Monday, 15 March 2021 08:43

Helping COVID Long-Haulers Return to Work

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According to medical experts, a mild case of COVID-19 may last anywhere from 10 days to two full weeks, after which time symptoms should subside. Of course, this is a generalization. Tragically, severe cases of COVID end not in relief but in death. And then there are the COVID long-haulers… patients whose symptoms prove to be not acute but chronic, lasting for several weeks or even numerous months.

Given how new COVID really is, there’s still a lot we don’t know about it. Researchers have not determined exactly why the symptoms can be so long-lasting for certain patients. What we do know is that many employees will need to return to the workplace before they have fully recovered from the achiness, fatigue, grogginess, and other symptoms that accompany their COVID diagnosis.

HR teams should be prepared to help COVID long-haulers ease back into the workforce. The question is how.

Understanding the Situation

First, it’s important to have a clear grasp of just how common the COVID long-hauler problem is, and the ways it can impact your workforce.

While we don’t yet have any definitive numbers showing us how many patients experience chronic symptoms, some early studies of the Chinese workforce suggest that as many as a quarter of all COVID cases can last for six months or more.

As for the specific symptoms associated with chronic COVID, initial research points to extreme fatigue, digestive problems, an erratic heartache, cognitive difficulties, dizziness, and headaches.

How to Help COVID Long-Haulers

Quite reasonably, many COVID long-haulers have asked their employers to make some special accommodations, allowing them to resume work even as they continue to manage these unpleasant symptoms. So, what accommodations can actually be made?

One of the most obvious examples is to eliminate the commute. Even if a majority of your workforce is returning to the office, consider making work-from-home an indefinite option. For those who are battling dizziness or simply who get tired easily, eliminating long commutes can make a world of difference.

Flexibility for work breaks is also important. Many COVID long-haulers have found it beneficial to work longer days in exchange for more substantial breaks throughout their daily schedule, allowing them some time to recharge their batteries and stave off the energy crash that can come from long, uninterrupted hours of work.

You can also be open to the idea of part-time arrangements with employees who request them. For example, what if an employee who’s tending to chronic ailments asks to reduce their hours by 30 percent, adjusting their pay accordingly? For some employers, this may be a very viable option.

A Willingness to Be Flexible

For smaller, nimbler companies, concessions like these may seem like no-brainers. For more traditional companies, however, the expectation is often to train an employee and then have them work 40-hour work weeks with consistent daily schedules, basically up until the day they retire.

For companies like these, we urge a willingness to be flexible and creative in helping employees return to work, even as they deal with unprecedented health concerns. And if you need custom HR solutions to make these arrangements more viable, we invite you to contact FullHR at any time.

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