If you need additional support when you return to work after your diagnosis, you’re not alone. Many cancer patients and survivors need to make certain modifications to their job and/or workspace to help them to continue working. Reasonable accommodations, a benefit of The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), is one tool that can be used to make working through treatment, or returning to work after treatment, more manageable.
Workplace Initiative recently wrote an article mentioning several workplace accommodations that can create a more inclusive and functional environment for all employees, not just those with disabilities, and divided them into overarching categories: communication supports, environmental supports and structural supports. We’ve highlighted one from each category that might be particularly useful to patients and survivors when they are thinking about reasonable accommodation requests.
Working remotely: Working from home part or full time might be another solution—and these days that might even already be how you are working. Telecommuting part-time or full-time can help eliminate a draining commute or allow you to lie down more often than you would be able to at your workplace. If set up in the right way, it can be a great way to conserve some energy and reduce overall stress — which often leads to improved focus and greater productivity.
Break time flexibility: Fatigue can be a common side effect that might require you to have more “down periods” throughout the day. If your job includes allocated break times, maybe it’s possible for you to take more frequent or additional breaks throughout the day. Let’s say your work schedule allots two 15-minute breaks and a 45-minute lunch, but what you really need is a total of four breaks in your day. Those extra breaks could potentially be considered an accommodation.
Meeting agendas: Asking your manager/supervisor to provide agendas or discussion points prior to meetings can be particularly helpful if you’re experiencing “chemo brain”. Knowing what is going to be covered ahead of time, can give you extra, dedicated time to focus and prepare your notes and/or talking points.
It’s important to note, that many modifications cost little to no money at all (like the ones we’ve highlighted). Those can serve as a starting point, but we recommend thinking through all accommodation options before speaking with an employer. To help you feel more prepared for those conversations, check out Job Accommodation Network (www.AskJAN.org), which is a great resource for getting ideas about potential accommodations. Our ‘Requesting Reasonable Accommodations’ article also includes an extensive list of questions to help identify possible modifications as well as tips for how to ask for them. Additionally, our Manager’s Kit is designed for employers who may have never supervised an employee with cancer before, and is a useful tool for patients/survivors to have on hand when approaching the accommodations conversation.
Be sure to watch the recording of our Working Through Treatment webinar, which covers topics including workplace laws that protect patients at both the federal and state levels and how to use them and arranging reasonable accommodations in the workplace under the ADA.