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Your solid sabbatical work coverage plan

To have a great sabbatical experience you need to make sure your work is looked after while you’re away. This reduces the stress for you when you leave and when you come back. This also ensures your team are not left unprepared or set up to fail. Most importantly, when the experience is smooth and stress free for everyone, it allows others to follow in your footsteps and take their own well-deserved sabbatical in the future.

Completing your work coverage plan shouldn’t be done in isolation. You should involve your manager and your team so you can come up with creative solutions that will work for everyone and get the work done.

When to start planning

Follow the golden rule of sabbatical planning. The amount of time you start your sabbatical planning should at least double the length of the sabbatical. For example, if your sabbatical is 2 months, you need to start work coverage planning at least 4 months before your departure date.

STEP 1 – Create a Work Log

A few months before your sabbatical, create a list of all the things that happen or need your attention in any given month as well as things that will need attention while you are away. This can include:

  • Key meetings

  • Projects underway

  • Tasks you regularly perform

  • Responsibilities that need to be overseen

  • Key people or clients who you update regularly

  • Deadlines for regular deliverables

  • Events or webinars

Take note of any special information or access that you need to complete the task or responsibility. This could be:

  • System, file, or data access

  • Account access or passwords

  • Permissions or approvals

  • Contact details – internal or external people

STEP 2 – Discuss coverage options

Have a discussion with your manager about how to ensure the work is covered while you are away. Together, you can find solutions. These may include:

  • Putting work on hold during your absence

  • Shifting deadlines or deliverables

  • Having other members of the team split work

  • Hiring freelancers or contractors to cover work

  • Giving opportunities for junior staff to step up and cover some work

  • Asking senior staff to be more involved during your absence

Remember to look for the win-win opportunities

  • For shorter sabbaticals, putting work on hold may be a good option. It will remove the burden of hiring, training, or preparing others to look after the work

  • For longer sabbaticals, hiring contractors may be viable and present an opportunity to use the sabbatical as a trial period of a new hire

  • Ask junior staff if they want the opportunity to have a trial period in a more senior role as part of their career development

  • Look for ways to train and upskill other staff to learn and develop

Once you have agreed the work coverage solution, detail any preparation that will be needed for the person taking over the work. This could include:

  • Training on systems or processes

  • Instruction documents detailing steps

  • Introductions to clients or key contacts

  • Providing information or access needed for example, passwords or files

  • Shadowing you in the weeks/months before your sabbatical to learn

  • Hiring processes for temporary staff

Also include any timelines or delays that might be expected for example, the lead time for hiring temporary staff.

Once you’ve agreed the coverage solutions with your manager, it’s important to discuss this plan with your team and anyone else who will need to be involved. Have a conversation to ensure they are ok with any extra tasks and responsibilities they will need to assume.

Step 3 – Handover your work

In the weeks and months leading up to your sabbatical it’s important to ensure the people who will be taking over your work are set up for success.

You will need to give them the knowledge, information, and access that they need to perform the tasks and responsibilities. Aside from the handover you will give them, ensure you plan for any additional training they might need to carry out the work

Prepare handover documents for each person taking over your work detailing everything they will need to successfully carry out the work. This may include

  • Any key information, files, or data they will need

  • The latest status of tasks or projects

  • What needs to be completed while you’re away

  • Key deadlines

  • Key contact details

  • Who to contact for help

Take time to go over these documents and information with people who will be taking over your work. Answer their questions and ensure they are set up for success.

Take the time to prepare and don’t leave this to the last moment. Your team’s success while you are away will directly influence your experience when you return to work. It’s in everyone’s interest that this process goes smoothly.


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