When I’m getting ready to leave a job, whether that’s for a holiday or for good, I’ll make sure to do a handover to my boss. That might be as simple as a quick email or a conversation in our last 1:1, but sometimes it’s important to do a bit more than that.
I’ve never gone back to a past employer (yet, maybe I will one day), but as 40% of people would consider returning to an employer, it’s worth making sure your exit is smooth, professional, and on good terms. Because you never know. Best not to burn bridges.
A work handover email to your manager is one of the steps to make the transition out of a job happen smoothly, and here’s how to write one.
Why write a handover email?
Handovers are useful if you will be out of the office for some time or forever if you are leaving your role. But you might need to write one after you have resigned or if you’re going on vacation and your manager is covering for you. You might also need to create a handover email for your boss when a project is completed.
But why bother? After all, it’s extra work for you, and perhaps they don’t need to know too much. Surely they know what you do all day already?
I don’t think bosses do know what we do all day because they have their own jobs, and they rely on us to do the work we’re paid to do. Therefore, a good handover email will:
- Help you leave on good terms
- Save you time as your manager will not have to contact you after you have left
- Save your manager time (maybe they’ll appreciate that and give you a great reference)
- Mean that there are fewer mistakes, so if you come back after your absence, you’ll have less mess to clear up
- Be a guide to your actual work and anything that needs to be done when you are gone.
Be professional, be positive, and be very clear.
How to write your handover notes
In my experience, it’s difficult to sit down and write all handover notes in one go. That’s why I would recommend starting two to three weeks before you go away and creating a document that you can then add to as time goes by.
Trust me, you will think of more things to add. The number of little things that we do every day and take for granted soon starts to add up. This stuff would be beneficial to have in your handover message.
Give yourself enough time to write. Your handover notes also mean any month-end or reoccurring processes can be included. If you only take notes of the things that you were doing on any one individual day, you might miss out on some important content related to the things that take time at other points during the month.
Start a document in Microsoft Word and use that to add all of your notes. If you find there really isn’t that much to say, you can copy and paste the whole Word document into your handover email. In reality, I believe there is likely to be too much in detailed handover notes to make a coherent email. I’d recommend that you include a link to that document in your handover message.
Include links and resources
Include links in your document to where your manager can provide useful information. For example, screenshots or videos, walk-throughs of key processes, tasks activities that you do in particular software applications, or anything that they might find useful. Especially if you are resigning.
Include status updates on outstanding work
List out all the things you are working on and the status of each. Think about what you would need to know if you were receiving a professional handover – you’d need to know what to do and what to look out for, so include any potential gotchas, risks, and issues as well.
An incoming employee will also need to know who to contact, so make sure you’ve got a comprehensive contacts list to share.
Include day-to-day responsibilities
As well as projects, we all have daily tasks and regular meetings, so it’s worth listing out all that, too. Whoever is the responsible person for all of that will be grateful for any past meeting minutes, agenda templates, and so on to save them time and contribute to the smooth transition of responsibilities.
Include the next steps
Your handover email to your manager should include the next steps for the formal handover process or the upcoming plan. For example:
- You are meeting with X to discuss one of the points in the email
- You will send an email to customers to let them know you are not available (list out which customers if you are only sending to some)
- Thing Y should happen on this date after you have left.
Explain that during the handover period, you will be copying them into emails for information. Only add that, if you will. While I don’t like extra emails for extra emails sake, if I know I’m going to end up with the responsibility of carrying on the work, having the background and context from the past few weeks is really helpful.
You can also mention what you will say in your out of office message, so they know queries will be directed to them.
Transfer key information to your resume
As a bonus, you can use the opportunity of preparing a handover report to think about what you have achieved. Copy any major deliverables and achievements to LinkedIn and also to your resume.
As you are going through the effort of identifying what has been done but still to do. You’ll probably be thinking about all the stakeholders and projects that you have worked on. These are all fantastic items to include in your LinkedIn profile and could be good examples to use at an interview.
Read next: How to Add Projects in LinkedIn.
Example: short handover email to manager
Hello (manager name),
Please find attached the handover document (or link to Microsoft Teams file or folder) that we have discussed. I hope you will find in there everything you need to manage while I am away/after I have gone.
Please have a quick look through before our final catch up conversation on (date), and we can go through any last things then.
Thank you very much.
Example: longer handover email to manager
Hello (manager name),
As discussed, here are my handover notes related to my recent projects.
- Project one (status, outstanding actions, key stakeholders, deadlines, recent and ongoing issues).
- Project two (status, outstanding actions, key stakeholders, deadlines, recent issues).
Future upcoming work:
(Describe any current opportunities you are working on or think they may need to follow up for future initiatives.)
(Include a description of the task, the owner, the next step, and the date due – these should be things you haven’t been able to finish before you go.)
Other responsibilities that I am handing over:
Include your day-to-day tasks and responsibilities, for example, how to do software tasks where you are the expert, key processes and systems, logins to key software tools, and who is taking over from you.
In addition, I’ve created a list of key contact details, which you can find here: (link).
Thanks very much for the opportunity to work on these projects during my time in the role.
I won’t be able to pick up messages while I am out, but I have blocked out my first day back to catch up, and I’ll put some time in your calendar then for a handback. I appreciate you caretaking my work while I’m away – thanks!
Thanks and regards,
And you’re done!
At the completion of the handover process, you’ve got rid of all your tasks, everyone knows what is coming their way, and your manager has a handover mail that outlines and summarizes everything they need to know.
You can get ready to leave with your head held high, knowing you’ve done a fab job of setting up the person who takes over from you for success.
What to do now
If you are wrapping up a project, get my handover and transition plan template – it’s perfect for tying up the loose ends, and I recommend you get as much as you can finished before you go.
If you’re leaving the office for a vacation and someone is looking after your work temporarily, then it’s important to plan for a lot more than just your final handover email. Read my 10 simple ways to prepare a vacation handover, and you’ll be able to leave for your holiday ready to fully destress and unwind!