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How Will I Know If I Am Ready To Go Back To Work?

There are many reasons why you may want to get back into the workplace following your cancer treatment. It's important to remember that some feelings may distract from what is practical or manageable, or may be covering up other feelings of anxiety and concern.

If this is something you are considering, there are a few questions you might want to ask yourself:

1. What are the demands of your job, both physical and mental?

If your job involves in a lot of manual work such as heavy lifting, you may want to spend more time getting your body rehabilitated before returning to work. Similarly, if your role is involved in making a lot of crucial decisions, it is important to recognise that this will take extra energy. It is also very common to lose some self-confidence when you are away from work for a prolonged period so you may need to allow yourself some time to build your confidence and until you feel capable of dealing with that additional stress.

2. Where will your work be based?

Returning to an office or other workplace may require a lengthy commute and limit your access to necessary breaks and comfortable seating etc. Working from home will likely give you more control over your own comfort and pacing yourself, so remote or hybrid working might be a more feasible option for returning to work sooner.

3. What is your pattern of work?

Long shift work, night work that disturbs your sleep pattern, or a role that requires you to work away from home a lot of the time could be a challenge if your physical or energetic capacity has changed. A role with more regular hours that fit into 'office hours' may be more suitable.

4. Is your work likely to be emotionally draining?

If you work in a caring profession, are continually giving psychological support to others, or are exposed regularly to people or situations in crisis, then work can be very draining when you are recovering yourself. You may need a little longer before returning to the front line.

5. Can you carry out day-to-day activities at home without getting exhausted?

If you can consistently carry out normal day-to-day activities in and around the home e.g., cleaning, shopping, driving etc., for several weeks, without feeling permanently exhausted, that can be a sign that returning to work may be possible. It's a good indicator that your levels of physical fitness and mental capacity have returned to sustainable levels.

If you aren't quite there yet don't worry, you may need to take a little more time to build up your strength and capacity. It might also be a good time to consider whether you want to return to the same work as before your diagnosis, or if a change might suit you better.

It's important to remember that many people feel the desire to return to work before they are physically or mentally ready. You may be worried about your finances or changes happening at work in your absence. Going back to work can also feel like proof that everything is “back to normal” and that you have moved on with your life and past your cancer. You might also find yourself comparing your life to the people you've met on your cancer journey. It is important to remember that you have been through your own illness, experienced different treatments, and had different stresses in your life to anyone in your cancer circle. It is not helpful to compare your readiness to return to work to others.


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