- Eighty-eight percent of workers in a national survey by Cancer and Careers said they have concerns about their ability to support a co-worker with serious and/or chronic health condition. The non-profit also found 89% of workers said managers could have been more supportive of co-workers experiencing serious health issues.
- Among respondents who said they had concerns about their ability to provide care, their most common concerns were: what kind of emotional support and how much to offer (69%); how much they should ask about their coworker's medical condition or status (59%); and what type of work-related assistance to offer (51%).
- "Leadership plays a crucial role in defining company culture and values," Kathy M. Flora, a career coach with Cancer and Careers, said in a statement. "When 89 percent of workers say that management could have done more to be supportive of their coworkers with serious medical conditions, whether that's providing more workplace accommodations or creating more inclusion and engagement opportunities, it's clear a significant shift is necessary at the top levels of organizations."
Chronic illnesses can be a sensitive topic in the workplace for a variety of reasons, and this is reflected in the responses gathered by Cancer and Careers. A 2018 survey of cancer patients and survivors by the non-profit showed employees with these designations were unlikely to disclose their illness to their HR department. But respondents in the same survey also recognized the value of having supportive employers: 79% agreed that patients and survivors whose employees support them are more likely to thrive at work.
Employers that show empathy and sensitivity toward their workers are not only demonstrating their sense of ethics, but they're also potentially boosting their retention rates. An October report by employee experience platform Limemade's Limeade Institute found that 60% of workers who said they felt cared for intended to stay with their current company for three or more years. Caring for employees may also benefit employers in the recruiting process. For example, 90% of workers in the Limeade Institute report who said they "felt cared for" were likely to recommend their company as an exceptional place to work, compared to just 9% of the workers who said they didn't feel cared for.
Caregiving is a consistent sticking point for employees who either have a chronic illness themselves or who have relatives with chronic illnesses for whom they must provide care. A 2019 study published in Health Affairs found that the cost of unpaid caregiving in the U.S. — currently sitting at an estimated $67 billion — could double 2050. Employers can improve the experience of caregivers within their workforces by providing tools, upping flexibility benefits and structure communications that specifically address caregiver concerns.