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Your notice period: a survival guide

Surviving your notice period

The time between giving notice to your employer and actually leaving your job is often a strange, sometimes strained, time for both you and your colleagues. Making this as smooth a transition as possible will depend largely on the attitude which you yourself take to these final weeks, days or hours with your employer.

Once you’ve given your notice, it’s normal to feel a range of emotions, from doubt or guilt to relief or elation. However you feel, remember that your employer still requires that you have to work out your notice, no matter how long that may be. This can be a strange, transitionary time in your working life, so make sure you approach it in the right way.

What changes should you make during your notice period?

The answer is ‘none at all’. Your attitude to your work should be no different to its usual high standards right up to the moment you walk out the door for the final time. These are people who you may well encounter again one day and you can use this opportunity to leave them with a great impression. You should demonstrate your loyalty until the very end.

Don’t assume that the spotlight will be taken off you just because you won’t be there in a week or a month. Your manager may well be keeping an eye on you to make sure that you’re not taking your foot off the pedal. Even if they aren’t, you need to make sure that you leave the business in a great place, which means tying up loose ends and putting together a comprehensive handover.

Avoiding the workplace “atmosphere”

Whilst you shouldn’t become paranoid, remember that your colleagues, particularly your direct reports and maybe even your managers may be just as nervous about the change, especially if you’ve been in the business for some time. This situation will only be made worse if the information isn’t communicated clearly and it doesn’t take much for a lot of cloak and dagger theories and rumours to develop.

Taking time to reassure more junior members of staff who you’ve been working with can really boost their confidence and make a difference to the workplace atmosphere. Find out what you’re allowed to say and when, so you can put an end to awkward conversations and ‘secret meetings’ as soon as possible. 

This can also be a slightly isolated time for you. Bear in mind that emails may be sent around without including you, meetings will happen without you and decisions will be taken in which you’re no longer involved. This is just something you have to get over.

Leave a (good) lasting impression

Any small things you can do to help out will be very much welcomed by the company you’re leaving and will help to leave everyone with a good word to say about you — which is never a bad thing. Of course, you should leave a great handover with any ongoing projects but if you can go above and beyond, it will be noticed and appreciated. If you know who is stepping into your role, book some time to go through unfinished projects with them. If it’s a new starter, offer to train them on key systems to get them up to speed.

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Timing is key

Making a timetable of what you need to accomplish in your notice period can help to give you more structure. Decide who you need to tell and by when. Decide a timeframe on when you will sensibly need to hand over each task, leaving time for the new owner of the task to be trained and come across any potential problems that night need your help.

Downplay your future plans

When co-workers and managers ask you about your future plans, treat them like strangers at a party. Politely answer their questions, but don’t go overboard about how happy you are to be leaving, how much more money you’ll be making, how long you’d been looking, etc. It will just come across as very negative towards your current job and co-workers and won’t paint you in the best light. Additionally, you don’t know their motives for wanting that information. Play it safe, be positive and polite but don’t rub anything in anyone’s face.

Things you might not know about your notice period

You still accrue statutory annual leave in your notice period and might have additional days, depending on your contract.

You can take any unused holiday during your leave, provided you give reasonable notice, but your employer can refuse this if there is a valid business reason.

By law, employers can specify the dates on which you must take your statutory annual leave but they have to give you notice which is at least double the number of days they want you to take.

Depending on your role, your employer can ask to you go on ‘gardening leave’ which means you don’t come into work throughout your notice period.

You could also be offered ‘payment in lieu of notice’ (PILON) where you are compensated for early termination of your contract. 

Whilst the law entitles most employees to a minimum notice period, anyone who has not worked for an employer for at least one month is not entitled to a minimum notice period.