Holiday Handovers

Friday at last… This week has been busier than usual, the signs clearly visible in my swollen eye-lids… or not so clearly visible. Let’s just say, swollen lids with blood shot eyes do not a pretty picture make… in fact it’s downright creepy. Here’s hoping next week isn’t as hectic so I can give my eyes and myself some much needed shut-eye. That’s not likely to happen though since it’s been a bit of a struggle to get back into the regular work routine post Ramadan working hours, the extra two hours seem like an eternity at the end of the day. The additional workload also doesn’t help, and while next week one set of people are back from vacation, another set are already on their way. I think I need a break from everyone else’s breaks. While I do have stash of pending vacations, I don’t have any viable time to take them. If I can make it to October, I’m thinking I’ll just club them with the next Eid. To do that of course means spending a good whole month convincing people to cover for me and then trying to cover weeks’ worth of handover in a few hours after they’re forced to accept the unpleasant reality that I too might need a vacation. I’m the rare breed of employee that shudders at the thought of taking my work home with me and would rather ditch my mobile than have the office install the work email client on it…which makes me wonder… are there any organizations with a holiday handover process that doesn’t involve taking your work with you?

What I would like my handover to look like (if the hand over-ee would have the patience to sit still and listen) would be a one-on-one session in which I’d be able to handover a complete plan of what needs to be done in my absence. So what would said plan look like? Well, it would be an action plan of sorts with a list of tasks to be done, contact details of potential customers, clients, suppliers etc, deadlines for completion along with any documentation they’d need and of course…never forget… the consequences if the tasks were not delivered as per schedule. Let’s face it, not everything that needs to be done is mission critical, so it’s key in any handover to prioritize your list because the person you’re handing over to has additional responsibilities and doesn’t have time to figure out which ball they can drop without creating too many ripples. Then comes the prerequisite out of office message. I say prerequisite, but I’ve come across far too many generic out of office messages (some with dates of the holiday last year) to realize that not all people attach the same level importance to an out of office message as I do. It’s important to be specific. Nobody cares where you’ve gone, they just need to know who they need to get in touch with so that work will continue as usual in your absence. A personal email to your most important clients would be even better. A little effort before your holiday goes a long way to ensure that once you’re back you’re not swamped with emails and complaints from clients (hopefully not your manager) that nothing has progressed as it should have. Ultimately, what you’re aiming is to give your colleagues the kind of handover you’d like to get yourselves (unless of course one of those people who pray they never have to cover for anyone).

Holiday handovers are just the tip of the ice-berg, to be honest. More critical handovers are ones that need to take place (and often don’t) when employees leave the business. Most companies fail to recognize that without an efficient handover process, losing an employee means losing the information in their head. A robust documentation procedure helps to minimize the disruption when employees leave, but documentation can only do so much and isn’t a replacement for experience. I’ve seen this happen twice myself and it makes me think that a company without a sound handover process can’t have much of succession planning process in place either. The long-term success of a company depends on its ability to ensure that no employee is indispensable, which can only be done through good succession planning and well-organized handovers.

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