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The back to work 'blues are real but can be beaten according to Active+ experts'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Good food, exercise, planning the next holiday - and a supportive employer are all key says top rehab supplier

According to Active+, one of New Zealand’s largest multi-disciplinary rehabilitation suppliers, the first few weeks after the summer holidays are some of the most stressful of the year for Kiwis, causing dramatic mood shifts similar to depression.

On top of the usual back to work blues is the uncertainty still associated with the global pandemic, says the brand, which provides a range of corporate wellness services, to ACC and other New Zealand employers. This means that stress levels are likely to be even higher than previous years.

Erin Holland, Chief of Clinical Services at Active+ and Dr Corne Mackie, an Active+ Director and clinical neuropsychologist have shared their top tips for helping employees get back into the swing of things after a long break.

"Returning to everyday life after the holidays can feel like the day after Christmas. It’s something of a come down," explains Dr Mackie, "Getting back into the routine of work requires an adjustment and can come with a sense of loss. Post-holiday mood changes can share symptoms of depression or anxiety like low mood, sleep difficulties, changes in energy levels, concentration problems, or feeling anxious or worried."

Dr Mackie recommends that employers have a post-holiday engagement strategy in place - to help staff adjust back to work - noting that the efforts generally pay off tenfold in terms of productivity, wellbeing and engagement.

"This could include a range of activities, such as lunchtime exercise or mindfulness groups, engaging employees in creative projects, encouraging employees to maintain work-life balance, team-bonding days, or supporting a meaningful contribution to communities like volunteering projects," she says.

"Not everyone had a happy holiday, and some may have experienced loss, stress, or other challenges," Dr Mackie adds. "It is important to check in with employees. Even with the happy-holiday returnees, a regular check-in will help them feel good and get back into the swing of things."

Erin believes that good nutrition and exercise are both central to maintaining health and happiness at work, and is well worth dedicating some time to.

"Your body is like an engine. In order to run well it needs to have the right fuel and be serviced regularly. Good nutrition and exercise are the foundations of your body running well and supporting you to do your job. Maintaining regular meals that are full of the right things, such as protein, wholegrains and lots of fruit and vegetables mean that your blood sugar levels stay regulated and you don’t experience the "mid-afternoon slump" which can make you feel sluggish and not thinking as well at work.

"Exercising promotes blood flow and that is what keeps your brain, organs and muscles well maintained. A sedentary job can lead to health problems and regular exercise can combat this. Building strong muscles can reduce your risk of injuring yourself at work, help to maintain mood and reduce anxiety and keep you working more productively."

Erin adds that she has been pleased to see more businesses focusing on employee engagement and wellbeing in the wake of the pandemic.

"It’s a great thing to see. We’ve definitely noticed more employers having regular and meaningful conversations with their employees, and thinking about how they can support their health and wellbeing."

"In the past, I think some New Zealand businesses have worried that having a corporate wellness plan in place is going to be this big investment, but that doesn’t have to be the case at all. There are lots of simple and cost effective things that employers can do. Organising different social events that build team rapport and are fun or having regular health and wellbeing challenges are just a couple of ways to keep wellbeing focus at front of mind throughout the year."

Active+ has relationships with a number of large employers and supports Kiwis around the country. It is estimated that the network assists around 3,000 employees per year through 50-60 different corporates.

For more information on Active+, visit

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