Experiences of workers with post-COVID-19 symptoms can signpost suitable workplace accommodations

Jennifer Lunt, Sally Hemming, J Ellander, A Baraniak, Kim Burton, D Ellington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: The prevalence and multi-system nature of post-COVID-19 symptoms warrants clearer understanding of their work ability implications within the working age population. An exploratory survey was undertaken to provide empirical evidence of the work-relevant experiences of workers recovering from COVID-19. Design/methodology/approach: A bespoke online survey based on a biopsychosocial framework ran between December 2020 and February 2021. It collected quantitative ratings of work ability and return-to-work status, qualitative responses about return-to-work experiences, obstacles and recommendations, along with views on employer benefits for making accommodations. A sample of 145 UK workers recovering from COVID-19 was recruited via social media, professional networks and industry contacts. Qualitative data was subject to thematic analysis. Participants were mainly from health/social care (50%) and educational settings (14%). Findings: Just over 90% indicated that they had experienced at least some post-COVID-19 symptoms, notably fatigue and cognitive effects. For 55%, symptoms lasted longer than six months. Only 15% had managed a full return-to-work. Of the 88 who provided workability ratings, just 13 and 18% respectively rated their physical and mental workability as good or very good. Difficulties in resuming work were attributed to symptom unpredictability, their interaction with job demands, managing symptoms and demands in parallel, unhelpful attitudes and expectations. Manager and peer support was reported as variable. Originality/value: Workplace health management characterised by flexible long-term collaborative return-to-work planning, supported by more COVID-centric absence policies and organisational cultures, appear pivotal for sustaining the return-to-work of the large segments of the global workforce affected by post-COVID-19 symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-374
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Workplace Health Management
Volume15
Issue number3
Early online date23 Feb 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 May 2022

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