Light load: Writing the perfect holiday handover

With the holiday period looming and team members out or away, workflow gaps can appear which stifle collaboration. Handover notes are a simple way to bridge the gap – if they’re coherent, that is. We look at how to write the perfect handover to keep colleagues on top of other people’s workloads.

A handover is a comprehensive set of notes written by an employee which provides their colleagues with an audit of their workload in their absence. Importantly, a handover must include the status of all active projects, as well as those which may be coming up.

Ideally, it should include the context behind these projects, and details on any projects which may require attention or a specific response if they flare up.

A good handover can be a lifesaver in the absence of a colleague, acting as a go-to reference while that person is out of the office. With well-earned leave time at risk of being disturbed, as well as the proper handling of their workload while they’re away, it’s in an employee’s best interests to write as clear, concise, and comprehensive a handover as possible.

Clearing your workload

The writing of a handover begins well before fingertip hits keyboard, with the minimisation (where possible) of the workload to be communicated in the first place. Tying loose ends proactively on lingering projects, informing any clients or external suppliers of your holiday plans well in advance, and putting in extra hours to bank outputs before you jet are great ways to shrink your workload, skirt the risk of stuff-ups, and shorten the length of any handover notes you need to write.

Detail without waffling

For actual content, concision is key – the objective of any handover should be a bullet point list of actions which is as short but as detailed as possible.

A clear structure will assist in this. Start with the most pressing projects, and list bullets below that, each begun with the name of the person required to action that bullet highlighted. In these bullets, provide all the information necessary to complete the listed action (including key dates and recurrences). Each point should stand up by its own. Fill in the details without waffling.

Preempt your colleagues’ questions or concerns to avoid unnecessarily panicked phone calls at the eleventh hour. Where possible, foresee the files and folders people will need access to in your absence and make them accessible – by clearly labelling them on a cloud-based service (such as Dropbox Business). Within each action, link to the files which may be needed to carry it out.

Move on systematically through your projects and responsibilities in this manner, from most pressing to least. A handover isn’t a place to show off to people who busy or valuable to the business you are – honesty is vital. Don’t overinflate tasks which don’t need to be – instead be transparent to ensure your workload is entrusted properly.

Handing it over

The execution of the perfect holiday handover doesn’t end with a bullet list of actions – you need to make sure your handover is clearly received and communicated by those who are required to work off it.

Find time in colleague’s diaries to talk through each project, ideally in project-based groups. Follow this up with printing, emailing, or otherwise circulating both a soft and hard copy of your handover notes to your colleagues and seniors. Expect questions and texts to come through in the first few days of your leave.

Done properly, a holiday handover can save your colleagues from confusion, your holiday from interruption, and your return from headache – handle with care.