Coronavirus has wrought havoc. Over 100 countries have been fully or partially locked down. To date, we have had almost 17 million cases and over 600,000 deaths. And it’s difficult to ascertain the full economic impact – global economic growth has plummeted, thousands of people have lost their jobs and some industries have been completely decimated.
As employers, there is something we need to consider carefully – employees who have been badly hit by Covid-19. Some people are asymptomatic, while others feel unwell for a few weeks and get back to normality quickly. But there are thousands who are hospitalised, end up in ICU and are seriously impacted by Coronavirus. They might be in hospital for weeks, months. For this demographic of sufferers, the virus wreaks significant damage.
What should you consider when your employee is ready to return to work?
It’s always physical – damage to lungs or other organs, they might possibly have had heart attacks or strokes. They will experience energy loss and significant post viral fatigue, needing hours of sleep, in the night and the daytime. And the psychological damage is often prevalent too – many suffer from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Every patient is unique and their experience will be different. But it’s essential that as employers, we consider their needs and when they are ready to come back, ascertain in what capacity that should be.
Some key points to consider:
- Walk away from the computer: in the initial phase of the illness, employees might want to carry on working. But this is the danger stage. A lack of rest and hydration can lead to complications. Regardless of their perceived level of fitness, insist that sick employees take a complete break and do no work. Any stress related pressure will make symptoms worse
- Everyone is different: you must understand your employee’s individual circumstances. They might live alone and will need to have the right support if they are returning home after hospitalisation. Trying to understand your employee’s situation and how your company might be able to help would be valuable for them
- The road to recovery: if it’s been a severe bout of Covid-19 and the employee has been hospitalised, they will probably suffer from post viral fatigue. They need to spend time resting and building their strength back up. During this time the employer should stay in touch with the next of kin – but there should be no mention of a return to work. Any pressure or stress could impede their recovery
- The psychological impact: a lot of people with severe bouts of Covid-19 requiring hospitalisation have reported having a degree of PTSD. Reminding employees they can use the counselling service that comes with most corporate healthcare schemes would be helpful and might aid their recovery
- Softly, softly: when your employee is recovered to the degree they can return to work, be mindful that they won’t – or shouldn’t – be coming back “all guns blazing.” They are likely to need regular rest periods for a long time to come. And it is also important that line managers manage the level of stress they have to deal with. Also be cognizant of the fact they might be unlikely to work full time for a while.
We’ve yet to see the full impact of Covid-19 while the pandemic continues to play out. Who knows where we will be in a year’s time. But for employers, supporting employees while they are ill, being understanding while they are recovering and nurturing them on their return to work is vital. Unfortunately, this will probably be a consideration for companies for quite some time to come.
P2 Consulting is managing a number of employees returning to work following Coronavirus. If you would like to have a chat to share experiences and ideas, please get in touch.