Creating a Cancer Supportive Workplace Summus October 26, 2023

Creating a Cancer Supportive Workplace

Four employees sitting and talking

At Summus, we know that the impact of cancer extends beyond the person with the diagnosis. A cancer diagnosis is life-changing, touching families, friends, and colleagues with its immense physical, emotional, and financial toll.  

Employers are also focused on the impact of cancer and supporting their employees. Employers must manage absences, and support workers professionally and emotionally when impacted by a colleague’s illness. Organizations and their leadership have a unique opportunity to support those impacted by a cancer journey. Creating a cancer supportive workplace contributes to a healthier, more engaged workforce. 

Best practices to provide support and understanding

Employers can demonstrate care and empathy at every step on the cancer journey — from diagnosis to remission — by:

  • Creating awareness and providing cancer education. Employers can raise awareness about cancer and provide educational resources. These resources help employees understand the disease, its impact, and how to support colleagues on a cancer journey. While many employees may have friends or family members who have had a diagnosis, education can provide unbiased information across all cancer experiences. Employer-provided education helps employees understand the importance of preventive screenings and encourages them to get screened to help with early detection.

Every employee is different in what they bring to the workplace. Cancer journeys are different from person to person, and having an appreciation for these differences is important to making employees feel supported. —Employee and Breast Cancer Survivor

  • Providing navigation, advocacy, and care coordination. Some journeys span months while others take years. No matter the journey, employees need and want help identifying a care team. They also want help navigating their care, and understanding their treatment options. Additionally, employees may need an employer-provided advocate who can help them navigate benefits, coverage, and support during treatment and beyond.
  • Offering time off and flexible work arrangements. Remote work, flexible hours, or shifting to a part-time schedule provide flexibility and accommodate employees who need to manage their cancer treatment or caregiving responsibilities alongside their work. 
  • Providing mental health support. Cancer comes with a degree of uncertainty. People with cancer and their loved ones often don’t know how the cancer will progress. They also don’t know how they will respond to treatments, or the side effects they may experience. This is compounded by financial stress, the impact of living with cancer, and the fear of cancer progression or recurrence. Employee resource and support groups along with mental health benefits can help employees cope. These groups and benefits foster a cancer supportive workplace and help with the challenging emotional aspects of a cancer journey.

Cancer is hard and emotional, from managing the bills to healing from surgery. It is so important to have an employee support group or mental health benefits.
—Employee and Breast Cancer Survivor

  • Implementing a return-to-work program. Programming designed to help employees return to the workplace after cancer treatment can help them reintegrate and resume their professional lives gradually as they regain strength and confidence.
Fostering a supportive, cancer inclusive culture 

Employers that take steps to support and accommodate their employees on a cancer journey demonstrate their care, concern, and empathy. They also ease the overwhelm of a cancer journey. For employees, the support in what is often their lowest moment is invaluable. Employees are not just employed, but feel embraced by their workplace community. 

Summus, your trusted partner

Summus provides best-in-class clinical guidance, advocacy, and navigation, helping employees and their families get the answers they need from high quality specialists. With Summus, employees going through cancer have a trusted partner for their journey, so they can move from fear to empowerment. Summus provides a clear path forward in the moments that matter most. 

For more information on actions employers can take to support their employees during the different phases of a cancer journey, download our employer’s guide.

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