Cancer is a difficult topic for many people to think about or discuss. The unpleasant truth is, however, that in the United States, around 1 in 3 women and 1 in 2 men will develop some form of cancer throughout their lifetime, according to Medscape. Consequently, a vast majority of workplaces will be affected by the disease in some way. For larger companies especially, the risk that a number of employees will develop the condition is high. And the social and economic cost of this for an organization can be enormous: Money is lost when valuable employees are forced to take sick leave and that’s not to mention the emotional toll that a valued employee’s sickness can take on office morale. Statistics from the American Cancer Society revealed that nearly 40 percent of employees that are treated for a cancer illness choose not to return to work after treatment has concluded. In terms of financial cost, the American Cancer Society estimated that chronic sickness in general – including conditions such as stroke and heart disease – cost the national economy around $225.8 billion every year.
“Around 1 in 2 men will develop cancer.”
Given the prevalence of cancer and the negative effects it can have on the workplace, it’s important for human resources teams and office executives to implement policies that deal with cancer prevention and education. Below is guide to some of the most effective strategies:
1. Promote health and fitness in the office
According to the American Cancer Society, around a third of all cancers can be attributed to poor lifestyle choices: Smoking, heavy drinking, lack of exercise, poor nutrition and obesity can all engender the disease. The American Cancer Society noted that one of the best ways to deal with cancer is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Therefore, it is in the best interest of employers to introduce initiatives that promote health and fitness. Typically, health and fitness promotions will reward employees with cash payouts or bonuses for exercise. This is usually measured by giving each employee a pedometer. Other strategies include organizing events outside of work, such as charitable fun runs or sponsored walks. The goal is to create an office environment that celebrates and rewards health and fitness, because a healthy workforce reduces the risk of cancer incidence within the office.
2. Hold educational seminars
A surprising number of people are health illiterate – they know little about how the body works and the symptoms of various illnesses. Consequently, it can be easy to overlook or ignore symptoms that could indicate cancer. A good way for employers to help remedy this problem is to introduce an educational seminar about cancer as an early intervention strategy. An article from SHP Online detailed the actions of a company called Zurich, which employed the services of Check4Cancer – a non-profit clinic-led group that specializes in cancer screening and education. The SHP article explained that representatives from Check4Cancer toured the British offices of Zurich to conduct educational workshops about the condition. The focus of the seminars regarded information about specific symptoms pertaining to common cancers such as lung cancer, bowel cancer and breast cancer. The seminars held at Zurich were a success and point to the effectiveness of early intervention strategies within the office.
3. Offer screening
A wide array of cancers are asymptomatic in their early stages when they are the easiest to treat. With cancers such as pancreatic cancer and stomach cancer, by the time symptoms occur, it’s often too late to treat the disease successfully. Therefore, screening for certain cancers within certain age groups is a significant strategy for beating the condition. A majority of cancers are age-related and tend to occur in people over 50. It’s important, therefore, that cancer screening promotion is directed at employees over that age, the American Cancer Society explained. Employers should offer to foot the bill for screening, HR Morning argued. It’s arguably worth the expense in the long run. The City of Boston, for example, offers its employees four hours of paid leave every year for cancer screening. The most common and effective kinds of screening are for colon cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer.
According to Workforce Magazine, a number of companies have also started offering genetic screening, in addition to cancer screening. The company Aetna Inc, for example, recently introduced genetic screening for all its employees. The screening is designed to investigate an employee’s risk for conditions such as stroke, heart disease and diabetes. The initiative has been introduced to encourage workers to make healthier choices regarding their diet and exercise habits. Workforce Magazine elaborated that after employees at Aetna receive their screening results, they are offered a tailored lifestyle plan that can help them make changes if needed.