5 Ways To Prepare For Your First Day Back To Work

by GregP_WN

Cancer makes it difficult to get back into your normal routine, or a routine that makes you feel like you.

First Day Back To Work What Next Blog

For many people, their career is a strong part of their identity. It’s one of the first things we say when we meet someone new: 


What’s your name?
Where are you from?
What do you do?

But going back to work after taking time off for treatment and/or surgery can be daunting. You want to dive right in and pick up where you left off, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Your body may not have the same stamina it once did, you might still have side effects to deal with, and, of course, you may have to answer with many questions from co-workers.

So how do you make that leap to going back to work? Well, we have some ideas to help you get through that first day.

1. Don’t push yourself                                                                                 Aubrei Mcginn 18 750

You’re back to work, and that alone is an incredible feat! So pat yourself on the back!

But as tempting as it is to go back to how this used to be, remember to respect where your body is now and not push yourself. We know, we know—easier said than done.

You might not want to draw attention to yourself, or you may feel guilty for asking for things, but taking care of yourself and your body is your priority. Little adjustments can make a big difference:

Extra back support in your chair
Flexible work hours
Adjusting some of your duties, like lifting less weight or traveling less

Chances are, the people who know about your diagnosis are ready to help out—they just want to know what they can do!

2. Share only what you want to share                                                                       Share Only What You Want

Just like everyone wanted to know how you spent your holidays, after your absence people will be curious. They’ll want to know why you were out, how you’re doing, and what they can do to help.

But just because they ask doesn’t mean you have to tell.

What you tell them is 100% up to you and what makes you feel comfortable. And while it may be tiring to answer those question for the thousandth time, a simple variation of “Oh, I had some personal business to take care of, but I appreciate your concern! I’m glad to be back to work!” should do the job.

If you work on a close-knit team, sometimes it might be easier to kick your first day off with a casual meeting. Give them a brief update on whatever you feel comfortable sharing, get their questions out of the way, and tell them what they can do to help you. Whether it’s catching you up on the latest project or asking them to treat you as if nothing is different, this will help get any awkwardness out of the way and let everyone focus on why you’re here: to work!

3. Pick and choose who you tell                                                                         Support

Depending on your workplace, you may not want to tell everyone. Maybe your workplace feels like family and you know everyone would want to know and offer you support. Maybe you feel more comfortable just telling your team, or even just your manager or supervisor.

There’s no right or wrong way to do it; there’s only the way that’s right for you. You shouldn’t feel pressured to tell anyone or disclose anything that you don’t want to.

4. Know your rights                                                                      Workplace Discrimination

Your status as a cancer survivor or cancer warrior grants you certain protections in the workplace. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects you from being discriminated against at work and helps you keep your job. It also means your employer is required to make reasonable accommodation to help you continue performing your job.

5. Set the tone                                                                    You Can Do It

Ultimately, you get to go back to work on your own terms. People will look to you for cues on how to proceed, and of course it’s going to be awkward at first. But if you can show that you are a confident, relaxed survivor, they will respond positively, too.

That’s not to say if you’re naturally a quiet, subdued person that you need to burst through doors announcing your presence as Cancer Slayer!! Just be yourself, and remember that any awkwardness is only temporary.

Need more information on how to handle cancer in the workplace? Check in at WhatNext and ask the Community how they are handling it. 

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