Supporting your employees with Long Covid
One of the lasting effects of the Global Pandemic is Long Covid. This is likely to present challenges to businesses and employees alike.
Covid-19 will continue to circulate in pockets of the global population for the foreseeable future. This is understandably a challenging and unpredictable time for employers. Increases in longer-term absence at a time when all employers need maximum productivity means a fine balancing act is needed between taking care of employee welfare and achieving business objectives.
However, a bigger challenge is the growing prevalence of Long Covid and its unknown long-term implications.
What is Long Covid?
According to the Office for National Statistics, following infection with Covid-19, 1 in 10 people experience symptoms for 12 weeks or longer. This is known as Long Covid or Post-COVID syndrome.
The length of time it takes for individuals to recover from Covid-19 is different for everybody. The chances of having long-term symptoms does not appear to be linked to how ill you are when you first get coronavirus, nor does it discriminate between young or old, those who had pre-existing conditions with others who were fit and healthy when they contracted the virus. People who had mild symptoms at first can still have long-term problems¹.
The condition has a wide range of symptoms, often overlapping, which may change over time. Many people with Long Covid may also experience generalised pain, fatigue, persisting high temperature and psychiatric problems.¹
Some of the symptoms are:
- Chronic fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or tightness
- Problems with memory and concentration ("brain fog")
- Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
- Heart palpitations
- Pins and needles
- Joint pain
- Depression and anxiety
- Tinnitus, earaches
- Feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
- A high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
In January, approximately 300,000 people in the UK were thought to be experiencing Long Covid⁴, although this number is likely to grow as coronavirus infection rates rise and more is known about the condition.¹
How can Long Covid impact businesses and their employees?
It remains too early in the world’s experience of Long Covid to know what the average duration of these longer-term symptoms might actually be, or indeed how many of the nation’s working age population will ultimately be impacted. Considerable NHS research is being conducted into Long Covid. NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens announced that £10 million is be invested this year in additional local funding to help kick start and designate Long Covid clinics in every area across England, to complement existing primary, community and rehabilitation care.¹ What has been found is that nearly one in five people who have had Covid-19 are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder such as anxiety, depression or insomnia within three months of testing positive for the virus.² This presents huge challenges to Long Covid sufferers and their employers.
What is clear is that Long Covid is a condition that has the potential to be long-lasting and very debilitating too. Those suffering from Long Covid may be physically unable to fulfil their role consistently or work a full day. It can impact performance as well as cause potential increases in employee absence.
What steps can employers take to support employees with Long Covid?
Due to the unknown nature and longevity of Long Covid, there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution.
Employers need to be aware of the many symptoms and potential impact of Long Covid, and plan how they will support any workers that have Long Covid symptoms. It's important that Employers understand the symptoms and their fluctuating nature.
Line managers in particular have a key role to play in supporting employees. Ensuring they are well informed and educated on this condition will mean they are in a position to signpost employees to the right support if and when it is required. This could include a range of steps and solutions, including:
- Reminding employees of the benefits available to them and the support they provide
- Adjusting working hours
- Phased returns to work
- Continue homeworking
- Offering Occupational Health support
- Signposting employees to the NHS Post-Covid assessment services
- Putting in place specialist support services which are tailored to meet the emotional needs of employees suffering from Long Covid
Helping you to find a solution
Introducing RedArc, a specialist nursing service
RedArc³ part of the Howden Group, are a specialised team of experienced, registered nurses. RedArc's registered nurses have many years' experience supporting people through a wide range of ill health, wellbeing and emotional issues via a co-ordinated, holistic approach, including:
- The conditions associated with Long Covid
- Cardiac conditions
- Mental health
The services are uniquely tailored to the needs of each individual according to their own particular situation ensuring they have access to all relevant information relating to their condition, understand all sources of help available to them and how to access them. Help to manage the many fluctuating symptoms such as chronic fatigue, emotional and psychological and the impacts on working and family life. This service could be a lifeline for employees that are struggling.
Thank you for all your help in coping with the long-term effects of COVID. Your guidance to manage my fatigue has been really helpful and made me take things more gradually, which will I’m sure help to get me better more quickly. (RedArc patient)
³RedArc is a trading name of RedArc Assured Limited and part of the Howden Group alongside Howden Employee Benefits and Wellbeing Limited. RedArc is not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.