Make a COVID-19 Backup Plan Before You Return to the Office

After months of working from home and only from home, you might be excited by the prospect of going back to your office. Shared microwaves! Water-cooler chit-chat! Conference room reservations running over! All inconveniences of the past, but novelties of the new normal.

But although some offices are starting to open, coronavirus cases are still ongoing and we’re far from being in the clear. Before you get too comfortable in your old office routines, you need to plan for what will happen if someone gets sick. That someone, in this case, is you, or someone for whom you provide care.

Be transparent about open projects

When you have ownership of a project or a piece of one, you might be used to keeping the details under your hat until your part is ready to go–or until it’s time to collaborate with others. But if there’s a chance you might be out of the office and unable to work for several weeks, you need to share what you’re working on and where you are in the process.

Art Markman at Fast Company recommends setting up a shared document that lists the projects you’re working on, your role in them and the current status of each. Update it weekly so a designated staffer can pick up where you left off.

In theory, your supervisor and other people you work with regularly will know where your projects stand. But in the event they can’t just call to check in with you on a question or issue, you don’t want to leave them guessing.

Don’t send your teammates on a treasure hunt

While you’re setting up that shared document to provide status updates on your projects, make an effort to over-communicate. That doesn’t mean you have to write detailed diary entries about your progress on each of your projects — you just want to make it easier for others to get up to speed during your absence.

Client contact information and preferred contact methods? List it out. Any deadlines and components you’re waiting on? List those. If there are any “what ifs” weighing on your mind that you haven’t had time to think through or bring up for discussion, note them in your shared document.

The idea is to give your team a holistic picture of your projects, not just a task list for while you’re out.

Notify key parties

If you regularly communicate with clients, vendors or other colleagues, make sure to designate a person to get in touch with them and let them know you’ll be out for potentially a few weeks. Your designated person can outline their communication options for the duration of your absence.

As for everything else? Don’t worry about it. Dip into your email for five minutes to set up an out-of-office message with instructions for who to contact if it’s crucial. Then turn off your notifications and get some rest.

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