• Returning To Work After Having The Dreaded COVID

    Some of us have been lucky enough to keep away from catching what is now the ‘norm’, a case of COVID-19. Others have been unfortunate enough to catch almost every variant known to mankind and now basically either get excited over a new design of mask available or live by the motto ‘Sanitise, Sanitise, Sanitise’.

    As workers in medical clinics, ours is a top priority service to the community, and if one of our own falls to COVID, we do everything in our power to make sure the frontline stays strong and robust. But on the flip side, how can we help our staffers make the return to work easier after they’ve had time to recuperate? And if you’re the one that’s been sick, how can you make it easier for yourself to seamlessly get back into the swing of things?

    Here are my tips on how to broach the subject – and whilst I write from the perspective of you, the practice manager, helping your staff, this can also be interpreted as advice for yourself if you’ve been off with COVID.

    Be Understanding & Sensitive

    Staff can feel burnt out from illness, juggling work remotely if they’ve been able (and willing) to, and maybe even caring for family members who’ve been sick at the same time (there’s nothing worse!). When they come back into the clinic, it’s important you demonstrate understanding of the anguish they’ve been through, and don’t expect things to be the way they were straight away – this is the important part! Especially if you haven’t experienced having COVID. Knowing that a return-to-work employee won’t be at 100% for quite some time is key to making sure the clinic continues to run smoothly.

    Actively listen and help them connect with all the resources necessary if they need – this could include having a daily one-on-one meeting until they feel they’re back in the swing of things, or simply being flexible with their availability.

    Stepping Back Into Routine

    Those who have had COVID-19 may very well not have had the same energy as they did before – everything feels like it takes more energy and everyday tasks may take longer than before. Getting back into a routine well and truly helps with recovery. Once your staffer is ready to return to the practice, it’s recommended you meet with them to create what I like to call a ‘Return-To-Work’ Plan.

    This is an opportunity to discuss current symptoms or difficulties, what the clinic’s status is (in this case, you updating your staffer on how things have been going), any activities that might be hard to do until recovery is 100%, and the potential for a ‘phased’ return rather than going all in at once.

    It’s also a time for them to express an interest in delegating particular tasks to a fellow colleague so that it’s not so daunting coming back into a busy practice. They might not realise it’s an option, so ensure you bring it up – that it’s okay to delegate. This is all part of planning ahead and helping everyone at the clinic work together in the best way possible.

    The Power of H2O

    One of the key weapons in the fight against COVID is a good immune system, all done with the help of hydration and nutrition. Drinking water and clear liquid beverages (like tea) are important even if you don’t feel thirsty – and if you don’t believe me, just speak to your GP! They’re right there, right next door to that office of yours, to help you!

    When you’re dehydrated, your respiratory secretions thicken and it gets harder to clear from your lungs. Keep an eye out for these signs of dehydration – increased thirst, fever, dak coloured urine, reduced urine output, dry mouth, increased heart rate, tiredness and confusion (we all get confused about things, so I’ll let you judge the level of confusion here!).

    The recommendation is to drink, at a minimum, 60-120ml every 15 minutes – that’s only a few sips out of your water bottle, so it doesn’t take much effort if you carry it with you everywhere!

    Don’t Push Your Luck

    Some of us are so keen to get back to our lives after being struck with COVID, that we unintentionally over-do it and end up back in bed recuperating for longer. The lesson we can take from everyone who’s ever done that is don’t push it!

    Yes it’s important to get moving again, but it’s also important to pace yourself and save your energy. Know when that moment hits of simply getting up and walking away when you’re feeling overwhelmed or overloaded, but alerting a colleague that you’re taking a breather. As mentioned earlier, delegate work if need be.

    If you’re on the other side though, and you see a recovering staff member struggling, it never hurts to offer taking over while they take a break, or encouraging them to give you some of their tasks for the day.

    Communication

    If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that communication must be viewed as a priority. But in this case, I’m not talking about updates on the whole COVID situation like lockdowns or restrictions…what I am talking about is the communication between you and your staff. Always remember to stay transparent with what’s going on i.e. who’s been affected, possible contaminations, the delegation of work and the importance of everyone helping each other out to ensure a balanced overall office workload.

    Dealing with emotions is just as important too. Empathy is of great significance for better healthcare outcomes as part of a warm and friendly communication style. It goes a long way in having your staff feel comfortable enough to express their concerns and worries.

    Dealing with sick patients is one thing. Supporting our staff when they return to work after going through COVID is a whole different kettle of fish, and it’s our role to be understanding, accommodating and compassionate to ensure a positive experience. I’d love to hear from you all about your tactics and advice for how you handle return-to-work situations from COVID affected employees.

     

     

     

     

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