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The Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) hosted a webinar discussing how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected employee health. The webinar shared strategies for employers to manage productivity, disability, and claims. Carole Bonner, IBI Researcher, Kelly McDevitt, IBI President, and Phil Lacy, Health & Productivity Practice Leader at Marsh & McLennan Agency, shared important takeaways and strategies for employers.

The long-lasting symptoms and functional limitations that COVID-19 survivors may experience, known as long COVID or post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC). These effects can limit the ability to work and can vary in duration and affect different parts of the body. Employment-aged individuals who tested positive or were diagnosed with COVID-19 have an estimated long COVID prevalence of approximately 17.8%.

The discussions focused on the challenges posed by long COVID and chronic conditions for employers. Phil Lacy and Kelly McDevitt discussed the difficulties faced by employers while helping affected employees return to work after disability leave. Key takeaways from the webinar include:

Important Takeaways and Strategies for Employers

  1. Flexible Work Hours: Employers should consider implementing flexible work hours, especially for office workers affected by long COVID. This will help accommodate fluctuating abilities and facilitate a smoother return to work.
  2. Addressing On-site Challenges: For on-site workers with physical limitations, employers need to recognize and address additional challenges. It is important to tailor accommodations to specific work environments for a successful return.
  3. Reasonable Accommodations: Due to the unpredictable nature of long COVID, determining reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can be challenging. Employers must adopt adaptive strategies to navigate these uncertainties and support their employees effectively.
  4. Extended Leave Duration: Determining the appropriate duration for extended leave is a challenge, especially in the absence of clear guidance from the medical community and legislative bodies. Employers should work towards flexible leave policies, considering the unique circumstances of each case.
  5. Mental Health Support: Employers should recognize the importance of mental health and refer affected employees to Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) and behavioral health professionals. This proactive approach contributes to a smoother return-to-work plan.
  6. Resilience-Focused Programs: To address the stress associated with disability, it is important to have resilience-focused programs. These programs can contribute to a more supportive work environment, promoting the well-being of employees.
  7. Comprehensive and Adaptive Approaches: Considering the challenges presented by long COVID and chronic conditions, organizations are encouraged to adopt comprehensive and adaptive approaches. These approaches should be inclusive, considering the varying impacts on individuals, and support employees effectively.
  8. Thoughtful Strategies and Accommodations: The IBI's analysis underscores the importance of thoughtful strategies and appropriate accommodations in addressing the distinctive challenges posed by long COVID. Employers are urged to prioritize these considerations in their efforts to navigate disability and productivity challenges effectively.

Highlights from IBI's Analysis of Disability Claims

covid claims

 

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