The impact of Long COVID on society shows itself in different forms: affected people face daily challenges that bring them to be absent from social events like family and friends’ gatherings or sport and hobby clubs, but also to be absent from work. Indeed, because of symptoms such as post-exertional malaise (PEM), cognitive impairment, pain, and fatigue, returning to work is often a big challenge, if not impossible, for some.
Support in the return to work
Both returning and not returning to work are a challenge. If not returning to work, people often feel helpless and defeated, and lose their purpose and motivation. When returning to work, they also risk feeling defeated: on the one hand their performance may vary considerably from what it was before the COVID-19 infection, and on the other hand, they may also suffer from an aggravation of their symptoms. Therefore, it is important that people affected by Long COVID receive adequate support when returning to work.
“Every COVID-19 infection is different, hence also dealing with the disease and its consequences is very individual, also at work.”
As a reminder: every COVID-19 infection is different, hence also dealing with the disease and its consequences is very individual. Moreover, depending on the type of job, the position and responsibilities, additional challenges may sum up. Not seeing progress in performance could also be frustrating and stressful, both for the employee and the employer, even the most experienced one. However, a successful return to work is possible if enough time is given and if there is a support system in place.
In collaboration with the REHA Bellikon, Centre of expertise for occupational integration, Long COVID Schweiz and Sulser & Partner AG (case management and professional reintegration) we have developed some tips to support both employers and employees when returning to work. In the Vademecum section dedicated to work you will find advice addressed to employers, as well as advice addressed to employees.
“Planning the return to work together with the employees is key, as they are the ones who can better explain their needs and possibilities.”
In general, reading, learning, and understanding Long COVID is the first step in helping employees. The measures that can be used to support an employee’s return to work are diverse and individual. Planning the return to work together with them is also key, as they are the ones who can better explain their needs and possibilities. Here are just three quick tips, you can read more in the PDFs published in the Vademecum page linked above.
Three quick tips for employers
- Design individual and flexible working models and distribute more demanding tasks over different days.
- Structure conversations clearly and create a benevolent, appreciative atmosphere.
- Due to the complex health conditions of those affected and the necessary coordination with social insurance, it is worth delegating support to professional coaching or case management.
It is important to keep pacing and avoid crashes also at work. (Illustration: Altea)