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Andrew Arkley|April 17, 2024

Last Day At Work Dos And Don’ts: Our Guide

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So it’s your last day at work and congratulations are in order! It’s time to tie up some loose ends – but also reflect on your achievements, say goodbye to favourite colleagues and hopefully, receive some appreciation for a job well done.

To some extent, the pressure is off on your last day at work. For example, when you’re leaving work on a Friday, it can be a nice feeling to know that after the weekend, you won’t be back logging into the same company laptop on Monday morning.

You’re leaving behind those deadlines and responsibilities. There’ll be some new ones at a different employer soon enough, but for now, your commitment to the current company is almost over.

However, there’s a common trap that some employees fall into on their last day at work – believing that there will be no repercussions if they go out on a low note. In this guide, we’ll explain why it’s important to make a good impression on your final day.

Here are our dos and don’ts for your last day at work!

Do: Keep your contacts

Your colleagues, clients, suppliers and anyone else you’ve worked with are all part of your professional network. Some of these are people you may want to stay in touch with in the future.

Make sure you have the important ones on LinkedIn. Or you can export your Outlook contacts to an Excel spreadsheet, so you’ll have them saved for the future.

Just keep in mind that if you’re going on garden leave, you’ll likely need to avoid contact with colleagues and clients.

Also, when retaining contact details after your current job, be vigilant about GDPR rules regarding any customer or personal data.

Don’t: Burn any bridges

Even if your experience in the job was a negative one, don’t badmouth: 

  • The company
  • Your boss
  • Your line manager
  • Colleagues

Or anyone else! Keep a lid on any gossip too.

If you have some constructive feedback to share, save it for an exit interview – more on this shortly.

You never know when your paths may cross again in the future. The company, or someone you worked with, could be a client one day.

It’s also likely that you’ll need a reference from someone to get your next job – or at the very least, confirmation from HR of things like your job title, employment dates, salary and so on.

Also avoid any temptation to do some ‘humble bragging’ before leaving. If your next job is giving you a much better salary, that’s great – but you won’t leave a positive impression by telling everyone about it on your last day of work.

Do: Say your goodbyes

Send thank-you notes to key colleagues and your manager, expressing your appreciation for their support.

Take a moment to personally thank your colleagues for their camaraderie and hard work, even with people you’re unlikely to stay in touch with.

For those you got on well with, offer to stay in touch and exchange contact information. Let them know you’ll miss working alongside them!

If there’s a leaving do then use that opportunity to mingle and say goodbye, keeping it positive and upbeat, wishing them well. HR might even ask you in advance for some leaving do ideas, beyond drinks – if so then here are some from Teambuilding.com that could work well.

Don’t: Sneak out quietly

Avoid a ghost exit! Your last day is a chance for proper farewells.

Don’t just pack up and sneak out – that burns bridges too. If you’re working remotely, wait until you’ve said your final farewells, then let everyone know you’re logging off.

This shows respect and allows for last-minute conversations. Leaving on a positive note is important for any potential future networking opportunities!

Do: Clear your computer

Put all your work documents that would be useful to your team on a shared drive, and let your colleagues know where to find them.

IT staff may delete your user profile anyway, but it’s also a good exercise to look for anything that could be useful in the future, before it’s gone forever.

Delete any personal documents you don’t need, clear your browsing history and wipe clean your digital records in general.

Don’t: Leave a mess behind

Make a good impression by leaving your workspace tidy: 

  • Pack up any personal items
  • Put any rubbish in the bin
  • Tidy your desk area

Also, clear out any leftover food or drinks from the fridge or break room. Leaving a clean space shows respect for your colleagues.

You don’t want to undo your hard work by leaving a bad final impression, with colleagues complaining about the mess you’ve left behind afterwards!

Do: Finish or hand over your work

Make sure you’ve documented any recently completed projects so that the information is easily accessible for colleagues, or your replacement.

For unfinished tasks, create a detailed handover document outlining progress or next steps and answering any outstanding questions. 

If you’re short on time, prioritise! Focus on wrapping up any critical tasks before you leave, then delegate or reschedule any non-essential work to avoid burdening colleagues.

Brief your manager on any unfinished work, offering to answer questions remotely if needed.

Don’t: Keep colleagues hanging

No-one wants colleagues telling others they think you’ve ‘checked out’ or are going through the motions, before or during your last day of work. Aim to leave the work that you’re responsible for in a good place.

Ideally, you’ll have wrapped up most of your big work projects before the last working day. As soon as your notice period starts, work out how long you have to fulfil your responsibilities before leaving and make a plan to do it on time.

But there will still be some tasks to complete, so focus on working productively until you leave.

You don’t want something to go wrong and you’re not there to provide the information they’re missing. Think about any information that only you have about any ongoing pieces of work and make sure you share it in a handover.

Do: Complete an exit interview

In an exit interview, HR should give you any final paperwork, share information on your pension or health insurance benefits and seek feedback on working for the company.

If the company doesn’t offer you an exit interview, ask for one anyway. Prepare beforehand by reflecting on your time at the company:

  • Focus on constructive criticism, suggesting improvements in careful, thoughtful ways
  • Be honest about reasons for leaving, but avoid negativity or blaming colleagues
  • Express appreciation for positive aspects of the work environment
  • Maintain a professional demeanour and thank the interviewer for their time

Also think about any unanswered questions you have – for example: “When do I get my P45 after leaving?” Or ask about the ‘out of office when leaving company’ guidelines – do you need to write it, or will HR / IT?

By participating constructively in an exit interview, you could help the company improve while leaving on good terms.

Don’t: Pretend to be ill

If you’ve had a negative experience at work, there’s sometimes a temptation to feign illness and say you’re too unwell to work on your last day. Of course, this disrupts your handover and creates a bad impression. 

Finish work on a high note and leave a positive memory by showing up to finish work, plus say your goodbyes.

If you’re truly unwell, consider pushing back your last day or offering to work remotely to finish off your outstanding tasks.

Respect your colleagues by giving them a heads-up about your illness straight away. Here are the rules around sick days at work in the UK.

Final thoughts: Your last day at work

Before you go, send a ‘last day at work message’ to colleagues, thanking them and also sharing how they can stay in touch with you.

If you don’t have a notice period to serve, then you may also need to write a resignation letter on your last day at work. Here is our guide to the perfect letter of resignation.

We hope you found this article useful. As one chapter in your career ends, another begins and soon you’ll be in a brand new role!

Then your attention will shift from making a good impression on your last day at work, to doing so on your first with a new employer. Check out our guide on how to make the right impression on your first day at work.

If you’re leaving the job without another one lined up and need some support with your applications, we can lend a hand.

PurpleCV are CV writing experts and we also do the other accessories, such as cover letters and LinkedIn profiles. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch to find out how we can help you.

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