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You Want Me to Do Your Work AND Mine?: Guiding Questions for Pre-Sabbatical Work Transfer

Allow ample time for a comprehensive work coverage process. You won't want them hooting for you during your sabbatical! Lakes District, Northern England

Let’s face it. When you are away from the workplace on your sabbatical, people will talk about you.

It’s nice to think they are wishing you well on your extraordinary experience and smiling as they tackle their job and part of yours.

But in the preparation for leaving your work behind, a myriad of details can be overwhelming. So, if you haven’t followed a systematic work coverage process those left behind could end up frustrated and/or unhappy.

In your absence, here’s what you don’t want people to say:

  • I’m overwhelmed. He dumped his work and left me to figure it out.
  • I have no clue what I am supposed to do now.
  • I forgot what she said to do about this.
  • Why did my co-worker get to do that part of his job when I really wanted to learn it?
  • I just got a call from a customer and there are no records of this situation.
  • One of our best clients is upset because he didn’t know I was left in charge of his account.

An organized, comprehensive work coverage program will make or break your sabbatical experience. Who wants to return and have to start repairing client relationships or trying to salvage a deal?

And once a couple of bad experiences happen in work coverage, the stories fly through the organization fringed with warnings of “don’t become a work coverage partner!”

A great process takes time and begins two to three months before IT changes your password so you can’t get in email while you’re away. (You didn’t know that was going to happen?)

The Ways of Work Coverage

Perhaps you have negotiated your own sabbatical. Great! Or maybe your company has a sabbatical program in place and it’s your turn. Cheers for you! (And your forward-thinking company!)

No matter how individuals arrive at the precipice of leaving the workplace behind, they have a top worry and it’s not around plane connections in Greenland or what to wear to the TedXBroadway.

Nor is it about inevitable ‘feeling out of the loop after you get back’ (that’s a second worry).

The number one worry of those preparing for a sabbatical is no surprise. Our work flow and the quality of that work keep us up at night.

Will my work get done while I am gone?

Will my clients be served?

Will that new business move forward?

A good work coverage plan eliminates 99% of this worry.  (Realistically, there’s still a bit of worry.)

The sabbatical work coverage process isn’t just about you breaking down your job, deciding who will do the work and preparing what you think they need to know.

The bulk of the work centers on work partners concerns and a focus on organizational benefits to be gained.

  • For the Work Coverage Partner: Will I be able to do my job and yours?  How do we make sure those left behind have everything they need to keep the work flowing, continue new work, handle emergencies, expand the work and/or create better ways to do the work?

How can we use the experience to exchange talents, enhance collaboration and communication and increase confident in our department? How can we add to agility, break down silos and build our company’s bench strength for the future?

Questions to Guide the Final Hand Off

A week before you leave, a last meeting with each individual covering your work could reveal one small but important detail that could make the difference in that person’s experience and the outcome of your work. You’ll have time to work it out.

Don’t make this a hurried meeting. Instead huddle with each work coverage partner to find and answer as many questions as possible concerning situations and/or parameters of responsibility.

The following questions we have used with success serve as a springboard for the work transfer dialogue. They can be used in one-on-one or in team setting.

Pre-Sabbatical Work Transfer Conference (Sample Questions)

  • What is the scope of my duties? (Use this meeting to review this question.)
  • What documents, programs, materials, co-workers exist related to this work?
  • To who am I accountable in your absence? How would he/she prefer to be briefed and updated?
  • Who else can help me, provide clarity or answer questions
  • What are the expected milestones, due dates, & deliverables?
  • What decisions am I authorized to make or sign off on?
  • Who should be advised of this delegation of authority?
  • Are there passwords I need?
  • What could go wrong?
  • What are the paths for resolution?
  • How would you like to be debriefed on your return in terms of format and level of detail?
  • What are the deliverables, expected milestones and due dates?
  • Can we go ahead and schedule a debrief meeting for your return?

    Be brave enough to live creatively. Leave the city of comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. - Alan Alda

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