The lost art of the holiday handover

Mobile technologies and the 'always connected' society bring innumerable benefits, there's no doubt. But they have their downsides too…mainly due to the fact that we're, umm, always connected. People moan about it, but we're our own worst enemies. The lost art of the holiday handover is a great example.

When I were a lad, before I was senior enough to qualify for any mobile technology (and, let's be honest, it was still a time when mobile phones were the preserve of the wealthy and mobile email a mere pipe dream) when you left work for your holiday your final task before leaving…generally undertaken as cleaners were collecting coffee cups and negotiating their way around the office with hoovers…was to write a comprehensive handover document for your team. This was your opportunity to either (a) show how efficient you'd been in getting all your actions done before taking a well-earned break or (and in my case far more likely) (b) dumping all your crappy work on someone else for a fortnight.

Nowadays, people find it much more easy to say…"I haven't done a handover doc, but I'll have the mobile and will check email now and then so if anything serious crops up, do give me a call…"

Being connected has made us lazy. I'm as guilty as the next. More so, probably. Hell, when I recently left the permanent employ of a big PR company I even told members of the team that they could call me if they had any questions about stuff I'd been involved in…

The only people that handovers are still done effectively are the more junior members of the team; those yet to be armed with smartarsephones. They probably enjoy their holidays more too.

3 thoughts on “The lost art of the holiday handover”

  1. Completely agree with you. For me, the worst consequence of ‘connected’ technology is that today we disrespect each other’s time, and indeed our own time. It is STILL true, believe it or not, that if you say to someone, “I won’t be contactable between X hrs and Y hrs,” they respect that. Clients are perfectly cool with it. But if you say, “my mobile phone is on” then you set yourself up to be abused.

    As a general rule, I don’t think we can blame the technology. It’s our own fault for letting the professional ‘distance’ between time at work and time away from it disappear.

    The only caveat to my argument, of course, is email culture, and the truth is a lot of people ‘do’ email on holiday because they are so scared of the size of their inbox when they return if they don’t! Not sure what the answer here is. Kill off aliases?

  2. Yeah, aliases are the work of the devil…as is thoughtless CCing.

    I’m still in awe of an old client of mine who always left the following out of office when he was on holiday:

    “Hi, thanks for your email. I’m on holiday for a couple of weeks so to avoid an unmanageable inbox when I return, I’ve set things up to delete every email that I receive. I return on the XXth, so if it’s important and you really need me to answer, I figure you’ll send it again. Most likely though you’ll have sorted it out by then.”

    Punchy, sure, but not unreasonable. And he said that the sheer joy of coming back to work and having no emails was worth any negative responses!

  3. Your client perhaps had read (or pre-empted) Tim Ferris’ Four Hour Work Week – he has a bit in the book devoted to setting up auto-responders pretty much along those lines – except he takes it one step further – instead of reserving these for holidays, he suggests using them all the time. He also suggests only checking e-mail twice per day – and telling people that you’ll only be looking at e-mail twice per day. 11am and 4pm. The general thrust of his auto-responder is: if it’s really that important, call me – otherwise, be prepared for the fact I probably won’t see your e-mail (or do anything about it) for most of the day. His suggestion for selling this in to your boss is – a) ask to try it out as an experiment to see what happens. Worst case, you upset someone and go back to the old way of doing things. Best case, you cut down on e-mail, and have more to concentrate on doing real work b) do it anyway – ask for forgiveness, never permission.

    Then again, Tim Ferris recommends not reading newspapers and watching TV (a low information diet) – not sure anyone working in PR has been able to put his ideas into practice just yet.

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