What workers can tell us about post-COVID workability
|Lunt, J., Hemming, S, Burton, K, Elander, J. and Baraniak, A.
The apparent functional impact of post-COVID-19 syndrome has work ability implications for large segments of the working age population. To understand obstacles and enablers around self-reported work ability of workers following COVID-19, to better guide sustainable workplace accommodations. An exploratory online survey comprising quantitative and qualitative questions was disseminated via social media and industry networks between December 2020 and February 2021, yielding usable responses from 145 workers. Qualitative data was subjected to content analysis. Over half of the sample (64%) were from health, social care, and education sectors. Just under 15% had returned to work, and 53% and 50% reported their physical and psychological work ability respectively as moderate at best. Leading work ability obstacles were multi-level, comprising fatigue, the interaction between symptoms and job, lack of control over job pressures, inappropriate sickness absence management policies, and lack of COVID-aware organisational cultures. Self-management support, modified work, flexible co-developed graded return-to-work planning, and improved line management competency were advocated as key enablers. Assuming appropriate medical management of any pathophysiological complications of COVID-19, maintaining or regaining post-COVID work ability might reasonably follow a typical biopsychosocial framework enhanced to cater for the fluctuating nature of the symptoms. This should entail flexible, regularly reviewed and longer-term return-to-work planning addressing multi-level work ability obstacles, co-developed between workers and line managers, with support from human resources, occupational health professionals, and a COVID-aware organisational culture.
|Post-COVID-19 symptoms; Work ability; Long COVID; Biopsychosocial; Return-to-work; Vocational rehabilitation; Workplace accommodations
|Occupational medicine (Oxford, England)
|Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
|Web address (URL)
|Accepted author manuscript
File Access Level
|15 Aug 2022
|Publication process dates
|12 Jul 2022
|23 Sep 2022
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