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How Avanade supported me during a tragedy

  • Posted on August 14, 2019
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
stephanie-vargo-supportive-workplace

How do you know when you’ve found the right place to work? Is it your boss? The great commute? What about how your teammates support you in the face of a tragedy? That’s how I knew I had found a home at Avanade. 

 

I joined Avanade in May of 2018 working for our Business Applications practice in the healthcare industry. At that point, my father had been diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) for years but holding steady in what was considered remission from his leukemia. His illness was a constant thought in the back of my mind, but not an urgent worry. Then, during late summer, his health began to decline ultimately leading to his subsequent hospitalization.  My mother and I quickly reprioritized the free time in our schedules, so that we could provide additional family care to my father at the hospital.  The long days soon turned into even longer weeks, caring for both my father and mother during his hospital stay. In parallel, I was working through the common challenges with starting a new job and weekly travel to a new client site.

 

On a late October Monday, I had flown to Iowa from my home in Ohio, arriving to my hotel late in the evening. The next morning, I was up early getting ready to go to the client site, and my phone rang with a call from my mom. Immediately, I knew this call would change my life. I felt instant panic as my mom told me I needed to get home right away – my father had suffered multiple strokes. I quickly called my project lead and left him a message that I had to get back home immediately and would not be able to go to the client site. My nerves about sharing this were both personally and professionally intense: How would he react to a brand-new employee saying they had to leave a client site so suddenly? 

 

In the car to the airport, my project lead called me back. Fortunately, not only did he react calmly and allow me to head back home with no issue, his first questions and comments were to offer me help and support: Did I need him to call me an Uber? What did I need from him to make this time easier? Telling me to check in when I was able to, that he would notify everyone necessary of the situation and to not worry about those details. I’ve never witnessed or experienced such support from an employer. It was clear that he approached the situation with compassion and communicated with me as an individual first, not just an employee whose consultant duties were going to go unfulfilled.

 

When I got home to Ohio, I was able to go directly to the hospital and make critical medical decisions alongside my mom and with the caregivers. I had the blessed opportunity to be at my father’s bedside throughout the evening and hold his hand through his final moments as he passed away the following afternoon.

 

Throughout these sudden events, I was comforted in the immediate awareness that Avanade had my back. Neither the offering lead, my project lead, my scheduler nor my HR contact questioned the two weeks I required for my bereavement leave. When it was time to return to work, I planned to travel back to the client site in Iowa, but they insisted I took my first week back working from home, giving me extra time I needed to spend with my family and get back into the swing of things. Upon my return, I felt incredible support from all my coworkers. Grief is a tricky emotion and experience; we often don’t understand how to navigate it, and those around us are unsure how they should approach it. My coworkers approached it with seemingly no fear and were an integral part of me figuring out how to forge through my own experience while getting back to business as usual.

 

Months later, this tremendous loss is still heavy on my shoulders and my heart, but when I reflect on the experience of losing a parent, I realize one of my fortunes was being a part of Avanade. Not all employers are willing to be compassionate and flexible and provide their employees with appropriate bereavement time. Avanade gave me that time and much more, allowing me to grieve in my own way and come back to work feeling total support.

Tiffany Oliver

Stephanie, my sincerest condolences for your loss. You are truly deserving and blessed to have such support. 

August 22, 2019

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