A breast cancer diagnosis can be a life-altering experience and impacts all areas of one’s life– including one’s career. Most people will spend nearly one-third of their lives on the job without the option to take a step back from the daily grind even as life’s challenges mount. As Breast Cancer Awareness Month winds down, it’s an opportunity to think through how your company or organization’s work culture supports survivors of breast cancer, those battling the disease, or those supporting a loved one living with it.
It should not take a terminal illness diagnosis for your organization's humanity to kick in. If anything, the experience of an employee being diagnosed with breast cancer may more closely reveal the areas where your organization’s working culture needs improvement. Whether you have employees on staff who are currently battling the disease or not, there are strategies your organization can adopt to become a space that supports survivors and centers care for all employees.
Make Compassion a Practice
An effective DEI strategy ensures that your employees feel valued, supported, and heard throughout the year and across different phases of their personal and professional lives. A disease like breast cancer places tremendous stress on the individual battling it and can significantly affect one’s physical, emotional, and mental health. The last thing a team member facing a breast cancer diagnosis wants to deal with is the stress of a toxic or unsupportive workplace; making compassion, courtesy, and kindness the default of your organization’s working style allows for survivors and those currently battling the disease a needed respite from the challenges they are facing.
Compassion in action can look like honoring the wishes of the team member battling breast cancer and ensuring that leadership and other colleagues are all doing their part to be welcoming and inclusive. It can be easy for teams to default to thinking about themselves and how a team member’s breast cancer diagnosis may impact them and their workload. However, compassion reminds us that the work can still get done while prioritizing the needs of our team members.
Flexibility is Strength
While many companies and organizations continue to roll back work-from-home policies that were instated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a workplace culture that prioritizes equity and inclusion understands that trusting employees to get their work done on their own terms is key in creating a flexible and supportive working environment. The ability to have remote work or to honor no meeting days or shortened work weeks can go a long way in supporting those battling breast cancer. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations for cancer patients, and a workplace committed to an inclusive working environment would provide said accommodations without question.
Your organization can get a head start in establishing this culture by being responsive to the needs of employees. Work-from-home policies, unlimited PTO, and not requiring employees to over-explain their need for sick or personal time off sets the stage for those battling diseases like breast cancer to be fully supported should they receive a diagnosis. A flexible workplace is a sign of strength and shows that there is a high level of trust across all levels in an organization. Building that culture should be a priority for any organization committed to the work of DEI. These policies should be extended to those caring for relatives with cancer as well. At some point we will all need a caregiver and/or we will have to provide caregiving to a loved one. Organizations should consider this reality and think through comprehensive ways to support employees who are caregiving for family members with disabilities full time.
Wages That Support Financial Freedom
In a capitalistic society, healing and safety are extremely expensive. Paying your employees a living wage and providing other opportunities for financial growth through raises, promotions, or bonuses can support those battling an illness like breast cancer. Having the material resources needed to fight the disease can support your employees in putting their energy into healing and away from worrying about how their basic needs will be met.
The road to healing from breast cancer may be long and arduous, but your organization can do its part to lighten the load for survivors. Schedule a consultation with ShiftED Consulting today to learn more about strategies you can adopt that will support your team.