When an employee is struggling with an illness for an extended period of time, a strong human resources department will be prepared with regulations and guidelines for working with that employee during and after treatment. And that is a good thing. But on a more personal level, we often want to help in a more human way — person-to-person. The problem is knowing what we, as coworkers, can and should do.
Here are eight ideas that you and your coworkers might consider. These are simple, inexpensive gestures that go a long way in showing how much you care.
- Stay flexible. A patient in treatment may benefit from working flex hours, working from home, and/or swapping responsibilities with someone in the department. Work as a team to discuss your options.
- Provide parking. If walking is an issue for your coworker, you could reserve a parking space close to the office.
- Deliver meals. Ask others if they would like to join you in providing meals for your coworker. Take turns with delivery and create a volunteer sign-up — for example, you might deliver a small cooler with pre-made meals every Monday. Be sure to find out if there are any dietary restrictions to consider, and use disposable containers.
- Create a gift basket. Use a theme for the gift basket, such as movie night. Ask coworkers to donate something to the basket, like popcorn or slippers. I found this idea on cancerandcareeers.org, and I really like it because there are endless ideas for themes — I’m thinking a mani/pedi basket or tea time might be high on my list.
- Build a box of sunshine. Fill a box with all yellow things and call it a “Box of Sunshine." Maybe a yellow mug, chamomile tea, lemon candy, or a yellow hat. Be creative. Think outside the box for this inside the box idea!
- Offer store delivery. If you are making a run to the grocery or drug store and find yourself a short distance from your friend, ask if you can pick up anything at the store and drop it by.
- Send an email. It is not unusual not to know what to say when someone is suffering. In her Huffington Post blog on suffering with cancer, Dr. Elana Miller recommends sending a quick email or text to say you care. “Add ‘no need to respond’ to the end of your message,” she writes. “They’ll appreciate hearing from you without feeling the need to do anything in return.”
- Give a hug. Sometimes there are no words. If it doesn’t cause any problem with an injury or illness, you might just want to give a hug. Miller said, “Give your friend a hug and let them know you’re on their side.”
What ideas do you have for a helping a coworker in need? Share your suggestions in the comments below.
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