I used to dread my first day back in the office after vacation. After being away for a week or two (or more when I had my sons), I did not look forward to coming back and being buried in emails and getting caught by surprise by someone who needed my urgent attention.
But not anymore. Not since Matrix Group started creating “while you were out” documents for anyone out of the office for more than a couple of days.
Here’s how we do it:
- We review who’s going to be out during managers meeting on Fridays.
- If someone is going to be out for more than a couple of days, we create a shared Google doc called “While x was out, week of January 19, 2018.”
- We put someone in charge of making sure the document is populated.
- We ask specific team members to put in their notes about what happened during the week. We put in notes about anything and everything that the person on vacation would have been part of, or heard, had she been in the office.
The update is ready the day before the person comes back from vacation or leave. An email goes out, telling the vacationer to “read this update first.”
What do we cover in the “while you were out” document?
- The update will vary, based on the person and role. For example, project managers get a summary of everything that happened on all of their client accounts. A Director gets a summary for the entire company. A developer gets a summary of what happened on his accounts and projects.
- Beyond specific clients and projects, we also report on what was discussed during meetings. This is really important. If we discuss a project that’s been stalled and come up with a solution, it’s so helpful for the vacationing staffer to know how we got a project unstuck. If we don’t report on it in the brief, that knowledge may never get passed on to the manager or developer.
- We also report on the social stuff that happens at the office, things like happy hours, birthdays, who got pranked, movies people are raving out, puppy visits to the office, who got engaged, and visits to the climbing gym. God forbid you be the person who didn’t know that Alex got married or that Roger got a new puppy!
Why go to all this effort?
- People coming back from any type of leave don’t have to spend all day reading their emails in order to know what happened while they were out. In fact, we often do not cc: the person on vacation so they don’t come back to hundreds of emails to process.
- Returning staff can immediately be back in the swing of things.
- People feel like they can get away without missing important events or milestones.
It takes a whole team to write these documents, but they are so worth the time and effort.
What do you do to make the transition back to work easier on your team members?