What can businesses do to help employees with long Covid?

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Businesses throughout the UK are confronting new hurdles as the globe continues to ‘re-open.’ Employers must now manage the world of hybrid working while simultaneously providing help to employees who are suffering from long periods of Covid. With an estimated 1.3 million (According to ONS)  individuals in the UK suffering from the long-term consequences of long-term Covid, it’s critical that businesses take steps to help workers return to work in a phased or full-time capacity.

Long Covid has a negative impact on the day-to-day activities of 64% of the 1.3 million people impacted. There is no doubt that Covid is having a negative impact on employees’ ability to perform normal duties, with neurological, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, psychological, gastrointestinal, dermatological, and ear, nose, and throat symptoms reported over 12 weeks following the initial infection, as well as general symptoms such as fatigue, fever, and pain.

So, what can companies do to best assist their employees’ emotional and physical well-being, and how can they change from prevention to support?

Long Covid is unlike any other disease that employers have undoubtedly seen in the past. Because of the vast range of symptoms and the current level of ongoing research, advice for those who are living with the condition is always changing. Millions of individuals with long Covid are attempting to go about their regular lives, including working, while suffering from serious symptoms. There is now no study that validates the length of long Covid, which might be frightening for those who are suffering and have a negative impact on their mental health.

One of the most crucial things a company can do is make sure that an employee returning to work after a long period of Covid feels supported.

Long-term Covid symptoms, as well as their intensity, vary from person to person and might come and go during a person’s rehabilitation, necessitating a personalised treatment for each person. It’s also worth noting that, regardless of the severity of the original infection, anyone can have long Covid symptoms. As a result, an employee who had modest symptoms during the illness may now be experiencing a variety of unpleasant long-term Covid symptoms that are more severe.

Employers who have employees with long-term Covid symptoms should have them undergo occupational health assessments, whether through a traditional occupational health service or a clinical wellbeing provider, to determine what support is needed, whether a phased return is necessary, for example, and how the employee’s condition can be managed in the workplace. This sort of evaluation will also establish if a referral to a professional treatment provider, such as physiotherapy or psychological procedures like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), is necessary.

Employers must be aware that employees with long COVID symptoms, such as fatigue and brain fog (a non-medical term describing a collection of symptoms including poor concentration, forgetfulness, confusion, and mental fatigue), may have difficulty carrying out their usual tasks or working hours, and may not be performing at their best. Employers may need to make changes to the employee’s position, such as light chores, changes to the surroundings, or improvements to the employee’s ergonomics.

Businesses should be encouraged to educate all employees about long Covid symptoms so that supervisors and coworkers of people experiencing long Covid symptoms are aware of any signs or symptoms that they need to look out for, such as breathlessness, chest discomfort, or dizziness. It’s critical to educate these workers on what to do if these symptoms appear at work so that employees who are suffering are kept safe and supported. During the health evaluation, the individual’s privacy should be respected, and how much, or how little, the individual wants their team to know about their illness can be discussed.

In addition to the evaluation conducted before an employee returns to work, reviews should be utilised as a preventative tool to decrease the likelihood of absences and to undertake continuous reviews. These evaluations will verify that the employee is still receiving the appropriate care and will show any required changes to be made, especially because new symptoms may appear at various periods.

Between these evaluations, a designated member of staff should check in with the employee on a frequent basis to ensure that they are receiving physical and mental assistance.

We will begin to better understand how we can best serve folks who have been harmed as we discover more about the full impact of long Covid. We understand that everyone’s demands are complicated and individual, and that there is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” solution. Employers will benefit from putting standards and processes in place as we go ahead into the new normal, additionally by doing so it will allow those who can to return to work to be welcomed by a gradual, adaptive, and suitable return to work plan.

See how HealthBoxHR can help your business support employees during and post long covid with our Sick Leave and Mental Health Management Tools.

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