- Over half of those infected with Covid-19 experienced symptoms of long Covid six months after recovering.
- Both the physical and mental health implications of long Covid can hinder employee sentiment, company operations, and overall employment.
- Transitioning to in-person arrangements requires business leaders to learn how this illness is impacting their own employees.
Returning to the office has come as a sigh of relief to some.
In fact, working in a professional setting may aid in easing the anxieties that have loomed over workers’ physical and mental health over the last few years.
Covid-19 has swept through the country — over 80 million cases have been confirmed in the U.S. alone.
At this rate, it is likely that most people know someone who has contracted the virus and, by proxy, experienced symptoms of post-acute sequelae, also known as long Covid.
Despite seesawing cases, the widespread expansion of vaccinations gave business leaders the push to bring employees back into the office.
This welcome decision for some has become a nightmare for Covid longhaulers.
According to analysis from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), over half of those infected with Covid-19 experienced symptoms of long Covid six months after recovering.
While the severity of these symptoms range, the long-term impact of those suffering from long Covid is leading to negative repercussions for the workforce.
The best way to combat this is to understand it.
Symptoms Of Long Covid
Much like Covid itself, symptoms of long Covid vary depending on each person.
For some, these effects may be negligible and an inconvenience to their everyday life. For others, it has led to life-changing consequences.
Some symptoms of long Covid include:
- Shortness of breath
- Inflammatory heart disease
- Kidney damage
- Muscle and joint pain
- Loss of smell and taste
- Digestive complications
- Neurological problems like brain fog
- Mental health illnesses such as generalized anxiety disorder or depression
The JAMA analysis showed that cases of long Covid are relatively common among survivors of the disease, with abnormalities being identified 30 days and beyond following infection.
More specifically, 5 out of 10 of these Covid-19 survivors were left with various disorders that range from neurocognitive, mental health, cardiovascular, and skin, all of which can lead to a depleted quality of life.
In short, both the physical and mental health implications of long Covid can hinder employee sentiment, company operations, and overall employment.
“With a variety of clinical presentations and degrees of severity in patients, there is a dire need to better understand the lasting and emergent effects of COVID-19,” according to the JAMA report.
During this transition to in-person arrangements, whether full-time or hybrid, business leaders have a responsibility to learn how this illness is impacting their own employees, and what they can do to ensure that they are supported in the future of work.
The Impact Of Office Returns On Long Covid Sufferers
The global workforce has become accustomed to some form of flexibility in the last few years, particularly remote work.
These arrangements have made it easier for those with long Covid to ease into daily workflows, as well as identify new styles of work that accommodate their condition.
However, businesses that force a full office return can inadvertently push these workers past their limits.
“Working from home has offered flexibility around schedules, working styles, and even dress codes, which has made it easier for employees with long COVID to continue doing their jobs,” said Bill Gianoukos, CEO and cofounder of Goodpath, which offers companies personalized healthcare.
“Now, in a mass return to the office, long haulers are nervous about what their day-to-day experience will look like and how they will handle their current situation. It can be a little easier to manage symptoms in the comfort of your own home than in an office setting, so a little trepidation about shifting back to the office and the stress of doing so while dealing with a chronic condition is something to expect,” according to Gianoukos
Those who are not ready for a full return are more likely to experience increased stress, suffering productivity, and feeble wellbeing.
More worryingly, these mental and physical health challenges can snowball and push workers to quit or lose their jobs as they are unable to tend to their work at full capacity, especially in person.
How Leaders Can Help
To say this is unmarked territory is an understatement.
For the first time in at least a century, society is grappling with how to return to a “normal” that will be written about in history books.
Wrestling with this reality is especially magnified for those suffering from long Covid. Many are now expected to come back to the office with a warm embrace, but with health complications in tow.
Gianoukos suggests that employers take three steps in addressing and supporting workers with long Covid: Acknowledgement, flexibility, and providing access to wellness resources.
“Understand that employees with long Covid symptoms are going to need accommodations, like breaks, additional support, or places to rest. And scheduling flexibility is paramount,” said Gianoukos, “It’s not feasible for every organization out there, but if you can provide your team with the time to take care of themselves and do their work, they’ll be more likely to access proper care, rest when they need to, and find a better balance during their recovery period.”
For instance, Goodpath recently introduced a long Covid program for companies in preparation for the inevitable complications returning to the office will have on sufferers.
According to Gianoukos, current clinics that support long Covid patients often have months-long waits. But through Goodpath’s program, employers can provide their staff with the care they need based on their unique circumstances, without the need for an appointment or referral.
“For employers, we offer streamlined care for long Covid, back and neck pain, sleep, digestive health, and more,” said Gianoukos, “Offering Goodpath care during the post-pandemic transition is a way to provide that vital long Covid care and to address other conditions that impact 65% of the American workforce while consolidating benefits, reducing point solution fatigue, and delighting employees with lasting improvements.”