A cancer diagnosis of any stage or severity can be a huge disruption to your daily life, affecting your schedule, energy levels, and priorities, to name a few. Often, patients living with cancer must make accommodations at home and in their career, such as shifting to remote or hybrid work.
While some consider quitting their job to focus on treatment, many cancer patients find that work can actually play an essential role in providing financial stability and a sense of routine, normalcy, and self-esteem. This can be even more important during a time when life feels unsure and chaotic. Maintaining any semblance of a work schedule can help keep cancer patients mentally active and give them a sense of purpose.
So instead of quitting, it may be more helpful to instead talk to your employer about a modified schedule that supports your treatment plan and recovery. Here’s why and how to speak with your supervisor about switching to a remote or hybrid work model.
What Are Some Advantages of Working from Home?
The side effects of cancer treatments can vary for everyone, but the likelihood of having no side effects is slim to none. Patients can suffer from nausea, fatigue, memory and concentration issues, sore mouth and skin, and hair loss. These side effects can leave employees feeling self-conscious about their appearance and ability to perform their job at the usual level.
Cancer also has a strong impact on our emotional and societal connections, leading some patients to worry about interacting with colleagues who may be either unsupportive or over-sympathetic.
But just because one has cancer does not mean that they are incapable of carrying out some aspects of their current job roles. In fact, some employees may perform better working from home full-time or in a hybrid situation than they would in the workplace. As such, working from home can be beneficial to both the employee and employer.
Benefits for Employees:
- Not having to commute and spend time in a vehicle
- Being able to work around episodes of fatigue and rest when necessary
- Ability to manage side effects in the privacy of your own home
- Being able to wear comfortable clothes instead of formal work attire
- Keeping mentally active and having structure and purpose in your day
- Reducing the risk of isolation or a feeling of disconnection by being attending meetings via video conferencing
Benefits for Employers:
- Reducing disruption to teams and processes by retaining valuable employees who are already knowledgeable about the position and company
- Not having to waste money, time, and energy on hiring and training new employees
- Encouraging loyalty by being a supportive employer
- Easy re-integration when the employee is ready to return to the workplace
What Is a Hybrid Schedule?
A cross between working remotely and working full-time in-office, a hybrid schedule can be a compromise between the two worlds. A flexible schedule can allow the employee to take off on days they are undergoing treatment, or on days they are experiencing side effects from cancer therapy. It will be up to the employee/patient and their employer on how the schedule will work best for everyone involved.
How to Ask Management About a New Schedule
When approaching your employer, manager, or supervisor about a remote or hybrid work schedule during your cancer treatment, try to prepare a plan for how this will work and benefit both parties.
Approach your proposal from the perspective of how it will benefit your employer, letting them know how you plan to continue working and be a productive team member. However, be ready to compromise if they want you to attend meetings on-site or visit customers as needed.
Be honest about your treatment and how many hours it might require. However, be aware that your situation may change, so let your employer know you can only give estimations at this time. Having a plan in advance for if your condition worsens or improves can help relieve some stress and set realistic expectations.
Remember that whatever you tell your employer regarding your health is confidential and they are legally not allowed to share your information unless you permit them to do so.
Also, note that many companies already offer remote and hybrid working options, especially since the advent of COVID-19. Check your employee manual for policies and procedures before approaching management and be prepared to provide the following information:
- Whether you will be able to continue performing all of your current job duties
- How long you will be able to continue working in the workplace, and when the remote or hybrid schedule will need to start
- If you will need to take any time off from work for treatment and when you think you might return to the workplace
How to Tell Your Co-Workers
First and foremost, how open you are with your co-workers about your cancer diagnosis and treatment is up to you. You might want to talk to your healthcare team about how your illness, side effects, and encompassing treatment plan may affect you, so you feel better prepared to answer questions if people have them.
Some co-workers may react to your news with understanding and offer to help, while others may feel uncomfortable around you. Your diagnosis could remind them of a loved one’s battle with cancer, or they may be resentful if they have to take on extra duties while you take time off. Some may ask you intrusive questions, while others may avoid you altogether. Try to plan for both reactions and be prepared for how much information you are comfortable sharing.
What If You Are Unable to Work at All?
Depending on the severity of your treatment, there is a chance you may not be able to work for a while. If this is the case, discuss your desire to return to the company and your position when your health improves.
If you are unable to work, ask about the benefits available to you, such as:
- Short-term disability income insurance
- Long-term disability income insurance
- Long-term care insurance
- Dental and vision insurance
What Are ADA and FMLA?
Employees who have cancer and other medical disabilities are protected by federal, state, and local laws. Two of these are the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). However, whether a particular law applies to you directly depends on the details of your case.
The ADA applies to patients who work for companies that employ 15 or more people or work for the state or local government. If you are still able to perform the essential duties of your job, an employer cannot discriminate against you. You are also allowed to request an accommodation, which is a change to your regular routine. Your employer may have to enable you to make some changes to your job, such as performing light-duty work, flexible hours, or leave time.
If you work for the state or local government, you are not allowed to sue your employer for money, but you may be able to sue the state to get your job back if need be.
This law applies to individuals who have been employed for at least one year or 1,250 hours at a company with 50 or more employees.
This law entitles the employee to take a certain number of weeks of unpaid medical leave in a year if they have a serious medical condition. You will not receive wages, but your job and benefits are protected. Also, if your employer pays for health insurance, you will continue to receive it while on FMLA leave. However, you will need to continue paying your portion of the cost for these benefits.
Some states have FMLA laws specifically to protect people with cancer, and these laws may even apply to employers with fewer than 15 employees. So be sure to conduct due diligence on local regulations as needed.
At Aynjil, we want to help more people beat cancer, and we believe there is meaning in providing a product that can change people’s lives. This is why we designed a specialized cancer insurance product that is accessible, valuable, and affordable. We believe our product is the number one choice for benefits, price, value, and customer experience.
Our insurance goes beyond just medical care, encompassing genuine lifestyle support so you can focus on treatment and recovery. We have carefully curated extra benefits to complement our cover’s primary medical use. This includes qualified au-pairs to help with your children, transportation to and from appointments, and mental health counseling — to name a few.
Cancer is disruptive, but with support from Aynjil, you can keep your daily life as close to normalcy as possible.
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