As restrictions around the country continue to ease, many people are getting used to living with COVID and seeing life return to some form of normality.
It is important to remember that while we are getting used to living with COVID-19, it has not gone away. In fact, there are people who are still living with, and suffering from, the symptoms of COVID. It’s known as post-COVID-19 syndrome or Long COVID.
One in five people who test positive for COVID-19 experience symptoms for five weeks, and nearly one in seven can do so for up to three months. Long COVID, as the name suggests, lasts even longer.
Spotting the signs and symptoms of Long COVID in your workforce
Many people want to get back to normal, but some will be battling a long recovery from COVID. Similarly, presenteeism, a feeling of needing to be seen working, can inhibit recovery time and see people return to work with lasting symptoms.
It can be hard to spot that someone is struggling with Long COVID unless you know what to look out for. Knowing the signs and symptoms can help you to step in and provide support.
There is a long list of possible symptoms, and not everyone will have them all as COVID is known to affect people differently. A big one to look out for is fatigue or extreme tiredness. It’s more than just a bad night’s sleep and can result in an increase in mistakes at work, slower reactions, impaired decision making and becoming easily distracted or irritable.
Other symptoms of Long COVID can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle and joint pain
- Pins and needles, dizziness, tinnitus
- Anxiety and/or low mood
- Memory and concentration problems, known as ‘Brain Fog’
Supporting employees through Long COVID
Part of the process of living with COVID is knowing how to support employees that become sick from the virus, whilst maintaining business as usual. This requires a short and long-term plan.
Supporting a gradual return to work and reviewing duties for an employee who has Long COVID would be a good idea. It can help worker well-being and can also improve staff retention rates, as investing in your current staff will provide a far better outcome than having to seek and train up replacements.
Flexible working can really help here. Not just in terms of flexible working hours or location but understanding that an employee with Long COVID will work when they can. Flexible deadlines and knowledge sharing amongst the team would also be beneficial.
Keep communication lines open, although not to increase workload prematurely, but so that the employee knows that they have your support and that they are still an integral member of the team.
If they are in need of emotional support, an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) can provide confidential counselling. Long-term illness can take its toll not only physically, but mentally as well. An EAP is a cost-effective solution for employers to show their support.
Support for your small business
If you are managing an employee suffering from Long COVID, you too may need support in running your business. Call your local HR Dept if you need a helping hand with your HR and people management during this time.