We are only just beginning to understand the impact and effects for people who experience post-Covid-19 syndrome or “Long Covid” (the terms used to define the post infection longer-term symptoms for those who have contracted Covid-19).
Symptoms such as extreme tiredness (fatigue), shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness, problems with memory and concentration ("brain fog"), difficulty sleeping (insomnia), heart palpitations and dizziness are reported as being ongoing symptoms for some people.
Over time, I am sure we will know more about this health issue but as an employer it will be important to support your employees with this now.
Provide background information
Firstly, raising awareness of some of the reported impacts of Long Covid could be helpful. Many people are describing the symptoms as “coming and going” and there may be a tendency for some people to ignore symptoms or invalidate them.
Providing information on typical symptoms and effects may help employees to seek support and talk openly about their concerns.
Make time to talk
Listening and understanding appears to be one of the most helpful ways to support someone suffering with Long Covid symptoms. Every individual will be different, so taking the time to listen and to discuss their situation will help returning to work feel more manageable.
Return to work meetings are now standard in most organisations but sometimes these can be treated as a “form-filling exercise” rather than an opportunity to genuinely care for the individual and their wellbeing.
Widen the conversation
Using open questions can help to move the conversation into a wider and more supportive discussion around returning to work, for example
· What would you like to discuss in our returning to work session?
· What health concerns would like to discuss today? Are there any other concerns that you would like to discuss with me?
· Are there any suggestions you want to make to help you settle back into work?
· How can we support you during this time?
Using this discussion to openly talk through health concerns and aspects of the job role and/or the work environment can help someone settle back in work for the longer term and avoid a short burst of work followed by periods of additional absence.
A Wellbeing Action Plan and Occupational Health
Depending on the outcome from your preliminary discussion you may wish to put a wellbeing action plan in place straight away or you may want to refer to occupational health for a wider assessment and additional support. A course of action will depend on the complexity of the symptoms and the need for adjustments.
A wellbeing action plan
Agreeing a course of action with the employee can provide a very helpful road-map for individualised support.
Use the plan to provide a reminder of all the health benefits you offer and flexibility you can provide to support them. Using a system that enables individuals to manage their health benefits, co-ordinate a network of support, track their own wellbeing and access their health record can be useful for developing a person centred, wellbeing plan.
Agree a check-in and review
Due to the nature of Long Covid and the possible recurring or prolonged symptoms it could be helpful to arrange other check-ins and reviews. You may find it helpful to use Occupational Health further down the line if you find that an individual needs more support at a later stage in their recovery from Covid-19.
At Medelinked, we have connected and listened to HR managers to understand what is needed to support a healthy workplace in 2021 and we are still listening. Medelinked supports safe working practices, giving organisations the technology to promote health and wellbeing, connecting the individual to their health needs and goal setting, providing the ability to connect and stay connected with your people and their health whatever the size and scope of your business.
DISCLAIMER: The materials in this guidance are provided for general information purposes and do not constitute legal or other professional advice. While the information is considered to be true and correct at the date of publication, changes in circumstances may impact the accuracy and validity of the information. Medelinked is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for any action or decision taken as a result of using the guidance. You should consult a professional adviser for legal or other advice where appropriate.