Ten keys for companies to support workers with cancer in the new work environment
The COVID-19 pandemic is having serious consequences for the mental health of the general population, especially for people who are closely suffering from diseases such as cancer. For this reason, Cigna Espaa and MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid have prepared, on the occasion of World Cancer Day (04 February), the guide “ A new scenario: cancer in the company before COVID-19. Decalogue for the support of employees with cancer of organizations. This document was born from the commitment of the two entities when it comes to supporting companies in the establishment of a corporate culture that responds to the challenges of the fight against this disease, and which materializes in the ‘Cancer and Business’ initiative.
This is a declogue composed of practical advice intended for human resources professionals and team management managers to support, within the company, workers with cancerous pathologies to adapt to the social scenario, current social and health. And because of the very challenge of suffering from a disease of this magnitude, these patients are now confronted with two other events with a strong psychological impact: a pandemic and the need to adapt to a totally unknown situation, marked by constant change.
This context places companies in a key position as promoters and managers of health and well-being. According to the latest data from the Spanish Association against Cancer (AECC), almost 40% of Spaniards with oncological pathologies are between 15 and 65 years old (only 3.4% are between 15 and 39 years old), so the Resource departments Human or labor medical services play a central role in promoting policies and programs that support employees in this situation.
As Ana Romeo, Director of Human Resources at Cigna Espaa, points out, “The health crisis has brought about a paradigm shift marked by the rise of hybrid work environments. For this reason, we wanted to bring this document closer to organizations, in order to provide them with the necessary advice so that they can continue to help employees living with cancer. From the company, our priority is to take care of the health and well-being of our employees in a global way, and for this same reason, those who go through a pathology that involves specific challenges, such as cancer, require attention. particular. on our side “.
For his part, as underlined by Dr. Santiago Gonzlez, medical director of MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid, “the gradual reestablishment of a ‘new normal’ at all levels for a patient who has recently undergone or is undergoing treatment L oncology is part of the treatment of the disease itself. Getting back to your workplace is an essential part of this process and will encourage you to continue with it, but only if we are able to adapt the work environment to your new reality. The role and awareness of organizations in this regard is essential and will be a differential factor in the patient’s full recovery. “
This awareness-raising work for the two companies has been going on for a long time. Almost two years ago, they launched the “Cncer y Empresa” 2 initiative with the aim of promoting a culture of support for cancer in the Spanish business community and raising awareness of the challenges posed by this disease. Among its most significant actions is the launch at the end of 2019 of the “ Cancer in the company ” study. Perspectives 2020 ”or the guide“ Cancer in the workplace. Practical Notes for Human Resources ”.
What variables have an impact on the emotional well-being of cancer patients?
The starting point is to know the psychological impact of the pandemic on people with cancer in order to identify the type of interventions that it is necessary to undertake on the part of companies. Thus, for the development of the declogo, the Cigna Espaa and the MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid analyzed the different challenges that cancer patients face.
In this way, the document indicates that the experience of an unprecedented health crisis makes these patients a group particularly prone to suffer from disorders such as anxiety, stress or depression, as this occurs when the patient passes by an oncological process, a fact which in itself is a risk factor for emotional health. Proof of this are the results obtained in a study carried out by the Spanish Association against Cancer (AECC) in April, which found that people with cancer pathologies were much more concerned about the pandemic than the Spanish population in general (67% vs. 59%), and one in three admitted to having anxiety or depression as a result of detention.
In this sense, it is important to keep in mind that these people, in addition to having to adapt like others to changes such as the rise of telework or the reduction of social relationships, must face several challenges. individuals, directly linked to their illness. . Regardless of the impact that the pandemic has had on the health care received by these patients4, the main challenge for many of these people is an increased fear of contagion, as they constitute a group at risk.
As stated by Dr Mara Snchez, Medical e-Health Manager of Cigna Spain, “this situation puts an overload on the mental health of people living with an oncological process. For this reason, at Cignat, we try to do our part by being alongside these patients through our Clinical Follow-up Unit, and by reinforcing a message that we believe to be fundamental: we cannot forget prevention. It is important to carry out regular medical checks to be able to detect any pathology in time, as well as to consult the doctor in the event of recent appearance of symptoms ”.
For her part, Marta de la Fuente, head of the psycho-oncology department at MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid, indicates that “in these cases, ‘it rains in the wet’ and the emotional impact is much greater. We must keep in mind that these people are currently facing three stressful life processes: cancer, a pandemic and a period of adaptation to the new situations that the health crisis has brought. In addition, there is a big difference between the patients. A person who has just been diagnosed and who may experience a greater sense of anger, rage, frustration and helplessness due to the health collapse is not the same as a person who has just been diagnosed. to receive the disease, to another person who is already living with cancer and who has seen how some of their main benefits have been limited, such as going out on the streets or meeting family, friends or colleagues ”.
The 10 proposals of Cigna Espaa and MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid *
These variables make it necessary to create or re-adapt any business protocol focused on the management of this type of case to adapt them to the current situation of this group and to the new work environment. What recommendations can be taken into account for this?
Constantly monitor the employee to find out how they are doing and what they need. Analyze the risks related to your health and well-being and provide yourself with the necessary resources. Promote initiatives focused on emotional health to learn how to manage uncertainty. Pay more attention to work-life balance and flexibility. Keep as many communication channels as possible open between workers. Offer a telemedicine service in the company. Implement specific health plans, such as “case management programs”. Reinforce the professional development of these people: do not lose sight of their work objectives. Maintain or create internal cancer awareness actions. Redefine the action protocol to adapt it to the current working environment.
All these actions must be constantly updated according to the changes taking place in the environment and the feedback that the employees themselves provide. For plans and protocols to be as effective as possible, they must be tailored to four key points in the oncological process – pre-diagnosis (anticipation), diagnosis (impact management), medico-oncological treatment (follow-up) and return to work. (rehabilitation) – and consider employees who have dependents with this condition.