As a Customer Experience Manager, Sarah Jeffery is no stranger to taking care of people but nothing prepared her for nursing her dad through his last months of life. Here she explains how the culture at work gave her the time she needed to support her parents when they needed her most.
My dad was always my hero, so when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer in April 2019 I was devastated. It came as a huge shock to the family, particularly my mum who idolised him – they’d been married for 45 years. My dad had been suffering from a lack of appetite for a few years and had been getting regular vitamin B12 injections to treat this. Then he saw a new doctor who sent him for some more tests to investigate what was going on. It soon became clear it was serious.
Scans found a mass on his liver and we knew from the speed that he was called back in that it wasn’t good news. Dad was told he had months to live. The one thing that made this a little more bearable was that I could take time off work to be with him when he got his diagnosis. Dad kept saying how grateful he was to my manager for allowing me to be there, but I knew that I could rely on everyone at National Grid to support me.
Before I joined the company I worked in hospitality, in five-star hotels in Canada, America and back in the UK. It sounds glamorous, but the hours were so long it was impossible to have any personal life. I knew I needed a change. I was introduced to National Grid by a friend and originally intended to stay for two weeks – 18 years later I’m still here.
I quickly found that my customer service skills were just as useful at National Grid as they had been in the hotel industry. I’ve worked across both gas and electricity, always making sure our customers receive the best service from us. But it’s not just our customers who are treated well, what’s kept me here for so many years is the caring culture.
I have two children – a nine-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son – and when I was pregnant, and throughout my maternity leave, my managers were so supportive. I’ve been able to work flexible hours to allow me to continue to work full time, while still having time with my children. My husband, who also works for National Grid, has worked flexibly too, so we’ve been able to share childcare.
Anyone who’s had a relative with cancer knows that it quickly takes over your life, but my manager just said: ‘Take all the time you need.’
I’ve never been more grateful for this kind of support from work than during the last few months of my dad’s life. Anyone who’s had a relative with cancer knows that it quickly takes over your life, but my manager just said: ‘Take all the time you need.’ This meant I could be there for my mum, who was caring for my dad at home. I could be around to pick up prescriptions, answer questions for his nurses and comfort mum. In the end, I was working from their kitchen table.
…I’ll never forget how work stepped up to support me after dad’s cancer diagnosis...
My team were there for me throughout – things were done for me that I didn’t even know I had to do – which helped to take some of the stress away from my situation. Dad died in December 2019. Nothing can bring him back, but I’ll never forget how work stepped up to support me after dad’s cancer diagnosis and allowed me to spend those last precious months with him.