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Cancer in the Workplace

By Menna Farag – Senior Consultant
“If health is the essence of your brand, it all starts with taking the health of your workforce very seriously.” – Marnix Eikenboom (President, Danone)
Talking about health, this article highlights one of the world’s predominant health problems, threatening and affecting individuals of all ages and causing suffering on a global scale.
Cancer in the workplace is a growing concern, as more and more people are diagnosed with the disease each year. According to the “World Cancer Research Fund” over 18 million cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2020 and data from Johns Hopkins in 2017 found that 5% of the workforce has a history of cancer.
This situation highlights the need for employers to understand how cancer impacts the lives of the affected employee and try to provide the best possible means of support to the employee during this difficult time.

First, as an employer, be proactive and work towards eliminating stress-causing factors in your organization. We all know that stress can affect our bodies negatively; it can weaken the immunity system and alter the levels of certain hormones facilitating cancer development. Employers should aim to reduce stress in the workplace because stress can be very costly. High levels of absenteeism and employee turnover are some of the main indicators of a stressed workforce.

Employer can provide key elements of a “Healthy Workplace” such as:

  1. Clear leadership structure where accountabilities and responsibilities should be made clear.
  2. Communicate regularly with your employees to build a culture of trust.
  3. Challenge your employees instead of overwhelming them and boosts the spirit of cooperation at work.
  4. Invest in your employees by offering training to enhance their knowledge and skills in a specific field.
  5. Support employees’ Work-Life-Balance in several ways, the most efficient and practical method is by focusing on productivity rather than work hours.
Second, “prevention is better than cure”, it is, therefore, essential for employers to take steps to protect their employees. Awareness campaigns are an effective way of educating people about the disease; this includes the symptoms of the disease and methods of early detection, this can be supported by health insurance policies that cover routine checks.
Third, to ensure that employees are able to continue working while dealing with the physical and emotional challenges of cancer, employers must create policies that protect the rights of individuals suffering from cancer, such as flexible scheduling options that allow employees to take time off when needed without sacrificing their salary or job security. Additionally, employers can provide resources such as counseling services so that employees can better manage the stress of living with cancer in the workplace.
Finally, we would like to emphasize that the 4th of February is not just a day on the calendar, it is a day of creating various initiatives to save millions of lives including the lives of employees in the workplace. Remember that a healthy workforce translates into good business so any investment in employee health and wellbeing is not a sunk cost but rather a smart investment with significant ROI in your people and organization.

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