Returning to work - any hints and tips?

Hello BC friends, I’m looking for some advice. I’m planning to return to work after 17 months off. My active treatment finished in Feb 23, and the psychological and emotional turmoil since then has been really tough. Work was stressful before I even got my diagnosis, and have been pretty rubbish since I’ve been off - contact has been sporadic or non-existent, I’ve had to chase multiple times to get info out of HR and it’s often been wrong. I’ve asked what kind of support is in place for someone like me returning after a long absence (it’s a large global business so they will have been in this situation many times) - the answer is none. Apart from Occupational Health (which is outsourced) it looks like I’ll have to navigate my return myself.
I’ve got some counselling in place with Maggie’s and also speaking with an advisor from Employment Support Service (referred by NHS Talking Therapy). So I’ve got my own external safety net in place. HR asked what kind of support I want, but I’ve never been in this situation before so not sure. For those of you who have returned, what advice would you give yourself in hindsight that might help me? Thanks!


Hello @Stayingstrong
Congratulations on coming through your treatment and hope you are feeling that returning to work is now the right thing for you to do: my oncologist recommended I didn’t return until I was crawling the walls and there was nothing else I’d rather be doing and she was right!
I think it’s hard to know what you are going to need and how you are going to feel until you actually get back. As a first priority I would keep your working hours to a minimum and factor in commuting time. I know a lot of businesses allow for homeworking, (but personally I think this creates new problems with mental health and we all need face to face interactions and the opportunity to have those conversations we wouldn’t otherwise have with different people) but it will help you to feel more connected with your work if you have some office time even once a week with the opportunity to work at home for the days where fatigue sets in: and it will! It will take time to get yourself back into the swing of things so I would suggest having someone or something to offload on when you run the risk of feeling overwhelmed
I would hope that you will have some sort of a return to work meeting with someone in your HR team in which you get to discuss and explore more the practicalities of returning to work.
Wishing you all the best with your return and beyond
AM xxx

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Outsourced or not you should be entitled to an Occupational Health assessment - and really this should take place before you return to work not after. They ( OH) would probably suggest a phased return over the course of a month or so starting with working maybe 50% of your usual working hours and working up to full time from there ( but at full pay). If you are able you might be allowed to use outstanding leave to prolong the return to full time after the initial phased return is finished BUT try not to let them make you use your leave for the first month as part of the phased return.

If you have developed problems as a result of cancer surgery or treatments that would fall under disability and you should be protected under the Equality Act and entitled to reasonable adjustments.
I’m not sure what your job is - it’s obviously stressful but think about physical tasks - is there anything you used to be able to do that you struggle with now. Also has your concentration / memory been affected do you become more easily tired .

I don’t know how you get on with your Line Manager and colleagues but I found an informal visit to my Dept. and chat with my Line Manager and a chance to see some of my colleagues and have a cuppa with them was helpful. It broke the ice and I didn’t have to cope with seeing everyone for first time in ages AND restarting work all on the same day . It also gave me a chance to meet new staff and get an update re things that had changed in advance.

I hope this is helpful and wishing you the best of luck with it
Joanne. X


Good Lord. How times have changed. So many depts and organisations devoted to…what exactly? How about best foot forward combined with a cup of tea with colleagues who will doubtless want to help you anyway they can?

Thanks all. I’m speaking with OH tomorrow, and they are going to develop a return to work plan. But they won’t be there on the ground day to day. There have been lots of changes since last year - my line manager has left, my closest colleague (who was in US) has also left. The rest of my team are in India or US so can’t meet for a coffee/chat. I think I’ll be returning to a different role (which is fine by me) so no idea who I’ll be working with/for. But I’ll raise these issues when I speak with OH and my counselling manager. I’ve used up all my sick pay and been told that I’ll only get paid for the hours I work. I have a bit of holiday left so will probably have to use that.


There is an organisation called Working with Cancer that provides one to one coaching for those returning to work after treatment or being off from work. I think, regardless of your income, you can get funding/a grant to cover the cost from the Government scheme ‘Access to Work’. I haven’t used them myself as I am only recently diagnosed and yet to start treatment but will likely do so in future. They seem very good and provide practical guidance and ideas plus support for managing the emotional impact of returning to work.

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Here is the link: Employees – Working with Cancer