If you know in advance that you'll be leaving the company in the near future, either because you have advance notice of a scheduled layoff or because you're tendering your resignation, you can make the transition easier by shifting your digital assets in advance.
In addition to gradually gathering all of the files, contacts, and key communications that you may want to take with you for future reference, you can set yourself up for a smooth transition by moving your files and communications away from the company's infrastructure and onto resources that you control. Whether your departure is coming days or weeks in the future, you'll likely want to keep open lines of communication as you make the shift. Consider adopting cloud services for phone calls and e-mail.
An easy way to keep your contacts calling you directly after your desk phone has been reassigned to your successor is to stop using it early, switching to something like Google Voice or your personal cell phone for calls in the final days of your employment. The advantage of Google Voice is that you can configure it to ring any phone you want, so you can still use it at your desk until the last minute, and then reconfigure it to ring your cell phone or home phone after you leave. Be sure to update the phone number in your e-mail signature early on, so that your contacts will have a record of it before you go.
Likewise, you can automatically forward your company e-mail to a personal Gmail account and configure Gmail to send mail using your business address. This way, you'll have all of your recent business e-mail in your Gmail account after the transition, and you won't need to scramble to collect important messages.
Use a cloud service like Dropbox to store your documents, so they'll automatically sync to your other PCs and the cloud. When you leave the company, remove Dropbox from the company's PC to prevent anyone from remotely accessing your Dropbox account after you're gone.
To simplify your departure further, consider retiring the company PC early and bring your own laptop to work. If you can work self-sufficiently from your own laptop for a few weeks before you end your tenure, you'll know you're ready to go.
Always Be Leaving
In my view, transience and constant change characterize the modern workforce. Now matter how loyal you are to your employer, the odds that you'll remain in one role for more than a few years are very low. So even as you give your team everything you've got on the job, it makes sense to bear in mind that, sooner or later, you'll be heading out that door again. Embracing this fact as an essential reality of working life, rather than fearing it as an eventuality to shun is likely to reduce job-related stress, encourage you to prepare for inevitable career changes, and boost your productivity along the way.
As I noted earlier, cloud phone services like Google Voice and Skype make it easy to take ownership of your phone communications even as you continue to work in your employer's office. For the last few years, I've used Google Voice as my primary phone line for business. I listed that number on my business cards and in my e-mail signature, and all of my contacts have it. I never even bothered to memorize the number for my office line, because nobody used it anyway. Now that I've left the company, the calls keep coming in uninterrupted, and I'm carrying on business as usual without putting my contacts through the hassle of changing my number in their contact lists.
Besides smoothing my transition out of the job, Google Voice made me more accessible to my contacts by ringing my mobile phone and desk phone simultaneously and by sending me transcripts of voicemail messages. So everybody won.
For most of my tenure in my last job, I rarely accessed the company mail client. Instead, I forwarded all messages to my Gmail account and worked from there. I still have all of those messages and contacts archived in my account, and I can access them at any time.
Finally, I seldom stored anything on the company's servers or on my business desktop. Instead, I used Dropbox from start to finish.
Ultimately, for me, the move from salaried servitude to independent contracting went unbelievably smoothly, thanks to a few free cloud services. I hope that these simple tips will help you make your next job transition as painless as possible, too.