Nick Pearson from Sheffield Occupational Health Advisory Service writes about how Long Covid is affecting employees, and what to do about it.
Hands up who thought that we would be going into another Covid wave and just in time for summer?
If you are like me and thought that we had the virus under control and could relax a little, then it looks like being the opposite, which could lead to a growing number of people becoming more anxious about how to manage their health over the coming months.
Not only do we have to deal with Covid, but the growing prevalence of Long Covid. Long Covid is defined as someone who is still suffering from effects of Covid after 13 weeks. People who develop Long Covid do recover, but there are a small number of people who don’t and go onto suffer serious health problems.
A recent survey of UK works showed that 80% of people who have been diagnosed with Long-Covid said that it had affected their ability to work. Some of the patients we have given advice to at SOHAS, include:
extreme tiredness (fatigue)
problems with memory and concentration (“brain fog”)
depression and anxiety
One of the issues we see is that employers either can’t or don’t want to see the issues that their employees describe, with a line manager in the public sector recently declaring that “Long Covid” doesn’t exist. Ask anyone with ME/CFS about their symptoms and they similar to Long Covid, which hopefully will make the case stronger for “hidden disabilities” to be recognised.
So, what can you do if you have Long Covid and are struggling at work or trying to get back to work after being off sick?
You obviously need to engage with your employer about what help they can provide in the workplace. The first port of call should be talking about what reasonable adjustments can be put in place. If you are struggling to do your job, you could talk to your employer about writing a wellness action plan, which enables you to articulate how Long Covid affects you at work and outline a plan of support to keep you in work. If you have been off work for some time, you could think about a phased return to work, that slowly increases your hours over the weeks and allows you to pace your work.
You may want to ask your GP a referral to your local long covid support unit - there is one at Sheffield's Northern General Hospital. They can look at Long Covid from an holistic basis and can help you address your health issues in relation to your job.