IAN FERGUSON: Making work bearable for the cancer fighter

October is a month given to the awareness and celebration of persons living through breast cancer diagnosis. Women and men experiencing this ordeal find it necessary to have strong support as they go through the gruelling stages of treatment and recovery.

Employers and co-workers have a critical role to play in providing love and care to their colleagues battling this disease. Today, we focus on the many ways we can give support to those affected. Here are a few suggestions:

• Respond quickly and positively to their requests and questions. The human resources team will be flooded with questions regarding leave, insurance, national insurance benefits and the like. How we respond, and how quickly we respond, truly matters. The stress of not knowing in this time of great uncertainty can be even more harrowing for those persons struggling. Training can certainly come in handy as well. Teaching managers and human resources professionals how to respond when an employee receives a cancer diagnosis can make a huge difference.

• Provide a flexible/modified working schedule or permit time missed for treatment and appointments to be made up. Whether this involves working a reduced/part-time schedule or changing a shift, people need to know there are some accommodations and consideration for their condition by employers. In some environments the option of working from home, as needed, or on a regular basis can be explored. Where this is not possible, the thought of allowing for mental and physical breaks during extreme periods of fatigue can be considered.

• Make the physical work space more comfortable for the affected employee. This may require moving parking closer to the premises, adjusting the temperature in the room, changing the furniture or having the vents cleaned more regularly. These small gestures will send the clear message that consideration is being given to make them as comfortable as possible through the physical challenges. Modifying a dress code to allow wearing a scarf, hat, unrestrictive clothing may also be considered in keeping with ensuring that the employee is content.

• Reduce the mental strain and workload. Restructure the job so that the most difficult tasks are performed at the time of day the employee has the most mental and/or physical energy and stamina. This is another strategy for the caring employer and human resources team. Assigning assistants to the impacted worker might also be explored for those difficult days during the journey. A cheerleader on the job to assist during the low moments can be a tremendous morale boost.

• NB: Ian R Ferguson is a talent management and organisational development consultant, having completed graduate studies with regional and international universities. He has served organsations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their business growth and development issues. He may be contacted at iferguson@bahamas.com.