A photo of a river in the peak district

Post Covid-19 Syndrome (Long Covid) and Supporting Wellbeing

Alongside the focus on saving lives, narrative is building around the condition known as ‘Long Covid’, in particular its long-term consequences and debilitating effect on an individual’s ability to carry out day to day activities.

It remains unclear as to why people get long Covid and what recovery looks like.

It is important that alongside clinical care, individuals are supported with self-management of the condition, including within the workplace.

What is Post-Covid-19 Syndrome (Long Covid)?

Signs and symptoms that develop during or following an infection consistent with Covid-19, continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis.” (NICE, December 2020)

What are the symptoms of Post-Covid-19 Syndrome (Long Covid)?

Symptoms are highly variable and wide ranging however the most common symptom appears to be fatigue. Other reported symptoms include breathlessness, muscle pains, symptoms of anxiety and loss of the ability to think clearly ‘brain fog’.

How individuals can support their wellbeing during recovery

In addition to the clinical care they will be receiving, individuals can put in place management strategies in their everyday life to help with recovery.

Online Support

This online rehab service aims to provide personalised support to patients living with long Covid. If individuals have persistent problems because of Covid-19 they may be offered a programme of recovery. This may be a face to face programme or one to follow at home. It is most likely that patients will access this programme through their GP.

This online hub aims to provide support for people with breathing difficulties after Covid-19 whether they were at home, in hospital or in intensive care. Respiratory specialists are available via the helpline to provide advice on post-Covid-19 breathlessness.

Eating Well

Eating well is important as the body will need energy, protein, vitamins and minerals to help with recovery. Explore these nourishing meal and snack ideas. Alternatively Inox, the University’s own restaurant and event space, often shares delicious recipes that people can create at home. Follow Inox’s Facebook page to see their recipes.

Sleeping Well

Many individuals recovering from Covid-19 notice changes to their sleep patterns when compared to their sleep routines before they became unwell. For more information on sleep cycles and how to improve sleep visit this webpage.

Being Active
  • After a period of illness and associated inactivity an individual’s level of fitness will naturally have decreased. Visit this webpage for advice on how to safely get moving again.
  • The University has brought together a range of accessible, varied and fun activities that people can do from their own home including yoga and Pilates.
  • Remedy Physio are offering free ten minute phone calls for University of Sheffield staff, as well as online video consultations.
  • The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy have developed a Road to Recovery activity planner to help record energy levels before and after activities.
Fatigue Management
  • Watch the below 11 minute video by Dr Kate Hackett – Specialist Occupational Therapist at CRESTA for tips on managing energy and returning to daily activity. A series of these videos are available and have been developed by the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University in partnership with the CRESTA clinic at Newcastle Hospitals Foundation Trust, Newcastle University, and University of Northumbria.

  • The Royal College of Occupational Therapists advocate following the 3 P's principle (Pace, Plan and Prioritise) for daily activities to help with conserving energy.
  • Long Covid - What Chronic Fatigue Taught Me - A few years ago, Ali found themselves with chronic fatigue, a condition many Covid survivors are experiencing. Here they share 5 tips from their experience.

How to support the wellbeing of individuals who are recovering

People managers and colleagues can play a part in supporting an individual’s emotional and physical recovery including, when appropriate, their return to work.

Whilst there is still research to be done on long term impacts on individuals, you should be supportive of your staff if they are not at full fitness and consider what duties are appropriate for them to carry out. You can seek the support of your HR Services team in planning this.

Have a conversation
  • The below short video takes you through the basic principles of a conversation around wellbeing, how to start one, how to spot signs that a member of staff may be struggling, and what you can do about it.

  • Ask, observe, notice - You don't need to be a mental health or a wellbeing specialist to be an effective people manager. Show your genuine care by building three simple principles into your everyday interactions; ask, observe and notice. Just noticing and showing someone that you care is in itself a wellbeing intervention.
Staff Helpline & Counselling Service - 0800 028 1947

Please do signpost colleagues to Health Assured, our Employee Assistance Programme and route to Confidential Staff Counselling (up to 8 sessions with a BACP counsellor).

An individual can call to discuss a specific physical condition and receive support in line with medical information in addition to onward signposting to NHS 111 if applicable. If an individual is concerned about the impact of long Covid on their wellbeing, this impact can be explored in a wider sense to understand what the presenting and underlying concern is (for example low mood or anxiety) so that the most appropriate clinic support can be provided.

Occupational Health

HML offer a range of tools and services to support with managing the impact of Covid-19 on an individual’s wellbeing and with supporting a recovery.

The HML Occupational Health Assessment Tool may be helpful for managers to use with individuals who have concerns about returning back to work on campus. The document works through the individuals concerns and can help you make a decision on whether an Occupational Health referral to HML is necessary. Please view the tool here. Please view the guidance here.

If making an HML Occupational Health referral due to suspected long Covid, managers should use the standard template and state that long Covid is the reason for referral in the open text box under ‘03 Reason for referral’. This means the clinicians will base their assessment and advice around this and will consider any future support that may be needed. Please note, if referring a member of staff for advice on long Covid, you should first seek advice from your HR Services team.

Additional resources

If you are caring for someone, dedicated information and support is available from CarersUK. Our University is a member of Employers for Carers, Carers UK's business forum. More information is available here.

A number of social forums have begun to be created to enable individuals to share their experiences and support each other through recovery, including these UK-based support groups:

ENO Breathe is a programme for people recovering from Covid-19, who are still suffering from breathlessness and associated anxiety. It focuses on breathing retraining through singing. To take part, individuals will need to have been referred onto the programme by a medical team.

If you are a manager, visit the University Sickness & Absence Management web pages for further information, guidance and good practice.