For some, COVID-19 is a relatively quick and painless experience, but for others, symptoms may last a lot longer than one would hope. For those whose symptoms have lingered for weeks or months after they began to recover, this reality was coined as long COVID. According to research from November 2021, more than 100 million people worldwide have suffered from it. Long COVID can have long-lasting complications for many, making it an incredibly difficult and tiring endeavor to resume living a normal, healthy life.
To learn more about people’s struggle with long COVID, we’ve surveyed 1,001 people who have contracted the illness. We’ve taken a specific look at those with lingering symptoms to better understand how they’ve tried to navigate their work lives and the consequences they’ve had to face in their journey toward full recovery. We’ve now learned that dealing with COVID is a marathon and not a sprint—for those who are in the midst of their race, our findings will shed some much needed light on their trek toward the finish line.
As symptoms continue to persist, some are forced to take unfortunate measures in order to prioritize their health and recoveries. Let’s take a look at some sacrifices that were made and a major potential consequence of people’s extended leave.
Nearly two-thirds of the surveyed workers believed that long COVID was worsening the country’s labor shortage. Seeing as around 1.6 million Americans may be missing from the workforce due to their battles with long COVID, our respondents may be on to something. Around 42% of respondents had experienced long-term symptoms of it themselves, just under half were fortunate not to have to deal with them, and 8.4% were unsure about whether they had.
Of those that had the drawn-out version of COVID-19, many had to rely on vacation days as a means to rest and get better—these people were likely part of the respondent group who used all of their sick days and had no choice but to take more time off. Some who were still working had to, at the very least, reduce their hours, while others were thinking of quitting their job altogether. Unfortunately, 29% saw no other option but to do just that. Gen Zers were the most likely to have given their two-week notice.
Quitting isn’t an option for everyone, which is why taking medical leave was a resort frequently acted upon. Overall, 47% of respondents said they regularly took medical leave, but of those experiencing long COVID, 73% were constantly on leave. On average, they took 16 days off of work, compared to the 10 days used by respondents who had recovered more quickly. Interestingly, of the 65% of people in favor of vaccine mandates in the workplace, people who experienced long COVID were more on board with it than the others. Having been out of the office longer than anyone, perhaps long COVID experiencers just want to get back on the wagon and were willing to support the mandate to keep both themselves and others safe in the workplace.
When you’re sick, you’re not at your best. This is especially true in the workplace, and those with long COVID experience have suffered for it in more ways than one.
To make matters worse, a quarter of people who experienced long COVID also explained how their salary suffered—they lost, on average, $4,308 from a missed promotion or salary increase because of how their body responded to the illness. Seeing as 35% of respondents, 30% of which were men and 40% women, said long COVID symptoms had negatively affected their productivity at work, some unforgiving bosses could have punished them financially.
While people’s financial health took a hit, unfortunately, so did their physical and mental health. A laundry list of long COVID symptoms , including fatigue, headaches, sleep problems, fever, and mood changes might explain why it took a toll on many of our respondents’ bodies and minds. By sex, both men and women were more impacted on a physical level, but women were more likely to suffer from long COVID in general—a study out of Milan, Italy, echoes these findings.
Looking for Assistance
A helping hand is always welcome when we need it. That being said, it’s not always given. As we learned, some long COVID sufferers weren’t given any sort of breaks at their workplace, as some were hindered financially due to their dip in productivity or general absence. To follow up, when directly asked about their workplaces, only 55% of workers said that they and others who had COVID symptoms were being accommodated accordingly. For the ones who work at companies that put an emphasis on employee well-being, potential reasonable accommodations include a job restructure, making changes to an employee’s workstation, permitting an employee to work from home, or modifying their work schedule.
Aside from relying on workplace accommodation, 70% of workers who experienced long COVID took matters into their own hands and applied for disability protection and benefits. Of them, 1 in 8 sadly had their application denied, however. Under the joint guidance of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice, long COVID is not automatically given disability status and is instead assessed on an individual basis, which likely explains why some were granted neither disability protection nor benefits.
Regardless, 62% of workers felt it’s time to learn to live with long COVID—as variants continue to come out of the woodwork, we need to come to terms with the fact that this disease could be around for the long haul, in one form or another.
Some people contract COVID and don’t feel a single symptom, while others have their life taken from them. In between these two extremes lie those who develop long COVID, meaning their symptoms remain for much longer than anticipated. While taking some time off to heal is more than fair, people with long-term COVID complications have naturally found it more difficult to resume their normal daily schedules. These complications are especially apparent in the workplace, where some have unfortunately had to take a financial hit due to their dip in productivity and missed days. Of course, mental and physical negative effects are more than common, too. Some workplaces have been accommodating toward long COVID sufferers, but not everyone has gotten the protection and benefits they deserve.
The majority of people think that it’s time to learn how to live with long COVID, no matter how unfavorable that situation may be. While top doctors and scientists continue to search for the best ways to combat this pandemic, there are certainly methods to help discover groundbreaking new treatments—not only for COVID, but for other very real and serious conditions. At Power, you can find various clinical trials for COVID related conditions as well as a variety of other health conditions.
We surveyed 1,001 people who contracted COVID-19. Among them, 42% had experienced long COVID symptoms. 51% of them were men, and 49% were women.
For short, open-ended questions, outliers were removed.
To help ensure that all respondents took our survey seriously, they were required to identify and correctly answer an attention-check question. Survey data has certain limitations related to self-reporting.
Margin of error: Plus or minus 3% with a 95% confidence interval.
Do you know someone who’s had to battle or is currently enduring a battle with long COVID? If so, feel free to share these findings with them or with anyone else you think may enjoy reading this article. We just ask that you do so for noncommercial use only and to provide a link back to the original page so the contributors can earn credit for their work.