Accurately assessing your readiness to return to work in a timely way is very important. Research and experience with those off work due to illness or injury shows that, the longer someone is away from work, the harder it is to go back to work. While you are away, your workspace or job duties may change, or you may forget how to do some of them. You may lose touch with your co-workers, not to mention the income you lose by not working.
On the other hand, if cancer or its treatment creates unexpected problems for you, you might return too soon or without the support you need.1 That could make returning to work or staying at work too difficult for you, your manager and co-workers.
In most cases, employers and managers are initially very keen to support someone who is coping with cancer and who wants to return to work. However, they can be frustrated by not understanding how cancer diagnosis and treatment may affect you and how to help you return to work. Accurately assessing your work abilities and challenges, on your own or with the help of a professional, can prevent this frustration if you share the assessment with your employer to help them prepare for your return.
Before returning to work, what can you do? For starters, be realistic:
- Understand your work demands and duties.
- Understand your ability to do different work tasks.
- Identify challenges you will need to address.
Use your recovery time to address these challenges and take control of your return to work process.
- Look for opportunities to improve your abilities.
- Develop a plan to address these challenges.
- Talk to your doctor and your workplace representative about working.
Assessment of your work ability typically involves you informing your physician of your physical, cognitive, and emotional challenges and abilities. Your physician will consider these, and with their evaluation and the knowledge of the effects of cancer and treatment, may provide an opinion on your working ability. In some cases, further assessment will be needed by specialists such as occupational therapists, vocational rehabilitation counsellors.