An organized handover is an essential part of a successful mission. It should not be seen as a one-time action but builds on continued, mutual interaction with team colleagues, including non-ERT and local colleagues who remain. In case there is no successor in an international capacity, the handover and transition will be to a national colleague (do not assume that the person already knows all details of the job you performed).
If a personal handover is feasible, schedule an introduction of the new incumbent through face-to-face meetings with internal and external counterparts. This effort will pay off since personal meetings are usually more effective in establishing rapport and trust.
If there is no overlap of incumbent and successor, the incumbent should inform internal and external counterparts personally or in writing of the incoming replacement with name (if known) and function ahead of the arrival and encourage welcome and support.
In case too many constraints prevent the compilation of a handover package, arrange at least a Teams call with the successor to brief him/her on essential points and contacts. Do so before departure. Experience shows that, once personnel departed and returned to their regular job, other priorities take over and there is less time and inclination to provide a constructive handover.
Recommended content of a Handover Note
- Description of duties during the mission (which may differ from the standard job description)
- ReadMe file with key documents, reference material
- List of recurring meetings to attend
- List of reporting duties and deadlines
- Note on projects and reports worked on and completed
- List of projects in progress, with status update and priorities, challenges, contacts of partners
- Other observations, miscellaneous
- Contact list of external counterparts, stakeholders, with brief assessment if possible
The ReadMe file is best compiled as part of regular work by saving relevant documents and files in a dedicated online folder that can then be made accessible to a successor. Even in the digital age, physical files with originals or hard copies of key documents (e.g. signed contracts) are kept and should be included in the handover.
The same approach helps with producing the handover note. That way these tasks do not turn into an extra burden during the stressful departure period. Share the link to the ReadMe file and the handover note with your supervisor. A sample handover note template is annexed to this entry.
Last but not least, complete departure formalities and leave contact details (phone, email) for possible inquiries later on. Departure formalities include returning organization equipment (mobile phone and SIM card, laptop, radio, etc.) and signing off on the custodian sheet, submitting UN and other ID cards, and settling all payments and obligations.
While you are looking forward to returning home, the departure can be stressful and transition back to normal life challenging. It can be difficult to let go of the emergency operation, leave the team and end the commitment. The needs continue but must be addressed by someone else, and a successor taking over the job means we become aware that we are replaceable.
Mark the conclusion of your mission with an informal gathering of colleagues to reflect on your experience, your contribution to the operation (professional and personal) and to say goodbye and thank you. Inform also external counterparts of your departure and thank them for their cooperation and support.
In case of a mission to an E or D Duty Station, arrange post mission debrief with Psychosocial Wellbeing Section and schedule the mandatory CTO right after the mission to create a ‘buffer zone’ during which to take time for yourself and re-establish your normal routine. If not entitled to CTO, request AL to take a break.
You are looking forward to family and friends whose life continued in your absence. By staying in touch online, the gap created by the separation and distance can be bridged to some extent but perhaps not fully. Visualize your return, the expectations of your loved ones as well as your own. You will want to tell of your experience but not all of it may be suitable for sharing. Consider taking difficult things that cannot be shared with family and friends to a professional counsellor in order not to suffer a negative impact over time.
Colleagues will expect the ‘old’ you to return and to step back into your role fully and shoulder responsibilities as before. Ask colleagues and your supervisor for their consideration if you need time to re-adjust. If you find re-entry into your regular work and life difficult, it can be an indication to seek professional counselling and advice.