Mastering Work Transitions: A Comprehensive Guide to Effective Handovers

Danielle Ezell

Marketing Content Specialist at TechSmith

Illustration of two suitcases with work on one side and sunshine on the other.

Table of contents

Have you ever noticed how the days leading up to a vacation seem to speed up and quickly become packed with urgent tasks and deadlines? Then to top it off, you have to find time amidst the chaos to prepare a meticulous handover that ensures everything will run smoothly during your absence.

Whether it’s a vacation, parental leave, or any extended leave of absence, people will always need to take time off work — and rightfully so! However, despite how regularly people take time off, the art of producing an effective handover seems elusive and often becomes more complex than it needs to be.

But fear not! With our seven-step guide, we’ll arm you with everything you need to facilitate smoother and more efficient handovers so that you can truly enjoy your time off, knowing that your projects and responsibilities are in good hands.

Communicate better with your team now!

Snagit is the secret tool to a successful hybrid and remote-first workplace.

Download now!
Snagit icon

1. Establish documentation and effective knowledge sharing

Try to get into the habit of regularly (and meticulously) documenting recurring workflows and processes. This kind of detailed documentation can prove invaluable when you need to delegate tasks to colleagues, even at short notice. 

Similarly, maintaining an organized filing system for documents, files, and other information is essential, especially when preparing for a handover.

Even if your company is yet to implement a unified filing system, you should keep your files logically organized and easy to find. Doing so will make even the most complicated tasks easier for anyone stepping into your role. 

When creating a comprehensive handover, you might also consider providing videos and screen recordings that complement your text guidance. For example, video content can often do much more than text alone when it comes to explaining how to perform certain processes and use specific tools. 

If there’s a lot to cover, then providing short videos is usually better than creating one really long one. However, sending someone lots of different video links can be messy and overwhelming. This is where Screencast Collections comes in. 

Ready to Embrace Asynchronous Communication?

How do we have fewer, better meetings? We decided it was time to reboot our meeting culture and communication norms at TechSmith.

Download now!
cover of report about asynchronous communication

With Screencast Collections, you can quickly share a set of media with just one link. You can also set a collection up to enable members of your team to contribute and upload content to it, which is a great way to encourage knowledge sharing and keep content up to date for the next time someone is away. 


2. Give yourself a head start

If you’re planning to delegate all your work on the last day before your vacation, before rushing home to pack, then we’re afraid to say that’s not the most effective handover strategy. 

Allocating sufficient time to produce a handover is absolutely crucial for ensuring it’s as successful and seamless as possible. How much time do you need to prep? Well, that will depend on a few things, including: 

  • The duration of your absence
  • The familiarity of your replacement with your role
  • The projects and tasks due while you’re away

Given that vacations and planned absences are usually scheduled in far in advance, there should always be enough time to ensure a smooth, if not flawless, transition. 

While you should start planning, or at least thinking about, your handover on the day your time-off request is granted, you should also discuss it with your team or designated substitute at least two weeks before your vacation. This will help ensure everyone is prepared for your time off.

3. Implement a handover protocol

A handover protocol will be your new best friend for both you and the person stepping into your shoes. This relatively simple document should outline the most critical elements that you’re handing over, including: 

  • Ongoing projects
  • Pending deadlines
  • Key contacts
  • Access to essential documents and manuals 

This is a kind of working-progress checklist that you can keep updated as your vacation approaches. It’s a simple concept, but one that will be worth its weight in gold in ensuring nothing is overlooked or forgotten. 

Communicate better with your team now!

Snagit is the secret tool to a successful hybrid and remote-first workplace.

Download now!
Snagit icon

4. Use screen grabs & recordings

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but when it comes to handovers, they’re worth a thousand hours! 

Rather than spend time writing lengthy descriptions to explain tasks and processes, consider using screenshots and short screen recordings. Visual instructions can save a lot of time and effort for both you and your substitute. 

Visuals also provide additional context and nuance to your instructions that could be overlooked in a text-based document. While screen recordings are great for explaining how to use software or navigate a website, screenshots can make for excellent step-by-step instructions.

With a screen recorder like TechSmith’s Snagit, you can enhance screenshots with annotations, bullet points, and graphics. Snagit even lets you create informal screen recordings, allowing you to demonstrate typical workflows and processes. 

5. Opt for a personal handover (and record it!)

Whether you’re operating from an office or working remotely, aim for a direct exchange with your stand-in during the handover. A face-to-face conversation, either through a video call or in the office, will make for a much more effective handover compared to one that relies solely on digital instructions and documents. 

You might even consider scheduling several short appointments instead of one lengthy session. In doing so, you’ll prevent fatigue (for you and your substitute), which might otherwise lead to important details being overlooked.

If you’re involved in particularly intricate work then we would definitely recommend breaking your handover up into manageable chunks, allowing time to answer questions and clarify any uncertainties. 

If you do end up giving your handover via a Zoom call, then be sure to record it! This will prove to be a valuable resource that your stand-in can refer to while you’re away, as and when they need to. 

6. Notify key clients & stakeholders of your absence in advance

Before you start packing your suitcase, be sure to tell your clients (and important stakeholders) that you’ll be taking some time off, and use that opportunity to introduce them to your substitute. 

As well as being a professional courtesy that shows consideration for your clients and the people you work with, it will also prevent any unwelcome surprises or confusion on the client’s side.

Communicate better with your team now!

Snagit is the secret tool to a successful hybrid and remote-first workplace.

Download now!
Snagit icon

7. Set up out-of-office notices for emails and phone

As well as notifying people that you’ll be away, you’ll also need to schedule your out-of-office (OOO) message. 

We’d suggest writing and scheduling this in advance as well. Because if you leave it to the last minute, you might forget about it altogether! And who could blame you? The last day in the office is always a whirlwind, which is why it’s best to tick this task off early on.

There’s also some key information that both your out-of-office email and voicemail should mention, including: 

  • Duration of your absence
  • Contact information for your replacement

Be sure to proofread your message too before it goes out. Any typos or errors that you miss could make you look unprofessional to anyone that notices. 

Rather than setting up an OOO voicemail, you might find it’s more useful to redirect your number either to your replacement or a central office. Whoever you redirect your calls to, be sure to let them know in advance! 

Primary goals of a work handover

There are a lot of people that stand to benefit from a well-executed handover, including you, your colleagues, your company, and your clients. 

With your responsibilities and projects in safe and capable hands, you can rest easy during your hard-earned time off. In an ideal scenario, your clients will hardly notice your absence! 

But most importantly, you’ll return to an orderly workspace after your vacation without any missed deadlines or stalled projects. After all, a chaotic and stressful first day back can quickly erode the restorative effects of a vacation — and who needs that?