Getting back

The Olympics may have concluded this past week, but September is the month for government triathletes returning from August vacations. There's the race to get supplies for kids going back to school, the uphill climb to finish year-end reports and the dive into new fiscal year program plans.

Getting back in the groove at the office can be stressful. Although it's not always possible to ease back into the job, anticipation and preparation are critical to readjusting, said.

Anne Kelly, chief executive officer and director of the Federal Consulting Group, a franchise of the Treasury Department.

"The first day back from vacation can be a nightmare," Kelly said. "Managing yourself is a component of managing overload."

Her tips are to develop a mind-set and, as you drive to the office, mentally prepare yourself for what lies ahead. Have a plan to get control of the situation. For example, begin by checking voice messages then e-mails, return important calls and then approach first tasks.

Taking time off to refresh is important. And taking care of yourself when returning is important, too. If you begin to feel overwhelmed, take a break.

"There are things managers can do to help, too." said Kathie Lingle, director of the Alliance for Work-Life Progress, an association of public- and private-sector work life professionals. "Not scheduling meetings with people on the first day back and not sending e-mails to them lets people get a grip before the real world starts crashing in."

But not all stress is bad, Lingle adds. Stress can help a person turn the edge on a tough assignment. "What is demolishing is the feeling of lack of control," she said. "People who have a sense of control have a sense of empowerment at work."

Teleworking, Lingle said, is one way people can feel in control. "Telework is a way to undo stress at its root."

And it's not only what you do but what you don't do that can help. For example, avoid excess: eating, drinking or doing anything too much. Maybe for government triathletes the start of a new fiscal year is a good time for federal New Year's resolutions — personal ones, not just programmatic. If you have ideas on how to relieve stress, send me an e-mail so I can share your tips with other readers.

Get life insurance

During September, you can enroll, increase or change your current coverage for Federal Employees Group Life Insurance without having a physical or answering any questions about your health. However, federal retirees cannot participate in the insurance plan. Use an interactive worksheet to estimate life insurance needs and a calculator to price coverage at www.fegli2004.opm.gov.

Feedback

Telecommuting, or the lack thereof, is on readers' minds. One wrote that telework is not allowed in some regional offices such as the Agriculture Department's office in Fort Collins, Colo. Another said officials at the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services have recently limited telecommuting to one day a week.

Welles is a retired federal employee who has also worked in the private sector. She lives in Bethesda, Md., and writes about work life topics for Federal Computer Week.

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