On my first day at a new job, help me deal gracefully with jetlag.
March 21, 2011 12:02 AM   Subscribe

I'll be jetlagged for the first day (and week) at my new job. Help me deal with this gracefully in my new workplace.

I'm looking for help on how to deal with my inevitable jetlag with new bosses and among new colleagues. If you have jetlag advice that's specific to workplace etiquette, I'd appreciate hearing it. Mostly, I'm looking for advice on the interpersonal side of the situation.

I'm returning to NYC tonight from a week in Europe, and headed to my new job tomorrow morning. My trip has been an intense week of visits with relatives before I jump into a job that won't have a lot of vacation time. (If it had been less intense, I probably would have thought of posting this question sooner.)

My new bosses (I have two) will know that I've been away until the last minute; they asked me to start sooner than we had initially discussed because of a project beginning this week that they want me to be involved in. I'm very excited to be there and hope that adrenalin will do some of the work of keeping me awake and alert. I've read other posts here about jetlag and it seems that coffee and getting outside to walk in the sun are my main antidotes to feeling sleepy. I've tried to give in to my desire for naps as much as possible during my trip in order to make it easier to transition back to NYC time.

What do I say if I absolutely need to go for a walk or I'll fall asleep at my new desk? What do I do if I'm sitting in a meeting and fear I can't stay awake? What if I run into a new colleague while I'm headed out for a walk in the middle of my first day/week? What else should I be prepared for?

(As for the coffee and sunshine: I'm planning to bring some strong coffee from home since I won't know where the coffee at work is located relative to my new office. The weather report says there will be sun on Tuesday. What else can I do?)
posted by paindemie to Work & Money (11 answers total)
For me, keeping hydrated is essential to being on my game. Coffee is a diuretic, so you may want to alternate with water. I'd also favor protein over carbs when eating.

Good luck with the job!
posted by 6:1 at 12:28 AM on March 21, 2011

During meetings, sip really ice cold water constantly. That should stop you from actually nodding off, if that's a danger.

Tell everyone about your jet lag whenever it is appropriate. If they see you yawn, or head for a walk, just explain.

Otherwise, can you work flex time that week? My jet lag often means I wake up very early and get sleepy around 4pm. If your workplace allows, maybe you can come in at 7am and leave early?
posted by lollusc at 12:49 AM on March 21, 2011

Make one brief apology/explanation for your jetlag, but don't keep bringing it up. If you want to come across as resilient and hard-working, it's actually better to understate your level of impairment, even if you're visibly exhausted. That way, you seem like you're coping well with hardship, rather than crumbling under the slightest strain. I work shifts, and it's a sort of unwritten rule that you don't complain about how tired you are. You might look like the living dead, you might be struggling not to nodd off at your desk, but if someone asks, you say, "Oh, a bit shift-lagged but I'm doing great!"

Be careful what you eat. Last time I had serious jet lag, I noticed that anything I ate at times when my body wanted to be asleep would just...sit there, instead of being digested at the usual pace. So for the sake of your co-workers, don't eat anything that's strong-smelling or likely to give you gas. Incidentally, I've found food to be a good treatment for jetlag - not what you eat, but when. Basically, if you stop eating early in the afternoon at your new location, it might help re-set your body clock.
posted by embrangled at 1:03 AM on March 21, 2011

I wouldn't worry about it. You're heading from Europe to NYC which right now is a 5 hour shift. (4 if you've been in the UK or Portugal) When you get to work around 8AM it will seem like 1 PM so you should be wide awake. When you leave around 6 PM it will seem like 11 PM, just about time to go to sleep. Your productive hours at work should just be a bit timeshifted from your normal productive hours. I've done this journey a lot and I really didn't notice the jet lag heading west. You just find that you are awake really early and get tired fairly early as well. By fairly early I mean 8 PM not 4 PM so you just suffer through forcing yourself to stay awake for a bit and try to sleep as late as you can in the morning.
posted by koolkat at 2:14 AM on March 21, 2011

Also consider the reset-your-circadian-clock-by-not-eating-for ~12 hours-before-landing-in-NY trick. I've found it really helps with the jet lag.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:31 AM on March 21, 2011

I don't get noticeable jet lag going this direction. Other direction is a pain.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 5:55 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Going west is always easier. Just get to bed early, which should be easy, and you'll be fine.
posted by bluedaisy at 6:19 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think you'll be okay, actually. You'll probably be awake earlier than you need to be and you'll probably have a mid-afternoon sag, but I doubt you'll have actual jet lag on this leg of your trip. Going to Europe, yes. Coming back really isn't a big deal at all.
posted by cooker girl at 6:21 AM on March 21, 2011

You might want to be prepared to fend off a few social invitations from new coworkers - lunch plans or happy hour after work, if you think you'll be too tired to participate. If you just say no, you run the risk of setting your reputation as a non-participant, but if you attend you risk falling asleep. Figure out a way to express your delight at being invited, but try to postpone until a better time for you.
posted by CathyG at 7:17 AM on March 21, 2011

Melatonin really can be a huge help in resetting your clock. You can get it over the counter, it isn't expensive, and it's the hormone you produce yourself. I've found it very helpful for getting to sleep earlier, though as others have pointed out, that isn't the problem, really, in this direction.

PS - Drink lots of water! Air travel and coffee will dehydrate you.
posted by ldthomps at 10:35 AM on March 21, 2011

Unless you suffer from really horrendous jetlag, you probably won't be jetlagged for the whole first week of your new job. If my experience is generalizable at all, it will be the first day. If it even directly affects your workday.

An extra cup of coffee, a walk outside, and some advance apologies/forewarnings will probably cover you. Unless you have a history of doing things like falling asleep in meetings, I highly doubt that's going to happen.

The fact that your supervisors already know is definitely a good thing. I see no reason not to explain to other coworkers as well.
posted by Sara C. at 6:00 PM on March 21, 2011

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