The outbreak of the novel coronavirus had a profound impact on productivity levels around the globe. This can clearly be seen by China’s GDP contraction of 2.6 per cent, with their zero Covid policy, while Malaysia’s economy continues to grow, following a successful vaccination campaign and the lifting of restrictions.
In many cases, businesses have been forced to close their doors, and employees have been left without work. The situation has been exacerbated by the fact that white-collar workers are now working from home in an attempt to keep themselves safe, a luxury not afforded to blue-collar workers.
Much has been studied and discovered about Covid-19, and multiple treatment modalities have been tested and carried out. Covid-19 vaccinations have been issued to the citizens and on September 7, 2022, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced that wearing a face mask is now optional in public settings.
Judging by recent developments, we would expect that the pandemic is coming to an end, but that is not the case. Something new has come to our attention. Data has shown that one out of five people who was infected by Covid-19 in the past has been experiencing symptoms such as persistent coughs, difficulty in breathing, feelings of fatigue, insomnia, loss of concentration, depression, and many more.
All these symptoms point to long Covid. Long Covid occurs is when someone who has recovered from Covid-19 develops persistent or new symptoms that can last for weeks or months after recovery.
Long Covid is an issue for many employers. Its symptoms can make it difficult for workers to focus on tasks and be productive. In addition, long Covid can also lead to depression and other mental health problems, further impacting productivity levels.
For some people, these effects are mild, and last only a few weeks. But for others, they can be more severe and linger for months. In either case, long Covid can have a significant impact on productivity levels.
The long-term effects of Covid-19 are still unknown, but early data suggests that the virus may have a significant impact on productivity. Those affected by long Covid must take time off from work to recover, or care for loved ones who are sick.
This can lead to lost wages for employees and decreased productivity for businesses. Evidence has found that Covid-19 may have long-term health consequences, which can affect work performances.
These health consequences may increase work-related absences (absenteeism) and/or decrease productivity (presenteeism) while at work. Furthermore, studies that have considered presenteeism have also found that it accounts for a greater proportion of productivity loss than absenteeism (Collins et al., 2005).
However, there has been limited information (both locally and globally) on work performance and the economic impact on health care workers who were infected.
Now that we know how much time and energy can be lost to long Covid, it is very important for us to identify these subtle symptoms and consult a doctor immediately.
There are no specific tests for long Covid, so coming up with a diagnosis is difficult. Treating the symptoms of long Covid may be even more difficult as every person experiences long Covid differently.
As such, treatment modalities must be tailored to each individual. Minor symptoms, for example, can be treated with over-the-counter medication, whereas those with severe symptoms require long-term physiotherapy and rehabilitation.
The road to recovery is not only bumpy but long, which would certainly impact productivity as we need to sacrifice not only our time, but also our energy to seek treatment.
While there are no easy solutions, employers need to be aware of the potential impact on their workers. By offering support and understanding during this challenging time, they can help their employees stay healthy and productive despite the challenges posed by long Covid.
There is still much we do not know about long Covid, but early data has indicated it could have a major impact on our economy and the workforce. Businesses should be prepared for workers who may need extended time off due to its long-term effects.
Nazlin Adlina Mohd Mahyudin, Mohd Haikal Kushahrin Sadikin, Mayghen Selvanayagam, Diyaanah Nasir, Khern Wei Chern, Lee Kang Ling, Thiynesvaran Ramachandran, Lee Jessce-Lyn, and Dr Lim Yin Cheng are from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.