Whether you are preparing to welcome a child, or simply taking leave for personal or familial reasons, ensuring a smooth transition of your workload to your coworkers means your clients and customers will not experience a disruption in the services your organization provides them. Your preparation will help maintain their confidence and loyalty to you, so it’s important to plan your transition with foresight and thoroughness. These six steps will help you adequately prepare for your extended leave so that you can enjoy your time off without worrying about any loose threads.
1. Define the Job
List all your responsibilities and when they occur (Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly). Next, list the resources you need for each, including related contingencies. To whom do you report and what? Who reports to you and what do you need from them? What programs, organizations, schedules, etc, do you rely upon to complete your work? What information or pieces of work product do you need to receive prior to producing your part of the work?
2. Find a Temporary Replacement
Once you have a complete understanding of “your job”, begin to identify potential replacements within your organization. Who would be best qualified? Who is able to complete your job with the least amount of training? Choose someone who can maintain and enhance your relationships while you’re gone to ensure smooth transitions inside and outside of your organization. The better they get along with outside players, the more confidence those parties will have that your organization is well-run and the better chance they will continue to do business with you. Meet with all internal invested parties, including supervisors, if applicable, to review your list for completeness and accuracy. Incorporate their comments as appropriate.
3. Create a Training Plan
It’s daunting to contemplate doing any extra work while you’re pregnant, but for a smooth transition, it’s necessary. By starting the training process early, you can spread out the training so that you can maintain a comfortable pace for you and your growing body. Because you will be tired. And “pregnancy brain” is real. It’s also important to start early because no matter what you’re planning or how healthy you are, you could always go into labor sooner than full-term, and you don’t want to leave your team scrambling to cover your responsibilities.
Start by devising a timeline to transfer knowledge and take over responsibilities. Depending on the complexity of your work, you may consider a phase in/out period during which you share responsibilities so that you can ensure that person completes the work correctly and to your satisfaction. At this stage, engage the critical and invested parties again to ensure completeness and appropriateness of your plan. Put the plan in writing and specify what activities will occur and when they should occur. Be realistic and leave some “wiggle room” for adjustment. Schedule periodic meetings to ensure that you’re following your transition plan. During these meetings, review the requirements and whether they are being met in a timely and appropriate manner. Be sure that you are both exchanging feedback and be flexible in adjusting the plan as you go.
4. Inform the Necessary Parties of Your Leave
It’s important to create an internal and external communications plan to ensure that both your colleagues and your clients/customers are in the loop so that no one is left feeling lost. You’ll want to include when you’ll be out of office, for how long, who they should contact for what items while you’re away, and what level of communication, if any, they should expect from you. If appropriate, and if you’re comfortable with it, give the reason for your temporary absence. It’s best to communicate your upcoming leave via email, but depending on who you’re trying to reach, a personal phone call may be more appropriate.
For internal parties, let people know as soon as you want, but not later than what is necessary for them to adjust their work. For external parties, those with whom you interact frequently, let them know about a week or two before you expect your replacement to begin sharing your responsibilities, and inform them of when you expect the transition to be complete. For those you only interact with occasionally, about 1 – 3 weeks’ notice should suffice.
5. Complete the hand-off
Coordinate with your supervisor and any other critical partners to review the successful implementation of the transition plan. If necessary, address any shortfalls and create a plan for correcting them. Rinse and repeat meetings until you can sign off on the transition.
6. Enjoy your parental leave!