April 25, 2023

New Study of Employees With Long COVID Demonstrates Need for More Workplace Accommodations

Since the beginning of the pandemic “long COVID” remains a new and poorly understood condition both for medical experts and people suffering from the condition. For workers, this has had a significant impact on their ability to remain productive at work. One in five people reporting a positive COVID diagnosis report experiencing symptoms of long COVID, according to the CDC. And, in a new study focused on long-COVID sufferers, 99% of participants reported that the condition had adversely affected their work. Participants reported having to take time off work, depression, anxiety, and even switching jobs.

The study also revealed that these problems are not merely personal, as employers have not done enough to create clear ways to communicate the availability for accommodations, which are required under the ADA, broadened in summer of 2021 to recognize “long COVID” as a disability. Respondents reported lack of workplace flexibility, poor communication, and a more general fear of broaching the subject with employers., all of which were more acutely felt among  respondents of color.

However, there is much that employers can do to help employees who are dealing with long COVID. The first is simply to talk more openly about the condition. Many people are not even aware they are suffering from long COVID because of the lack of diagnostic tools to point to the condition coupled with its similarities with other common mental health conditions. However, many of those conditions already allow for accommodations, so employers should not be fearful of widening the discussion to include long COVID. Additionally, many of those accommodations cost little, are easy to implement and have been used for other conditions for years, making it an easy target for employers.

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