Expect there to be good days and bad, emotionally and physically, for them. By being consistent in your caring attitude you’ll be helping them to weather this. This can mean making a point of having ‘normal’ work conversations – which can go a long way to helping your co-worker feel they are still part of the team. Many professionals with cancer go back to work hoping for this kind camaraderie - and a return to ‘normal’.
Helping an employee
Employers have a critical role to play in supporting a member of their staff in treatment for cancer and can make a huge difference in creating a supportive workplace environment.
The first step to meeting their needs is to understand and appreciate the challenges of the return-to-work process. Fatigue, for example, is one of the most common side effects of cancer treatment. While it is different for everyone, small adjustments such as encouraging short breaks for rest and exercise can make a difference.
Perhaps the most important step in any support strategy is to keep talking, as support needs may change over time. Encourage your employee to say what they would like from you: is it a flexible working arrangement, a phased return-to-work and or modifications to their role and/or workload? An open and honest discussion around expectations on both sides, and what is and is not possible at this time will lay strong, clear foundations for any new arrangements.
Make a point of explaining all the support options your organisation provides, their benefits and how they can be accessed - whether through Human Resources or their line manager. It may also be useful to provide co-workers with best practice information or interactive sessions to educate them on how best to respond to their colleague and to dispel common myths about cancer.
Bupa Global in partnership with the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) has created resources to help you create a supportive and effective working environment for those in treatment. Read more on how you can help an employee dealing with cancer, allowing them to return to work and do their job to the best of their current abilities.
1. 30 - 69 years old: World Cancer Day 2016 press release (http://www.worldcancerday.org/wcd2016-global-press-release), last accessed in February 2016.
2. Bupa (https://www.bupa.com/~/media/files/site-specific-files/our%20purpose/cancer/uicc_bupa_workingwithcancer.ashx), last accessed in February 2016.