This past Thursday, Cancer and Careers hosted our first Ask the Experts session as part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This moderated discussion featured career coach Kathy Flora (who is also a cancer survivor) fielding questions from members of our community about looking for work and continuing on the job during our current public health crisis.
One of the questions Kathy addressed live is something we’re hearing about frequently within the cancer community right now. It came from a survivor who identified themselves as being at higher risk of getting the virus, who said they have been experiencing some anxiety about returning to their workplace once stay-at-home orders are lifted, and was curious about how to have a conversation with their employer about these concerns. If you can relate, below are three key points to consider which may find helpful:
- Your concern is understandable – and common. Given how much is still unknown about the novel coronavirus, many people across the U.S. and around the world are feeling similar concerns and anxieties about the risks that may come once communities start opening back up again for a variety of different reasons. In other words, you’re not having these experiences alone. Be kind to yourself, and let yourself have the time and space to process whatever it is that you’re feeling.
- Don’t jump to conclusions before doing some homework. The fact is, no one is entirely sure right now what the process of “returning to normal” is going to look like. It’s also true that many employers have already started thinking about how to ensure their employees stay as safe as possible while transitioning back from staying at/working from home. A good first step is reach out to your boss or supervisor to find out what (if any) strategies are currently being discussed. Asking good questions and listening carefully to the responses can help you get a sense specific concerns are already being thought through and planned for, or whether it may be necessary to have additional conversations, such as making a request for a reasonable accommodation.
- Prepare for conversations with your employer before you have them. Having your specific thoughts and questions written out before approaching your employer can be very helpful. Not only does having a “script” or outline of the conversation ensure that you hit all the major points you want to cover, it may also help you avoid getting too emotional during the conversation or accidentally sharing information about yourself that you’d prefer stay private. It may also be a good idea to actually rehearse your side of the conversation with a friend, family member, or even a co-worker whom you trust to so you feel as confident as possible when the time comes.
To read more about balancing work and cancer during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, check out our ongoing blog series by clicking here.