5 Tips for Preparing for Leave of Absence

By the time this edition of the Boomer Bulletin is published, I may be enjoying parental leave with my first child. I’ve spent the past few weeks preparing to hand off my job duties to my team so I can enjoy my leave without worrying about clients or projects falling through the cracks.

Whether you’re planning on taking family or medical leave or going on sabbatical, these tips might help you enjoy a seamless transition when you take a leave of absence.

Handoff projects and tasks to the right people

Make a list of the responsibilities associated with your position. This includes ongoing tasks as well as any projects that are seasonal or ad hoc. The list should be as detailed as possible and include information such as essential contacts, resources and deadlines.

If you’ve been in your position for a long time, it can be easy to overlook small tasks or details that have become second nature to you, so make this list throughout your work week or review your calendar to refresh your memory.

Once you’ve made a list, consider who the right person to handle these tasks while you are on leave is. In some cases, one person might be taking on the bulk of your responsibilities. Other times, your workload might be divided up between several other team members. Think carefully about who should handle certain roles and responsibilities. Someone in a similar position may already be familiar with many of your workflows, while other people might have the natural ability to take on specific tasks, but need to shadow you to learn aspects of the job.

Consider regularly scheduled meetings

If you facilitate weekly or monthly meetings, will those meetings be postponed until you return, or will someone else step into the role of the facilitator? Make sure everyone’s calendars are updated in any case.

If you are handing off responsibility for running the meeting, make sure your stand-in knows how to set the agenda, who will take notes during meetings (if necessary), and who should be responsible for establishing next steps and deadlines for any resulting action plans.

Notify clients and regular contacts

Do everything you can to tie up any loose ends with clients or leave detailed instructions for the person who will be handling your clients while you are out. It’s also a good idea to notify clients and other regular contacts in advance so you can assure them that everything is covered and set expectations for when you’ll return.

Whether you call clients personally or send an email or letter, let them know when you expect to return and whom they should contact in your absence. Your clients will appreciate the head up.

Set up out-of-office replies

You’ve let all of your clients and regular contacts know you’ll be out, but what about former clients, potential prospects and other people who might contact you during your leave of absence? It’s important to set up an out-of-office message on your voice mail and email.

It may seem like a simple thing, but if your out-of-office message is unclear or incomplete, it can cause problems while you’re out and when you return. For example, if you don’t clearly state the dates you’ll be gone, people may leave multiple voice mails and emails, clogging your inboxes and making it difficult to catch up when you return.

Include the exact dates of your time off, the reason for your absence (so people don’t think you’re simply on a business trip or at a conference), and who can help while you’re out.

Plan to check emails regularly

Although you’ve notified clients, set up autoresponders and provided contact information for your temporary replacement, you may still receive emails that need to be handled during your leave. If possible, arrange to have your email forwarded or monitored by a team member so these things don’t fall through the cracks. But if that’s not possible (or if you use your work email for personal use), you should plan on checking your email regularly while you are out. How frequently you check in will depend on your unique circumstances, but whatever you decide, make sure you and your manager are on the same page.

Checking email gives you a chance to keep tabs on how things are going in your absence and forward any particularly important emails to the appropriate team member. Just make an effort to avoid getting dragged into actually working while you’re on leave.

Remember, it’s better to plan ahead for a leave of absence than to wind up in crisis mode while you’re trying to focus on life outside of the office. Put a plan in place so you can be gone from and come back to work without worry.

Do you have the skills to manage yourself, your clients and your team?

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