Purpose This study examined the impact of task-based and relationship-based social support received in the workplace on cancer survivors’ retrospective satisfaction with their return to work experience. Methods Cancer survivors (N = 159), completed an online questionnaire assessing their satisfaction with the return to work experience, overall job satisfaction, contact with employers and co-workers while absent, perceived task-based and relationship-based social support received at the time of returning to work, and the perceived emotional quality of workplace relationships. Results Survivors reported that contact with employers, but not co-workers, while absent from work was associated with a more positive return to work experience. Additionally, greater perceived task-based and relationship-based social support at the time of returning to work were significantly correlated with greater satisfaction with returning to work. Importantly, the impact of task-based and relationship-based social support was fully mediated by the perceived emotional quality of workplace relationships. Job satisfaction independently predicted variance in return to work satisfaction. Conclusions Supporting effective return to work after cancer involves consideration of the workplace social context. Greater resources are needed to help workplaces foster and maintain social connections with employees who are absent from work for cancer treatment.
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We gratefully acknowledge the cancer survivors who participated in this research. Some of these participants were recruited from Breast Cancer Network Australia’s (BCNA) Review and Survey Group, a national, online group of Australian women living with breast cancer who are interested in receiving invitations to participate in research. We also gratefully acknowledge the help of Prostate Cancer Foundation Australia in advertising this study through the Pathfinder Prostate Cancer Research Register.
This project was supported by a Commonwealth Bank of Australia Centenary grant.
Conflicts of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Ethics approval for this study was granted by the Science, Health & Engineering College Human Ethics Sub-Committee at La Trobe University (HEC 18279). All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000 (5). Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.
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Skaczkowski, G., Asahina, A. & Wilson, C. Returning to Work After Cancer in Australia: What Facilitates a Positive Return to Work Experience?. J Occup Rehabil 31, 41–49 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10926-020-09881-3
- Return to work
- Task-based support
- Social support