Support Colleagues with Serious Medical Conditions

Survey reveals the need to equip employees and management to better support colleagues with serious medical conditions.

Majority want to help

A majority (88%) of workers have concerns about their ability to support a co-worker with a serious and/or chronic medical condition. 

According to national survey results from Cancer and Careers, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to empowering and educating people with cancer to thrive in their workplace. 

The survey also showed that many members of the workforce wish that their workplace offered more assistance and accommodations for their colleagues facing serious medical issues.

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The survey

The online survey, conducted among 1,000 working adults in the US, employed full-time by Wakefield Research on behalf of Cancer and Careers.

The survey was designed to determine if workers feel prepared and empowered to support their colleagues with a serious medical condition and if they believe management is providing them with the correct resources and guidance.

Results show more than half (59%) were not confident their company’s leadership knew how to support employees with serious and/or chronic conditions.

Leaders need to change

“Creating and maintaining a supportive and inclusive work environment for all employees is critical, but this survey shows that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done for this to be accomplished,” said Kathy M. Flora, MA, NCCC, MCC, a career coach with Cancer and Careers.

“Leadership plays a crucial role in defining company culture and values.

When 89 percent of workers say that management could have done more to be supportive of their co-workers with serious medical conditions, whether that’s providing more workplace accommodations or creating more inclusion and engagement opportunities, it’s clear a significant shift is necessary at the top levels of organizations.”

Fine line between intrusion and support

While co-workers are often eager to help, they can struggle with walking the fine line between being supportive and being intrusive.

Among respondents who have concerns, the most common is how much or what kind of emotional support to offer (69%), followed by how much to ask about their co-worker’s medical condition/status (59%) and what kind of work-related help to offer (51%).

Experience increases concern

A cancer diagnosis often seems to increase the level of complexity.

More of those who currently work or have worked with someone diagnosed with cancer have concerns about being supportive — 90 percent, compared to 78 percent who have not worked with someone with cancer.

People want to help

“Workers have a clear desire to help co-workers who are experiencing serious or chronic illnesses,” said Rebecca Nellis, MPP, executive director, Cancer and Careers.

“As the population of cancer survivors continues to grow, there is an increasing need for resources and support to help them get back to everyday life and work after a diagnosis, and co-workers and employers are central to making this happen.

When employers and managers create and reinforce supportive policies, tools and guidance, navigating workplace challenges for both employees with serious medical conditions and their co-workers, becomes easier.”

Ways to support

There are many ways to support colleagues who are experiencing serious or chronic illnesses, like cancer.

Cancer and Careers provides a wealth of information and free resources on this topic.

To learn more, please visit this link.