With more employees embracing hybrid working than ever before, employers are being urged to ensure that all employees, but especially those with severe illnesses like cancer, do not become increasingly isolated.
On the one hand, remote working allows cancer patients to continue to work during their treatment and rehabilitation (if they so wish). Being able to work as and when they feel sufficiently well enough without needing to commute and without having to ask for workplace adjustments can make this a lot easier for employees.
Conversely, however, employees who do not have any in-person, face-to-face contact with colleagues, managers or HR can become more isolated and introverted which can have a detrimental impact on their mental health and ultimately their recovery. We believe this can create an invisible barrier which can increase feelings of isolation and anxiety. It can also prevent an employee from fully benefitting from everything their employer has to offer, and in some instances risk staff retention. RedArc says the situation needs very careful management.
Following the pandemic, most employers now have the tools and wherewithal to provide remote and hybrid working as the norm and not the exception. However, because employers now trust the model and are less concerned about where their staff are based, they may not recognise when some employees need more support or have become withdrawn.
First and foremost, employers must respect an employee’s judgement in terms of their ability to work during their cancer journey, whether that’s from home or the office, but they should also look to ensure all employees are engaged in the wider aspects of the workplace too.
Going to work is about so much more than just being productive for the organisation. The relationships and friendships forged and the social element of the workplace are key aspects too.
Recognising employee isolation
An employee who becomes isolated from their workplace, either physically, mentally or both can find it hard to reconnect. Tell-tale signs include someone who uncharacteristically stops interacting socially with their colleagues, engaging beyond their day-to-day tasks or responding to feedback, or who shows little interest in career development.
Employers need to recognise these signs and work hard to overcome the barriers. Having an open dialogue with affected employees is the first step and providing opportunities to help employees reconnect is vital.
The welfare of employees became the number one priority for many employers during the pandemic but it’s crucial that employers don’t drop the ball now.
All employees, and particularly those with serious illnesses, need the full support of employers to feel fully engaged in the workplace – no matter where they choose to, or where their illness dictates, they work from.
Referring employees to any support their employer offers, including via their employee benefits is an indirect way of starting to rebuild relationships which can prove very helpful. This support can help an employee to talk through their emotions and give them the knowledge and confidence to discuss their situation with their employer, and this can make a big difference in helping them feel engaged and supported.
Employers can play their part in standing up to cancer by providing a supportive and inclusive culture where employees with serious illness are as equally connected to the workplace community as others, and this can be a huge help to individuals.