The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges to the world, with over 6.6 million deaths reported globally. While vaccines have significantly reduced the number of severe cases, there is growing evidence of a long-term impact of COVID-19, known as Long COVID or post-COVID-19 condition (PCC).
Presently, over 1.4 million people in Canada are experiencing symptoms of Long COVID, which can include respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological, and cognitive impairments. The impacts of Long COVID are not only detrimental to the affected individuals but can also have significant economic and societal consequences.
Canada’s Chief Science Advisor has warned that Long COVID could become a “mass-disabling event” that will have far-reaching impacts on the labor market in the future. As HR professionals, it is crucial to understand Long COVID and its potential implications on the workforce.
In this article, we will explore the definition and symptoms of Long COVID, its prevalence, and the risk factors associated with the condition. We will then examine the impact of Long COVID on the labor market and the importance of HR planning in addressing this issue.
Understanding Long COVID
Long COVID, also known as post-COVID syndrome, is a condition where individuals continue to experience symptoms long after the initial acute phase of COVID-19. The symptoms can be persistent, ranging from mild to debilitating, and can affect multiple body systems. Let’s go over what we currently know about Long Covid, then we will look at the situation from an HR perspective in some detail.
Do you have HR Management questions about how to communicate and manage your team on issues related to Long Covid or other issues? Ask the experts at Pivotal HR Solutions>>
Definition and symptoms of Long COVID
Long COVID is not a single disease, but rather a collection of symptoms that persist for weeks or months after initial infection with COVID-19.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms can include fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, joint pain, chest pain, difficulty concentrating, depression, and loss of smell or taste.
Other symptoms may include headaches, heart palpitations, dizziness, and difficulty sleeping. These symptoms can vary in severity and duration from person to person, but in almost all cases, they are severe enough to cause challenges for employers and HR departments.
Prevalence of Long COVID and its impact on individuals
The prevalence of Long COVID is not yet fully understood. However, studies suggest that a significant number of people who contract COVID-19 may go on to develop Long COVID.
According to a recent report by the government of Canada, about 15 percent of adults who have contracted COVID-19 – say they experience symptoms three months or more after their initial SARS-CoV-2 virus infection.
The impacts of Long COVID can be significant, affecting an individual’s ability to work and perform daily tasks, leading to decreased quality of life, and impacting mental health.
Risk factors for developing Long COVID
Several risk factors have been identified for developing Long COVID. These include being female, older age, having pre-existing health conditions, and experiencing severe initial COVID-19 symptoms. Individuals who require hospitalization for COVID-19 are also at increased risk of developing Long COVID.
Additionally, some studies suggest that people who have previously had COVID-19 may be at increased risk of developing Long COVID after being re-infected. It is important to note, however, that Long COVID can affect anyone, regardless of age or pre-existing health conditions.
Impact of Long COVID on the Labor Market
As of March 2023, the Canadian labor market continues to face challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic had a significant impact on the Canadian economy, leading to job losses, decreased work hours, and business closures. The latest figures from Statistics Canada show that the unemployment rate in Canada was 6.1% in December 2022, which is higher than pre-pandemic levels.
Effects of Long COVID on the Canadian labor market
Long COVID can have a significant impact on individuals’ ability to work and perform daily tasks, leading to absenteeism and decreased productivity.
Symptoms such as chronic fatigue, brain fog, and chronic pain can make it difficult for employees to perform their job duties, leading to increased absenteeism and decreased productivity.
In addition, Long COVID can also result in long-term disabilities, further impacting an individual’s ability to work and earn a living in Canada.
Long-term consequences of Long COVID on the labor market
The potential long-term consequences of Long COVID on the labor market are not yet known. However, given the significant impact that Long COVID can have on individuals’ ability to work and perform daily tasks, it is likely that there will be long-term consequences for the labor market.
That said, it’s safe to say that the increase in long-term disabilities resulting from Long COVID may lead to a decrease in the available workforce, impacting productivity and stifling overall economic growth in the region. How long this will be an issue remains to be seen.
HR Planning for Long COVID in the Workplace
As the impact of Long COVID on the labor market becomes increasingly evident, HR professionals must plan and prepare for the potential impact on their workforce. HR planning is essential to ensure that organizations are equipped to manage the effects of Long COVID on employees and maintain productivity in the workplace.
HR policies and procedures to address Long COVID
HR policies and procedures must be updated to address the impact of Long COVID on the workforce. These policies should include provisions for sick leave and accommodations for employees with Long COVID.
Sick leave policies should be flexible and allow for extended periods of time off work if necessary. Accommodations may include changes to work hours, job duties, or the provision of assistive devices or technology to support employees with Long COVID.
Preventing the spread of Long COVID in the workplace
HR professionals should develop and implement strategies to promote employee health and prevent the spread of COVID-19 and Long COVID in the workplace. These strategies may include regular COVID-19 testing, workplace hygiene protocols, and education and awareness campaigns to promote healthy practices.
HR professionals should also work with management to ensure that employees who are experiencing symptoms of Long COVID are encouraged to seek medical attention and take the necessary time off work to recover.
Supporting Employees with Long COVID
Creating a supportive work environment for employees with Long COVID is essential to ensure that they can continue to work to the best of their ability. Employers can provide support by creating a flexible work environment that accommodates the needs of employees with Long COVID, such as providing access to remote work, flexible work hours, and job restructuring.
Accommodation and rehabilitation strategies
Employers can implement accommodation and rehabilitation strategies to support employees with Long COVID. This can include providing access to physical and occupational therapy, as well as mental health support. Employers can also provide education and resources to help employees manage their symptoms and improve their overall health.
Communicating with employees with Long COVID
Effective communication is critical when supporting employees with Long COVID. Employers should have open and transparent communication channels with employees to ensure that their needs are being met and to address any concerns or challenges. Employers can also provide regular updates on company policies and procedures related to Long COVID and COVID-19 to ensure that employees are informed and up-to-date.
Future implications and areas for further research
The long-term implications of Long COVID on the labor market are not yet fully understood, and there is a need for further research in this area. As the illness continues to evolve, HR professionals will need to adapt and develop new strategies to address the ongoing challenges of Long COVID in the workplace.
Summary of key points
In summary, Long COVID can have significant impacts on the labor market, including absenteeism and decreased productivity.
HR planning is crucial in addressing Long COVID in the workplace, including the implementation of HR policies and procedures and strategies for promoting employee health and preventing the spread of COVID-19 and Long COVID.
Employers can also provide support to employees with Long COVID by creating a supportive work environment, implementing accommodation and rehabilitation strategies, and communicating effectively.
By developing and implementing effective HR policies and procedures, promoting employee health and well-being, and creating a supportive work environment, HR professionals can help mitigate the impacts of Long COVID on the labor market and ensure that employees are supported and able to work to the best of their ability.
Do you have HR Management questions about how to communicate and manage your team on issues related to Long Covid or other issues? Ask the experts at Pivotal HR Solutions: