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long covid

The long and short of it: The effects of long Covid in the workplace

If health and safety professionals were in any doubt about it, it’s clear that the long-term effects of COVID-19 will be felt and discussed for many years to come, with many employees still feeling the daily effects, due to what is known as “Long Covid.”

A recent Office of National Statistics study indicates that over one-fifth of those diagnosed with COVID-19 are still suffering the ‘long’ symptoms for the following five weeks, while one-in-ten presented symptoms that lasted for three months or longer.

But what is ‘long COVID?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) identifies Long COVID as lasting for a duration longer than 12 weeks. The Guardian recently estimated that 376,000 people in the UK have been suffering from Long Covid for more than a year, with older patients, women, those with underlying health conditions and those in their 40-50s most likely affected. Symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue, or extreme tiredness
  • Breathlessness and difficulty in breathing
  • Racing pulse
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Prolonged fever
  • Dizziness
  • “Brain fog” – not being able to concentrate or think clearly

Managing employees with Long Covid

While most natural reactions would be to isolate and encourage Long COVID sufferers to work from home, it is not infectious. The reintroduction of these employees to a stable workplace may in fact aid some of the mental issues caused by Long COVID, including depression and loneliness.

In certain circumstances, a healthcare package or offering for staff is key. Private healthcare options can provide employees with access to healthcare, both physically and mentally to help manage their symptoms. Provision will also give staff a higher level of satisfaction, even if only they appreciate the feeling of being able to access help voluntarily.

The camaraderie and support through the initial months of the pandemic was crucial, and employers should continue to foster this spirit adequately in order to support staff and colleagues affected by changes to their working patterns. 

Wellbeing is an important part of the Long COVID journey. It impacts all pillars of health from mental, social, physical and financial. The expert team at hero can help you to create a COVID recovery package that will help and support you and your teams effectively manage this area. For more information please get in touch with hero.

COVID Recovery ‘could be prolonged’ if staff aren’t supported

Recovery from Long Covid symptoms could be more prolonged if employees are not supported, according to RedArc Nurses, which is encouraging employers to ensure any staff who are suffering get the right support and are not left to cope alone.

As is becoming evident, Long Covid is not a static condition – it can cause a range of changing neurological, psychiatric and physical symptoms of which there are now over 50 reported. Many areas of the body can be affected such as respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological and manifest in symptoms such as breathlessness, muscle or joint pain, headaches, fatigue, digestive issues, anxiety and vertigo. To further complicate matters, individual symptoms can improve and relapse, causing some people to feel that they are suddenly unable to cope. It’s vital that people get the right support as early as possible or symptoms could be more prolonged.

Christine Husbands, Managing Director for RedArc, said: “One of the main issues with Long Covid is that the goalposts keep shifting. Employees can feel quite in control on one day and then a change in the type or severity of symptoms can mean a huge step backwards on another.

“This has huge implications for treatment and support: employees need to be treated as individuals as the symptoms vary so much from person to person – a one-size-fits-all approach simply won’t address the very personal nature of the illness, and secondly, the support needs to be agile and adapt to the individual’s condition as it evolves.”

Mental and physical health are intrinsically linked
For some time, the medical profession has acknowledged the significant link between physical and mental health with one directly impacting the other which has led RedArc to have concerns that the mental strain of experiencing a slow and drawn-out recovery from COVID-19 may also take its toll.

Husbands continues:“Over many years of supporting people with physical illnesses, we’ve witnessed individuals struggle mentally when they are not able to live their lives as fully as they once could, particularly when there is no real end date in sight. In addition, in terms of COVID-19 and Long Covid, we’re not only dealing with the mental health impact of the condition itself but also the fact that people have been coping in isolation or with very little social contact which can exacerbate the impact on mental health.”

A new disease
For many, a very frightening aspect of experiencing Long Covid is that it is new and relatively little is known about the condition. There is a significant benefit in having the support of a medical professional with whom to discuss the emotional journey that accompanies it.

Husbands added: “Whether they have severe or milder symptoms, many employees will be battling through without making a fuss believing they are ‘lucky to be alive’. However, if we want to reduce the impact that Long Covid has on individuals’ lives, their workplaces, and the community as a whole, support needs to be offered at the earliest opportunity.

“Support that is too generic however, won’t cut it for Long Covid as everyone is so different, the symptoms are so wide ranging and interlinked, which is why it’s important that support is personalised. For instance, not only do we help people with their specific symptoms but we also help with advice on pacing and rehabilitation, and support in returning to the workplace. By utilising the support available in employer-sponsored health and wellbeing benefits, insurances and via membership organisations, those with Long Covid will get the best possible help in dealing with the after-effects of the virus as well as putting in place early intervention support to recognise and respond to new symptoms as they arise.”