While suntan lotion, insect repellent and a new swimming costume should be on your holiday checklist, a comprehensive handover should be at the very top. Proper preparation will allow you to relax while you’re away knowing that your projects are in capable hands, as well as making your return to work easier.
So how do you prepare a good handover and make sure everything goes smoothly? Here are our tips.
It’s always good to let your colleagues know when you’ve got a holiday planned. Create a calendar event once you know what dates you’ll be away and share it with your team so they are aware as well. You should also check in with all your clients and stakeholders before leaving and make sure they know who to speak to about ongoing projects in your absence.
Start writing the handover a week before you leave, not the day before. This way you’re not doing it at the last minute, and your colleagues will have time to get back to you with any questions.
Leave well-defined instructions for your colleagues – avoid abbreviations and shorthand to make sure there are no misunderstandings while you’re away. Make it clear which of your team will be responsible for each task.
While it’s important for your instructions to be precise, make sure you don’t go into too much detail or you’ll run the risk of sounding patronising. Your colleagues know what you mean when you say “Deliver quote to finance”; you don’t have to include the part about sending it to the upstairs printer and making sure it goes in the third inbox on the left.
While you might know what tasks are the most important, your colleagues may not. Make sure you identify what absolutely must be done and what is less of a priority. Remember that your colleagues will have their own work to do in addition to covering for you, so you don’t want them to waste time on something unimportant.
Be a team player
It might be tempting to let your department fall apart while you’re away by leaving things off your handover – or not creating one at all – in the hope that it will make your team appreciate you more when you return. In fact, this will have the opposite effect, as your colleagues will be likely to resent you for causing problems and seeming selfish.
Make the handover in person
Once you’ve written your handover, give it to your colleagues in person so that you can go through it and answer any questions they might have. You can discuss it with each of them individually or meet them all at once.
Tie up loose ends
Make sure you get as much done before you leave as you can to reduce the workload you’re handing over to your colleagues. You want to ensure that you’re giving them a reasonable amount of work to do, not piling on projects on which you’ve been procrastinating.
Don’t forget to set up an out-of-office email before you leave. It should include the dates you’ll be away, when to expect a response and who to contact about urgent matters in your absence. If multiple colleagues are covering various projects, you may want to list them so clients will know who to contact directly.
You may also consider adding the dates you’ll be away to your signature in the week leading up to your holiday, as a way of making sure everyone you regularly email has advance warning.
On your return, meet your colleagues and get an update on what they’ve done while you were away. Remember, things won’t be done exactly your way, so it’s important that you understand what remains to be done now that you’re back.
It’s also always nice to bring some local treats to thank your colleagues as well – everyone will be a lot happier to cover for you next time if you offer them some exotic chocolate!