Flexible Healing and Work-Life Balance


Could having a conversation with your employer about a flexible work schedule help with your work-life balance after a cancer diagnosis?

Could having a conversation with your employer about a flexible work schedule help with your work-life balance? An adjusted work schedule could include changing the time or day you begin working and might have multiple benefits for not only you, but also for your employer.

Prior to having cancer, I benefitted from having a flexible work schedule when my children were young, and I needed extra time to travel for summer or holiday childcare arrangements. For several years and as needed, I arranged to come to work 30 minutes late and stayed 30 minutes late as not to miss work, meet the demands of my essential core work hours and to avoid taking leave which might have delayed projects or deadlines I needed to complete. The arrangement was a win/win for myself and for my employer, as my work was done, and I was able to meet my work-life demands in a positive way.

When I was recovering from cancer, I benefitted from coming to work early as it helped me manage fatigue and I was able to schedule medical appointments late in the day when I would have otherwise been at work. If I started my day off a little earlier than usual, I could use the morning hours to manage important tasks, which required me to think more clearly, as later in the day I tended to feel fatigued. By using my best energy early in the day, I was able to get more done and complete high-energy tasks during this time as once fatigue set in, it was harder to think more critically, and tasks could sometimes take longer to accomplish if I began my day later. Once my work hours were met and tasks were done, I would attend to my follow-up medical appointments in the later part of the day. It was a positive feeling to have known I met my work responsibilities and could then leave to focus on and support my own personal self-care.

The feeling of independence assisted in my feeling worthwhile in my work environment, and I did not feel as if I had to miss important medical procedures or treatments. After appointments and procedures, I then had the rest of the evening to take a nap if needed, and enjoy family or other important life events.

If you are going to request an adjusted or flexible work schedule, it might be important to consider some supportive tips.

- Speak to your human resources department about any supportive programs or policies, which may already be in place for a flexible work schedule.

- Consider what the benefit is for your employer if you request a change in your work schedule and be ready to share how you see it as a benefit for the employer and yourself.

- Consider how it may not be a benefit to your employer, and potentially discuss alternative days, hours or other ideas to help you accomplish your essential duties as you heal from procedures or treatments while meeting your work demands. Another creative idea might include building in an extra break and working that extra few minutes. Or, if you get a long lunch break, request to take the last few minutes at the end of the day to leave early. You may also be able to use a few minutes at a different time of the day to recharge mentally or physically.

- If you are nervous about having the conversation, discuss it with a friend or co-worker first and obtain feedback on points you can improve upon before speaking with your supervisor.

- Be prepared to discuss some details about your medical or physical needs and how long you expect to need a change in your schedule or routine.

- Set a deadline to review how the schedule is going and if you have any changes in needing it extended.

- Thank the person who is working with you and share how you are benefitting due to their flexibility.

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