Health and WellbeingWATCH: Long COVID and long-term conditions in the workplace

WATCH: Long COVID and long-term conditions in the workplace

There may be light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to COVID-19, but 'long COVID' and other long-term conditions will inevitably linger on

With vaccine rollouts progressing rapidly in many of the world’s major regions, there is now officially light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. However, exempt from the spoils of this new development is ‘long COVID’ – a more extreme and debilitating iteration of the virus, with the potential to leave patients unwell for several months.

According to a BBC article published towards the end of last year, sufferers of long COVID can expect ‘crippling fatigue’ (statistically the most common symptom), in addition to ‘breathlessness’, ‘a cough that won’t go away’, and ‘joint pain’. And crucially, it would appear that the condition is not exclusive to those who have suffered a severe bout of COVID-19. So in theory, this could happen to anyone.

From the perspective of the HR function, this is a major concern. Despite the advent of vaccinations, this is an affliction with the potential to affect the wellbeing of employees for months to come, inevitably compromising organisational health in the process.

What’s more, this scenario prompts a dialogue around long-term conditions in general, and how they can impact the organisation. In fact, a 2017 study conducted by charity Arthritis Research UK found that 33 percent of employees with a long-term condition felt that their colleagues did not understand the impact. In addition, 15 percent said they would not disclose a long-term condition to their employer.

The onus, then, is on employers to not only provide support and care to those suffering from long-term conditions, but also to establish a culture of acceptance.

But, as is always the case when it comes to dealing with unique issues and implementing new initiatives in the HR space, the obvious question is ‘how?’ To shed some light on the matter, we appointed a panel of HR and wellbeing specialists.

Leading this discussion was head of workplace wellbeing at the Ministry of Justice UK, Becky Thoseby. Joining her to offer not only wellbeing expertise but also first-hand experience of long COVID was Mace Group’s director of health and wellbeing, Dr. Judith Grant. Finally, rounding off the panel was Dr. Sally Hemming, health and wellness expert and former associate director, employee relations and talent, Ernst & Young.

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