Returning to work with Long Covid

Starting with discussions with your workplace manager and occupational health department is often a good idea. This will help your employer to develop a better understanding of your ongoing symptoms and manageable daily activity.

To support a successful return to work it is often helpful to have a flexible and phased return.  We usually recommend a phased return over 8-12 weeks, with fortnightly review meetings with the line manager to agree the next phase of return. This might include altered hours or altered duties. These adjustments to your work will aim to help you to manage your symptoms during your recovery.

Before returning to work it is important to think about the physical and cognitive demands. Cognitive demands means your thinking skills, examples might include attention, problem solving or organisation.

These skills should be compared to how much you can manage at home. Ideally the amount you can do at home should start to match the amount you need to do at work.

It can be helpful to get some ‘feedback’ on your current abilities. This is beneficial as you may have been out of work for some time and may not be aware of how tired or unfit you are.

Through doing some normal day to day activities at home, you can begin to understand your current abilities.

Examples of activities to try (providing this is safe):

  • Sorting through paperwork, and letters.
  • Placing books or CDs in alphabetical order.
  • Using your computer for email, research or social media.
  • Walking (how long and far will depend on your current abilities and symptoms).
  • Helping with a mini DIY project (do not use ladders or sharp tools).
  • Making phone calls, e.g. to the bank, a local shop, ordering a family takeaway.
  • Cooking yourself a meal/snack (if it is safe to do so).

Many of these activities need similar skills and abilities that you will need to have for returning to work. For example, using your home computer for emails and social media can help you to build up your typing skills and concentration.

Now consider:

  • How are you managing with these tasks?
  • What went well?
  • Did you struggle with anything?
  • Is there anything that you need to practice?

The more information that you have about how you find different activities at home will help you inform when you will be ready to return to work. This information can also help you to structure your return to work and understand any change that you might need when you are at work, to ensure a successful return to your job.

Your GP can discuss any changes that you may need to return to work, as well as seeking support via the Long Covid Team.  If you require further support, there is a ‘healthy futures’ online course provided by BSW Long Covid Team. This is a valuable free resource that has sessions on managing fatigue, breathlessness, brain fog, returning to exercise, amongst others.  Contact your GP or the Long Covid team for a referral.

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