Whether you are due to attend a two-day conference or are off on a two-week holiday, we all experience the inevitable stressor of “who will look after the office during that absence?’

Creating handover notes of key tasks is an essential responsibility for most employees in order to keep the wheels turning efficiently and as seamlessly as possible.

Below are some tips to assist in bringing together the ‘handover’.

1. Plan ahead

Allow plenty of time before the holiday countdown to source cover for the absence; consideration for access rights will need to be thought through.  Ask yourself if your colleague needs access to files, emails, calendars etc.?  If so, get onto IT or provide passwords and log in details.

2. Get organised

Compiling a ‘to do’ list of key tasks that need to be covered is a great place to start. i.e. inbox and diary management; telephone handling, chasing contractors, checking and responding to blogs etc.

3. Put it together

Handover notes should be helpful, clear and concise.  A list of useful contact names and numbers should also be included in the event of unexpected eventualities. Collate notes into a realistic, easy to understand and informative format; think of impending deadlines and priorities that need to be handled and try and complete as much of those tasks as possible, as your colleague will also have their own work to deal with. 

4. Get the boss in on the act

Your manager or boss should review the handover notes to ensure nothing has been overlooked in terms of key responsibilities as the absence can impact on them also.  Give them a copy of the notes so they know what is expected. Showing the notes to the boss/manager shows commitment in ensuring the needs of the company are being met as best as possible during the absence period.


5. Senior colleagues

If work is carried out for more than one manager, let them know of the impending absence and the processes in place and introduce the colleague to them.  Reassuring your colleagues that a full brief has be provided during the absence shows competency.  Perhaps request they deal with non-important tasks themselves.

6. Handover notes

Handover notes should be made available as soon as possible before the event to allow for questions and queries.  Go through the notes with your colleague to allow for questions and, if time permits, have them sit for an hour or so to get a feel for the job at hand.

7. Tie it up

Try to get as much done in the run up to the end of the week to tie up any loose ends, especially if there are projects or reports that have deadlines. Tip: Pre-book meeting rooms and refreshments.

8. Last day

Check everything in the handover notes and make sure files are available.  Check access rights again and remind IT if necessary.  Catch up with your colleague to ask if there are any concerns or questions.  Don’t forget to include list important contact names and numbers. 

9. Out-of-office notifications

Remember to put an informative out of office message on emails and phone, giving the colleague’s name and additional names and number.

10. Relax

Processes are in place and the essentials covered.


 Original content written by SmartPA Partner, Christine Hewitt