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How managers can help chronically ill employees

Best Practices, Featured

The pandemic has brought upon the workplace environment is the influx of COVID-19 patients with long-term effects in the form of chronic conditions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated, that patients with Long COVID, can suffer symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, and fever for more than 4 weeks after infection. The worst part is that their experts still do not know why people get Long COVID while others do.

Since there is no prediction for the end of the pandemic in the Philippines, companies need to strategize their processes for helping employees who may be suffering from Long COVID. Not only does it reduce overall anxiety in the workplace, it is a very sustainable HR strategy because it can also be beneficial for people with other long-term illnesses who would want to work for them in the future.
The different strategies they can choose to implement are

Flexible work policy

A good way of reducing the worry or concern of chronically ill employees is to already have a planned flexible work policy. An important thing to note is even if there is already a flexible policy in place, employers should still be allowed to be flexible when dealing with their teammates. The symptoms and needs of chronically ill people may vary from day to day. For example, doctors cannot even predict the long-term effects of COVID-19 survivors as they depend on person to person
A feasible work from home policy that could potentially help workers with long-term conditions is allowing them to have a reduced job load in exchange for a pay cut. Another option is giving regular employees the option of choosing the days they work during the 40-hour workweek. Letting them choose their working hours ensures that they have sure periods of rest time when symptoms ruin their productivity.

Communication is key

Workplace communication can make or break an employee’s experience. The pandemic has made it all the more vital to keep employees engaged and reduce their pandemic stress.

An important component of communication with chronically ill workers is trust. Why? Because employees need to feel safe around their managers to disclose their health conditions or symptoms. Unfortunately, some employees use the health conditions of others to put them down. Chronically ill people can be accused of faking it or worse, using their sickness as an excuse not to do well.
If a manager and a chronically ill employee do not have a relationship built on trust yet, it is still possible to form one now in the pandemic.

A manager can start one by making a connection with the employee. It could be as simple as checking up on their employee through online messages and being transparent about how things are on their side. Once the employee is ready to open up about their condition, the manager should show empathy while maintaining the necessary boundaries.

Prioritize the importance of health

This might seem obvious in real life but possibly not so much at work. Thus, managers should show through their actions that the health of their employees matters most in the pandemic. Very often, chronically ill people doubt their ability to work as their sickness tends to impacts their potential, and make them more prone to tiredness than the average employee. A good way managers can make health important in the workplace is by opening about their own health problems, if any. Leaders can also choose to educate themselves on the different illnesses of their employees and the best ways to deal with them.