We interviewed Sarah Zink, Director of the Chicago office and lead of SWCA’s Working Parents and Caregivers Employee Resource Group (ERG). She shares her insight on being a caregiver in the workplace and current priorities for the ERG.
Q: Tell us about yourself and your career.
A: My family and I live in Grayslake IL. My husband and I have two children, Bobby (10), and Ember (8). With two working parents and kids in activities, we’re often on the move. My father is nearby in assisted living, because he has early onset Alzheimer’s, and my in-laws live close by as well. This summer, we’re trying to see as much live music as we can!
My professional background is in ecological restoration. I’ve been at SWCA for about three years as the Director of our Chicago office.
Q: Why did you choose to lead the Working Parents and Caregivers ERG?
A: I joined the Women’s ERG and realized there was a need for a specific group for caregivers. Many women fall into the caregiver roll, but it isn’t every woman’s experience, and many caregivers are not women.
Leading the ERG makes me a more intentional caregiver. It’s wonderful to connect with people who are sharing experiences and challenges. SWCA celebrates how caregivers make our team stronger. We acknowledge the diversity of caregivers, in primary and indirect roles, caring for people in their lives in their own unique styles.
Q: What are the accomplishments, priorities, and goals of the group?
A: We are primarily a safe space to share real emotions. We talk about individuals’ topics of choice and lead broader conversations in monthly meetings. Our mission statement is: to be a space for working parents and caregivers to support each other and advocate for a healthy and productive work-life integration.
Last year, Anne Cabrera joined as co-lead and just recently Norma Crumbly became our executive sponsor. I’m excited about this additional leadership and how it will help the ERG.
Q: Have you developed skills and qualities through caregiving that you use in your current role?
A: Some abilities relevant to my role as an office director include time management, helpfulness, attentiveness, kindness, patience, comfortability with responsibilities and decision making, managing multiple priorities and willingness to have uncomfortable conversations.
Caregivers help people be their best selves. Recognizing and amplifying caregivers’ unique contributions can shatter stigmas in the workplace (such as the old-fashioned misconception that caregivers are disconnected).
Q: What would you like people to know about the caregiving experience?
A: Giving and receiving care is a personal journey, and it’s a major aspect of family and community. To me, it’s all about giving back.
My advice to other caregivers is to take care of and prioritize yourself. Caregivers can feel guilty about the things they’re not doing for loved ones in their care, no matter how hard we work to support those people. Remember that you can’t always be everything to everyone. Any individual can be inclusive of caregivers in the workplace by understanding what their colleagues are balancing and making others feel empowered to set the boundaries that they need to.
Many people will, at some point, either be a caregiver or receive help from a caregiver. They are incredibly valuable yet overlooked contributors to society. And while caregiving can be tremendously rewarding, it can also be isolating, frustrating, and draining. If you know a caregiver, give them some extra love!