working practices have now been improved in many workplaces. Image: Berislav Jurišić / Yle

Interacting face to face with co-workers has been refreshing after a long break.

"It's nice to have co-workers around, and a bigger team working on the same thing. It increases the appeal of work in a completely different way when there is a good atmosphere," she explains.

Telecommuting was most difficult for Kranjc at the beginning of the pandemic in the spring, when her four-year-old was at home and both she and her spouse were working there too.

"I was really pleased when the daycare opened and now appreciate early childhood education in a completely different way, also from the child's perspective. It was nice, of course, that there was more time together, but it’s easier when you get to focus on work and family separately," Kranjc adds.

The uncertainty factor

Although many people have already become accustomed to these exceptional circumstances and have created new routines, uncertainties about a return to more normal daily life can take a toll, says occupational psychologist Uusitalo-Arola.

"When this situation began, the very first reaction for many was alarm. After that, we started to adapt and think about how practical things work. We are now at a stage where many people can talk about prolonged stress, and it has a wide range of health effects," Uusitalo-Arola explains.

On the other hand, many have already gained experience of telecommuting and that can help with the return from vacation.

"Now is a good time to remember the experiences of working during the spring and think about what worked for your and what you would like to do differently now," Uusitalo-Arola suggests.

Remote coffee breaks

When telecommuting, working time and your own personal time have to be somehow kept separate. Uusitalo-Arola advises that when the work day is over, it would be best to put your computer and work phone out of sight

She herself mostly works from home, and has found that telecommuting can increase the workload. As an example, she's says that online training for large groups requires a different kind of effort.

Story continues after the photo.

Psykologi Liisa Uusitalo-Arola.
When telecommuting, working time and one's own time must be clearly separated somehow, says Liisa Uusitalo-Arola. Image: Sasha Silvala / Yle

"When not in the same space, emotional work is emphasised as you have to keep in mind people you can't see. It's a heavier burden than doing it in person," she points out.

Still, when telecommuting you can enjoy working together with colleagues and take joint coffee breaks, even if you are not in the same physical space, Uusitalo-Arola suggests.

"My job involves a lot of writing and I hold writing sessions with my friends. We watch the clock and have a time for intensive writing, and a time for a remote coffee break. You can open up a chat window at a set time so you can vent your emotions," she explains.

For Sanna Kranjc, the social side of the job is so important that she doesn’t plan to do any more telecommuting than a couple of days a month, when that becomes possible again.

"It's nice to do them occasionally, now it has felt like a little too much to be at home all the time,” Kranjc says.

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