Tara Nofziger, now director of talent management and acquisition at Baxter, learned of her mother’s cancer diagnosis just a year after graduating college and embarking on a new career path. As the only caregiver for her mother, it was Tara who took on the responsibility of transporting her mother to and from treatment near her home in Michigan, which was approximately a four hour drive from Tara’s workplace in Deerfield, Ill.
“I had only been with Baxter less than a year at that point,” Tara said, “but after presenting the situation to my manager, she turned to me, gave me my first laptop, and said ‘go do what you need to do, work from there and we will figure it out together.’”
It was this trust with her manager, Tara noted, that allowed her to “flex” to be with her mother as she underwent the burden of cancer treatment, while also demonstrating accountability to get the job done without direct supervision every day of the week.
“Baxter commits to be flexible with me and I commit to be flexible with Baxter,” Tara said, “which means I will flex my schedule if needed to get the job done, and Baxter can count on me to meet expectations.”
“Workplace flexibility has increased my productivity 100 percent. It has allowed me to integrate my personal and professional life, establishing a foundation for me to be the best person I can be in both.”- Tara Nofziger, director of talent management and acquisition at Baxter
Fast forward five years into her tenure, Tara took a three-month assignment in Tokyo that required her to regularly be on the ground in Asia to keep projects moving. Two weeks into that assignment, however, she learned that her mom’s cancer returned. She and her manager extended the assignment so Tara could spend shorter periods of time abroad, allowing her to be actively present in her mom’s life while having the opportunity to travel and continue her assignment.
Photo Credit: Ginger Diaz, Diaz & Diaz Photography
“I never really thought of it as ‘continuing to work’ while caregiving,” Tara said. “Working and caring for my mother was just what life turned out to be for me. I never really had the option to consider whether I should work or not, so it was never a ‘choice’ that I was making.”
As Tara continues to progress at Baxter, she now advocates for collaborative tools that help others increase connection and productivity with virtual teams, so other employees can improve their effectiveness and efficiency regardless of when or where they are working. While caring for her mother, Tara took advantage of Baxter’s “Bring Your Own Device” initiative – connecting a personal device securely across select work programs – to take advantage during the down time spent in hospitals or waiting rooms and working productively.
Tara also relied on Baxter’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which provided counseling for her, as well as provided a nurse for her mother to conduct an in-home assessment and referrals to other resources that could help with her care. When Tara needed to find short-term assistance for her mom, EAP resources researched and vetted programs in the area before providing a short list of recommendations.
“Workplace flexibility has increased my productivity 100 percent,” Tara said. “It has allowed me to integrate my personal and professional life, establishing a foundation for me to be the best person I can be in both.”