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How to Help When an Employee Is Diagnosed with a Critical Illness

Experiencing a stroke, heart attack or cancer diagnosis can be a scary and stressful experience. When an employee is facing a health crisis like this, they need the support of their employer and coworkers more than ever. Here are some simple but impactful ways to show your support.

Allow them time to share the news.

After telling you about their diagnosis, the employee should inform HR to set processes in motion concerning health insurance, medical leave and disability benefits. Having financial support from company-sponsored benefits won't eliminate all concerns, but it can help them feel more secure as they navigate the road ahead.

After that, it's important to respect the employee's preferences on informing other employees. One employee may be an open book, but another may prefer to keep their diagnosis private. You could offer to deliver the news in a team meeting on their behalf. This may be necessary if the person will be taking a leave of absence that will directly affect the team.

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Lead by example with your response.

Much like with organizational changes, employees may be left wondering how to handle the situation with tact, and they will look to management to set the tone.

You can start by creating a positive support effort. For example, you could invite a group of employees to participate in a local 5k road race in the person's honor, throw a celebration luncheon when the person reaches a recovery milestone, or simply send balloons and a card signed by the entire team during a hospital stay. Small gestures can make a huge impact.

If you show compassion, positivity and strength, your employees will follow suit.

Help the employee create a plan.

Between doctors' appointments, treatments and recovery time, the last thing a person should worry about is meeting work deadlines. When the time is right, get an honest assessment from the employee of their capabilities going forward. This can vary from offloading nearly all of their responsibilities to continuing as normal. Many people prefer to dive into work at this point, which can help them feel a sense of control.

If their illness requires them to take a leave of absence or resign altogether, collaborate on a plan to delegate their projects or adjust your schedule to fill their shifts. It is important they don't worry about unfinished work when it's time to leave.

Although you can't prepare for everything, a solid plan will benefit everyone, including the employee, their team and the company.

Simply offer support.

The American Psychological Association says that after being diagnosed with a serious illness, it is most important that the person surround themselves with positivity and support.1 A show of encouragement from an employer and coworkers might be the only such support they have. It can be difficult and awkward to broach the topic of a serious diagnosis, so simply letting the employee know they have your support can make all the difference.

A confidential Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can be an added resource to promote mental and physical wellbeing.

Allstate Benefits offers group products to help employees feel financially prepared when serious illness strikes, including:

Helping you support your employees is part of the Good Hands® promise. Speak to an agent about your employee benefits package or click here for a quote.

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