As revealed in some sobering statistics shared by Harvard Business Review, over a third of Europeans aged 15 years or older and almost 60% of adult Americans have at least one chronic illness. Examples of chronic illness include arthritis, diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
However, in one study of more than a thousand US-based workers, 60% said that they saw their leaders as unprepared for supporting employees who have a serious medical condition. If you are an employer, you can do the following to reassure a critically ill employee…
Keep your own emotional response in check
When an employee breaks the news to you that they are critically ill, you could initially feel fraught with sadness, worry, fear or frustration. Still, whatever emotions you go through, you need to see these as your responsibility rather than the employee’s.
Through being careful to manage (understandable) emotions like these, you can better position yourself to think straight about how to help the employee with handling their own situation.
Reassess your assumptions about ‘normal’ work
Once an employee has told you that they are suffering from a particular condition, consider what information about it you ought to learn. Reading and researching about this illness could help you to comprehend the employee’s experience.
This, in turn, could ease your efforts to judge what kind of work the employee can still take on. For a chronically ill person, regularly working overtime would be dangerous and potentially even life-threatening.
See if you could bulk out the employee benefits package
Rebecca Nellis, executive director of the nonprofit Cancer and Careers, has uttered in words quoted by Healthline: “People aren’t just driven by a salary [but the whole package]. What do you have in place already? If there are gaps, are there some things you can do to enhance those processes so people know better what to do if a [co-worker gets ill]?”
You could, for example, start offering group critical illness cover for conditions including stroke, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Let people know about the safety nets available
“Companies can think about [how they communicate through] internal communication,” Nellis explains. So, if your own company offers a raft of benefits that would be especially advantageous to employees beset by critical illness, you should bring up regular reminders of those benefits.
“How are you making sure your employees understand the important things [set in place] as safety nets if something were to happen and they need it?” Nellis asks.
Train managers on how to help seriously ill workers
This training ought to include familiarising managers with work practices — like working from home or at flexible hours — that could be made optional for a employee who has revealed details of their adverse health to their boss.
Senior members of your workforce could also be informed of what medical information the ill employee should be asked to share — and with whom. Training that covers all of these subjects would be able to help smooth out inconveniences for both parties in the scenario.