Having a clear procedure for what happens when you (or any member of staff) are on leave is important for a number of reasons.
Nobody cares about your holiday: It doesn’t matter how many times you tell everybody that you’re going on leave, most of them won’t remember, mainly because it’s not their holiday. Within minutes of you heading out of the door someone will email, call or text you asking you to do something urgent.
Some people actively want to ruin your holiday: You know who they are, they’re the ones who text or email your personal email while you’re sitting on the beach saying “I know you’re on holiday but…”
It’s not a holiday if the work just piles up ready for you to get back: You know the drill, work like mad the week before, and work so hard the week you get back that you can’t even remember where you went.
A proper acting in absence policy helps address all that and more. It means someone is literally acting with your authority while you are away, making decisions, attending meetings you would have been at, dealing with problems, and handing back to you when you return.
It means you can switch off and get a proper break, and come back refreshed and ready to go, which is the whole point of taking time off in the first place.
At the moment, with so many of us working from home, the lines between working, not working, and on leave are blurrier than ever. That makes it even more critical to manage people’s leave well – and a good acting in absence policy is a big part of doing that well.
As well as making life easier for the person taking leave, it also creates great learning and development opportunities for other staff. We’ll always try to get a more junior member of staff to act in absence (rather than just have managers covering for each other), as a way of getting them involved in different work, and giving them a proper insight into more senior roles that might be difficult to get otherwise.
It’s not uncommon for managers to have some resistance to delegating authority in their absence. If you find yourself thinking a junior member of staff can’t act in absence for you because they “can’t cope” or “won’t know what to do”, that’s not a reason to prevent them from stepping up, it’s a reason to think about how you’re leading them.
Take the time during your handover conversation to explain what’s expected of them, what preparation is required, who they need to speak to, what meetings they need to attend. The more seriously you take it, the more the person acting in absence will get out of it, and the bigger the opportunity for them to grow and develop as a result.
You can click below to see (and pinch) DSC’s AIA policy – it’s really simple and straightforward, and works really well for us!