With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts

- Eleanor Roosevelt

Returning to the Workplace

Returning to work after cancer, or while still undergoing cancer treatment, can be a daunting prospect. Cancer is a highly traumatic experience and one, which changes a person’s outlook on life. It’s important therefore to be prepared for your return to work – from a mental, an emotional and a practical point of view. There is a lot of different emotions you could be feeling going back to work. These emotions will be what this page is focused on but if you need help or information on how to deal with your financial situation, click here.

While you’re off Work:

It’s important to stay in touch with your employer and your colleagues, while you’re off sick from work. Maintaining regular contact will mean you won’t feel left out of the loop once you return to the workplace and it will be easier to settle back into the routine.

Ask your employer to send you company information such as newsletters or details of changes within the business. Notify your employer in advance of returning, giving him or her plenty of time to allow for the necessary supports to be put in place.

Returning to the Workplace – What to Expect:

Undergoing cancer treatment is not an easy experience and typically results in side effects. Whether you’re finished the cancer treatment or still under going it, expect it to affect your working ability. You most likely won’t know what you’re actually capable of until you return to the workplace. On top of this, you may have to attend regular hospital or GP appointments. You will most likely feel fatigued, especially at first. It’s vital that you don’t overload yourself with work at this time. The last thing you want is to increase your stress levels, so aim to make the experience as stress-free and easy as possible

It’s a good idea therefore to keep your working arrangements as flexible as possible. Discuss this with your boss, your manager or the HR department before you return to the workplace. You may also need to inform your colleagues in advance so they are prepared should you need a level of flexibility in your role. You can agree a time frame for how long flexible working arrangements might last and when the arrangements can be reviewed with your boss. Keep in mind that your energy levels are likely to improve as time goes on and that you will gradually be able to do more work and build up your hours in the workplace. As time goes on, you’ll need less time for GP or hospital visits too. Recovery is a gradual process so how you feel now is likely to change.

Talking About Cancer in the Workplace

Emotions you may feel going back to work:

  • Worried – You can feel worried about a number of things when going back to work after cancer. For example, will I not be able to do my job as well as before cancer, what will I say about my absence, will I not be ready to work and be unable to focus and get my work done. It is okay to have these concerns as they are normal, having a plan can help with them because you will feel more prepared and not worry.
  • Fatigue – You may feel tired when going back to work because you are not used to working again. To make you less tired and to slowly ease into your job for the first few months you can, do shorter hours, do work that requires less energy, talk to your doctor and join a group of people that also have cancer related fatigue so that you can relate and help each other.
  • Fear – You can also fear going back to work as it can be scary to think about going back to a normal life. You might also fear what you colleagues might think about you. Whether they will not think you are able for the job or be asking loads of questions about your illness. It is important that you know you are able for the job it will just take some getting used to and that you do not need to share anymore than you are uncomfortable with.

Make a Return to Work Plan