6 mins. read

7 tips for working during cancer treatment

7 tips for working during cancer treatment

Key Takeaways

  • Speak to others: Whilst not everyone has to know everything about your diagnosis, talking to people at work and home can help you to get practical and emotional support.
  • Write things down: Use a diary to keep track of your work schedule, appointments, and any flexitime. Also, write a detailed list of your normal work duties to help you to delegate tasks and manage your time off.
  • Listen to your body: Cancer treatment can cause pain, nausea, and tiredness. Make sure you listen to what your body is telling you and take the time to rest when you need to, even if this means changing your work schedule or altering your duties.

Whether you continue to work during your cancer treatment will likely depend on the type of work you do, your overall health, the kind of treatment you are receiving and the stage of your cancer. However, many people undergoing cancer treatment want to continue working for a sense of normalcy.

That being said, juggling appointments, work and your home life can be stressful and you might be wondering how best to approach the situation. Here at Perci Health we understand how individual this experience is. We have put together some general tips for how you might best manage cancer at work.

Talk to your manager

You don’t have to tell your employer that you have cancer. But, talking to your manager or someone in the HR department can help you get the flexibility and support you need to balance treatment and work.

You can also speak to your employer about what employment rights you have and which of their company policies cover employees with cancer, so you know what you are entitled to.

Discuss what time you think you may need off and any adjustments you might need to make to create a plan of action that works for you and your employer. As you undergo treatment, keep communication open with your employer and let them know if your appointment schedule changes or if you need further alterations made at work.

Tell your co-workers

How open you choose to be with your co-workers about your diagnosis is a personal choice and you may not even want to tell everyone that you work with. You may just wish to start with those you are closest to or those that are part of your immediate work team.

Not all of your co-workers will react the same way and some may have questions, but they can also provide invaluable practical and emotional support. For example, they may be able to take on some of your usual tasks while you have time off or adjust their roles to allow you to have fewer physical duties while you go through treatment.

Colleagues can also be great for keeping things ‘normal’ by chatting and joking with you as they usually would.

Explore flexible working options

Whilst not possible for all types of work, you might be able to organise flexible working with your employer. This might mean you can work from home on days when you aren’t up to going in or that you can leave early to attend an appointment and make up the time later.

There may also be periods where you are unable to work due to side effects or ongoing treatment requirements. By having a flexible working arrangement in place, you can take time off to rest or recover without worrying about work.

If you have been off for some time and are returning to work after cancer, a phased or flexible return might also be beneficial to give you time to acclimatise to work again.

Take short breaks

There may be times at work when you feel tired, are uncomfortable or need to take medication. Pay attention to how your body feels and try not to push yourself too much. Ask your employer about what options are available for extended or additional breaks during your working day.

If you live close to your workplace, they may let you have a longer lunch so you can go home for a lie down for example. Or, if you have a job where you are on your feet most of the time, they might let you step away whenever you need to sit down for a moment.

Practice good hygiene techniques

Some cancer treatments can suppress your immune system, making you more susceptible to the coughs and colds which are often prevalent in the workplace. Therefore, it’s a good idea to practice good hygiene techniques when at work. 

Wash your hands regularly and ensure that any shared items such as stationary or kitchen cutlery are cleaned thoroughly before use. Also, try to keep away from any colleagues or visitors who are displaying signs of illness.

Note things down

Continuing to work while undergoing cancer treatment can mean many things to deal with such as medical appointments, scheduling time off, recovery periods and work tasks. It can be helpful to use a diary or digital planner to keep a record of everything. If you wanted to, you could even create something you can share with your manager so they are well-informed of when you will be absent or when you might need additional help when at work.

It can also be beneficial to make a list of all your usual duties so that you can more accurately determine which tasks you can manage when at work or which tasks your employer will need to delegate to others when you are off.

Accept help at home

Cancer treatments can make you fatigued and if you are working as well, it’s understandable if you struggle to also manage household tasks on top of everything else. Whether you are newly diagnosed, undergoing chemotherapy or finishing treatment, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for practical support from family and friends. They might be able to help with cooking, cleaning, and errands so that you have more free time to focus on your wellbeing and get much needed rest.

If you are an employee who would like more support at work, or you work in HR and would like to find out how you can help your workforce navigate a cancer diagnosis, let your employer know about Perci Health.