In today’s digital age, more and more employers are offering flexible work schedules as an alternative to the traditional 9-to-5, 40-hour workweek. For survivors returning to work, and those who continue to work during treatment, such flexibility can be crucial to their health — not to mention their professional success.
Patients undergoing treatment may sometimes feel unwell and not able to make it through a full day. Survivors re-entering the workforce may find they need to ease back into a full-time work schedule rather than automatically resume the standard eight (or more) consecutive hours a day. And then there’s the not-uncommon scenario in which treatment and/or follow-up appointments get moved around by the doctor or hospital.
If a flexible work arrangement is in place, it makes it easier for the employee to adapt to these types of situations. It also helps ensure (for the employer) that the necessary work is getting done. By allowing employees to meet their personal needs, such as working during hours that best suit their energy cycles, companies are able to reduce employee turnover and increase employee morale.
While a flexible work arrangement can be a win-win, benefiting both employee and employer, it’s not a guaranteed option at every job. However, a strong case can be made for its necessity. A recent article published by The Muse, focusing on how to lobby for a flexible schedule, highlights the fact that 67% of small businesses in the U.S. offer flexible work arrangements, and 75% of companies worldwide offer flexible work policies.
When it comes to making the case for a more flexible work schedule, here are three particularly relevant points for cancer survivors:
1. Look beyond your existing role — Easing back into a work routine is not easy. Assess your current abilities and see how they fit your employer’s needs. There may be other roles (aside from your current/previous one) that need to be filled, for which your skills are a good match.
2. Create a plan, but be flexible — An action plan can help you feel like you are back in control. Once you’ve determined what your needs are, be transparent with your employer about what’s required to meet those needs. If necessary, ask your employer for a reasonable accommodation(s) or relevant modifications that would better enable you to work through treatment.
3. Reevaluate the plan as necessary — Remember, one’s health can be unpredictable; therefore, any accommodations you need may be subject to change. Make sure to communicate this to your employer and include in your plan a time table for when to revisit/reassess those needs.
While these are not easy conversations to have, they are necessary. Job flexibility is an important aspect to consider when making the decision to return to work or work through treatment, and CAC has a number of resources that can help individuals in either situation — from articles and free publications on work & cancer, to our Balancing Work & Cancer webinar series.