Meredith Weadon, Senior Manager and member of DHG’s Working Parents Common Interest Group, recently returned from parental leave after welcoming her son, Mark. She shares her secret for successfully preparing her team, her clients and herself for parental leave.
Leading up to your parental leave, were you nervous about your team managing client relationships and workload while you were away?
I was not. The good thing about parental leave is that typically you have 9 months to prepare. Even prior to learning that I was pregnant, I was diligent about including my team in a lot of client communication so I felt comfortable there would be familiarity on both sides of each engagement. I work with a very supportive partner, Nikki Yarborough, and in addition to my team, I was certain she would have no problem stepping in herself if needed. I was confident that even if something unexpected came up my team would be able to roll with the punches. I also reached out to all of our clients beforehand so they weren’t surprised by my absence and would know who their point of contact was.
How did you prepare your team ahead of time?
In addition to introducing them to the clients, we tried to get ahead on as much work as possible. I knew I would be out for one or two tax deadlines, so we tried to get started on all extended returns just after busy season. We worked really hard over the summer to get as much done as we could before I was out. I also made sure everything was organized and documented before my leave started. We had what I called our “list of lists.” The lists included everything I knew would happen while I was out with a general time frame and specific assignments so expectations were clear. Being out through the end of the year, I knew my teams would also need to be prepped for busy season. I memorialized everything I would do if I were going to be there. I trusted they would be able to handle anything and everything, I just wanted to be able to help set them up for success.
Were you impressed with how they stepped up in your absence?
Absolutely. When I got back, one of the first things Nikki told me was what a good job they were doing. She had several examples of where clients had reached out to her to say the team had really stepped up and that they were really impressed with their level of communication. Not only did they not miss a beat, but they did such a good job that they had clients calling a partner to say what a good job they had done!
Were you worried at all about jumping back into the fold when you returned?
Coming back has really been great for everyone. The whole process has shown me that I can let go of some of the control and my team can completely handle it. It’s also good for them to step up and gain experience, maybe even a little sooner than they would have otherwise. My team completely rocked it, and they really helped transition back to working life.
What advice do you have for women and men at DHG who are getting ready to take parental leave?
Prepare so you can set your team up for success. The partner I work with really appreciated all of the work I did up front to make sure I was organized and everyone knew their responsibilities. The prep work really helped confirm everyone would be in a better position.
There can be such a stigma around women and men going out on parental leave – because they’re not here someone else is going to have to pick up their work and it can be perceived as such a burden. While people were doing things I would have done had I been here during that time period, in the end, it was incredibly successful. Our DHG staff can really step up and they’re eager to further build their careers.
Meredith is a new mom to 6-month old Mark. Away from the office, she enjoys hanging out with family, taking her dog to the park, watching sports (she and her family have season tickets to NC State football games), and reading fiction novels.
DHG recently extended parental leave to 12 weeks for primary caregivers and 6 weeks for secondary caregivers as part of the ONE DHG Employee Experience. Click here to read more.