In all my working life, I can think of three people that I've know who died – all unexpectedly. So. I'm pleased to see that organizations like the American Cancer Society and some large businesses are trying to deal with the specific effects of cancer in the workplace.
While we may not be best friends or spend our weekends hanging out together, it's fair to say that we enjoy a certain camaraderie for the people with whom we work. The unexpected loss or prolonged illness of someone that we've grown accustomed to talking with and knowing definitely has an impact on how we approach our work.
So I'm hoping that the conference that the ACS is sponsoring is going to deal with the emotional aspects of illness and not simply how to deal with productivity issues.
While it's true that a team may suffer a loss of morale or productivity when dealing with the loss or illness of a teammate, such affects are temporary. I'm not sure that those net results should be the primary factor driving conferences. Unfortunately, the article in question mentions only how much cancer costs companies in terms of lost productivity and care expenses (insurance premiums, I bet): $219 billion dollars.
When you look at the who's who list (United Airlines, AT&T, etc.), you have to believe this is going to more about motivating you to keep your chin and profits up than it is about a Tuesday with Morrie.