According to the American Cancer Society, approximately one-third of all women and one-half of all men in the United States will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetimes.
For many of these individuals, a cancer diagnosis will take place during their working years; forcing them to confront a difficult disease at the same time they continue working to support their families.
No doubt, a cancer diagnosis is most difficult on the individual, but that does not mean others aren’t affected, including the employer.
Businesses rely on employees to get work done, and having a key staff member sidelined by cancer can create challenges even the most collaborative teams find difficult to overcome. These pressures are often exacerbated by the fact that it can be difficult to know where to begin or what’s appropriate to discuss in the workplace.
How is sick leave handled? What rights and responsibilities does the employee have? How do both parties make the transition back to work as smoothly as possible?
To address these common questions and very real concerns Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s parent company collaborated with Cancer and Careers; Pfizer; SEDL, an affiliate of American Institutes for Research; and the US Business Leadership Network to create a free online resource called Workplace Transitions for People Touched by Cancer (Workplace Transitions).
Workplace Transitions provides companies of all sizes with an innovative, tested and free resource to support a healthy and productive experience when an employee is facing cancer.
Packed with easy-to-understand information, the web-enabled toolkit provides managers and human resources staff with actionable guidance that complements existing company policies and procedures. The e-toolkit also provides employers with further awareness on the law regarding employees with disabilities. For example, oftentimes employers don’t realize that an employee diagnosed with cancer is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
To this end, Workplace Transitions provides managers with important information and resources on topics such as privacy, disability, medical leave and insurance, as well as practical ideas for workplace adjustments and accommodations, such as moving the printer closer to the person’s desk, offering to provide a mini-fridge to store medicines or exploring the possibility of working from home.
For co-workers, the toolkit contains real-world advice they can use to constructively offer help, as well as suggestions for what is truly comforting and what not to say to someone working through a cancer diagnosis.
Workplace Transitions launched in 2015 after a pilot with Anthem, Ernst Young LLP, Merck, North American Mission Board, Northrop Grumman and Verizon. Reactions to the program were positive, with the majority of managers who accessed the e-toolkit reporting that it is easy to use and helpful, especially when it came to providing their employees with needed emotional support and guidance to create a positive environment for their employees.
Additional resources for patients, caregivers and health professionals
Outside of the workplace, a cancer diagnosis prompts a different set of challenges and questions, few of which are broadly considered prior to diagnosis. It’s easy for appointment dates and treatment plan details to get lost among questions, worries and an overwhelming influx of medical information.
To help patients, caregivers and medical professionals collect their thoughts and guide conversations, several free tools are available at www.freecancerresources.com, including:
Let’s Talk Treatment Options– Developed with the Cancer Support Community and Genentech, the Let’s Talk Treatment Options website helps individuals make sense of their feelings and identify what topics and questions they should discuss with their doctor to find the cancer treatment that is right for their personal situation.
Mobile Apps –Self-Care During Cancer Treatment helps cancer patients assess their symptoms and prompts them when it may be time to contact their doctor. My Care Plan helps cancer survivors summarize their past treatments, plan for future care and provides an overview of what they can expect moving forward. Both apps are available for Apple and Android devices.
Help for Cancer Caregivers – Those who take care of others often do so by putting the needs of their friends and loved ones ahead of their own, even to the detriment of their own personal health. To remedy this, Help for Cancer Caregivers walks caregivers through a brief survey and then provides personalized information to help monitor, track and manage the personal health challenges a person may be facing as a result of their caregiver role.
Journey Forward – Designed for doctors and nurses, Journey Forward is an online suite of tools that can be used to help cancer survivors and their care teams communicate to share data and develop ongoing care plans.
It’s true that mobile apps and web tools will not cure cancer or even eliminate all the stress and confusion that goes along with treatment. That said, these resources are a great place to start, providing valuable information and question prompts that may help patients feel more confident and engaged in their treatment.
All of the cancer resources discussed above, including Workplace Transitions, can be found at www.freecancerresources.com. The information is entirely free and is not specific to any one type of insurance plan or cancer scenario. Please share this website broadly and consider incorporating it into your workplace wellness planning so that your business can be ready for that unfortunate, but likely day when cancer touches the workplace.