New Survey: 88% of Americans Concerned about Supporting Seriously Ill Colleagues

Wednesday, November 20, 2019 Mental Health News
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Results show a need to equip employees and management to better support those with serious medical conditions

NEW YORK, Nov. 20, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- A majority (88%) of American adult workers have concerns about their ability to support a co-worker with a serious and/or chronic medical condition, according to new national survey results from Cancer and Careers, a U.S. non-profit organization dedicated to empowering and educating people with cancer to thrive in their workplace. The survey also showed that many members of the workforce wish that their workplace offered more assistance and accommodations for their colleagues facing serious medical issues.

The online survey, conducted among 1,000 working adults in the US, employed full-time between September 24th and October 7th, 2019 by Wakefield Research on behalf of Cancer and Careers, was designed to determine if workers feel prepared and empowered to support their colleagues with a serious medical condition and if they believe management is providing the right resources and guidance. Results show more than half (59%) were not confident their company's leadership knew how to support employees with serious and/or chronic conditions.  

"Creating and maintaining a supportive and inclusive work environment for all employees is critical, but this survey shows that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done for this to be accomplished," said Kathy M. Flora, MA, NCCC, MCC, a career coach with Cancer and Careers. "Leadership plays a crucial role in defining company culture and values. 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."  

While coworkers are often eager to help, they can struggle with walking the fine line between being supportive and being intrusive. Among respondents who have concerns, the most common is how much or what kind of emotional support to offer (69%), followed by how much to ask about their coworker's medical condition/status (59%) and what kind of work-related help to offer (51%). A cancer diagnosis often seems to increase the level of complexity. More of those who currently work or have worked with someone diagnosed with cancer have concerns about being supportive — 90 percent, compared to 78 percent who have not worked with someone with cancer.

"American workers have a clear desire to figure out how to help coworkers who are experiencing serious or chronic illnesses," said Rebecca Nellis, MPP, executive director, Cancer and Careers. "As the population of cancer survivors continues to grow, there is an increasing need for resources and support to help them get back to everyday life and work after a diagnosis, and coworkers and employers are central to making this happen. When employers and managers create and reinforce supportive policies, tools and guidance, navigating workplace challenges for both employees with serious medical conditions and their coworkers, becomes easier."

There are many ways to support colleagues who are experiencing serious or chronic illnesses, like cancer. Cancer and Careers provides a wealth of information and free resources on this topic. To learn more, please visit

Survey MethodologyThe Cancer and Careers Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research among 1,000 U.S. working adults, employed full-time, who work or have worked with someone being treated for a serious condition, between September 24th and October 7th, 2019, using an email invitation and an online survey. Results of any sample are subject to sampling variation. The magnitude of the variation is measurable and is affected by the number of interviews and the level of the percentages expressing the results. For the interviews conducted in this particular study, the chances are 95 in 100 that a survey result does not vary, plus or minus, by more than 3.1 percentage points from the result that would be obtained if interviews had been conducted with all persons in the universe represented by the sample.

About Cancer and CareersFounded in 2001, Cancer and Careers is a national nonprofit organization that empowers and educates people with cancer to thrive in their workplaces by providing expert advice, interactive tools and educational events—all free-of-charge. Cancer and Careers' websites in English and Spanish inform more than 400,000 visitors per year. Cancer and Careers has trained more than 3,500 oncology healthcare professionals and its resources are used by 90 percent of the 20 top cancer centers in the United States. It has distributed more than 550,000 publications in English and in Spanish since 2008. For more information, please visit  

About Wakefield ResearchWakefield Research is a market research consultancy specializing in strategic and tactical research for corporations and organizations throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. We combine best-in-class research practices with expertise in a wide range of industry verticals. Wakefield is constantly striving to help clients better understand their consumers and make critical, fact-driven decisions.

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SOURCE Cancer and Careers

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