Information alert

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Returning to work:

It is very common for people with Long COVID to find their capacity to work is reduced. This can cause stress and financial worries. You may feel guilty or worried about returning to work but returning can be challenging.

Preparing to return to work:

  • Keep an activity diary of your current activity levels and any impact this has on your symptoms. Activities you are struggling with at home can be applicable to the work setting e.g. difficulty concentrating and requiring more time to complete tasks. This can be useful to discuss with your employer.
  • Seek support/advice from family, friends and professional services.
  • While it is important to only return to work when you feel ready, you may be able to return with adjustments to help manage your symptoms.
  • Communicate with your employer as early as possible about your illness.
  • If your employer has an Occupational Health Department, request they make a referral on your behalf. If you are struggling with brain fog and/or fatigue, it may be useful to have an advocate present for meetings with your employer. This could be somebody a union representative, a relative, or a close friend. Make sure you understand your sick pay entitlement and have read the most up-to-date work place policies.
  • Request to receive information in writing, ask for email summaries of meetings/decisions.

Before returning:

  • Try and mimic a working week at home by creating an activity programme that reflects your working hours and work-related activities:
  • Try to wake up at the time needed for when you go back to work.
  • Practice your commute to work.
  • Practice working at a computer and concentrating on work related tasks for as long as you will need to at work. Start small and incrementally increase over time.
  • Practice activities that involve planning, organising and time keeping (e.g., shopping or cooking a meal).

Support to return to work:

  • Discuss with your employer the opinions of reasonable adjustments to help support your return to work. This could include:
  • Consider a phased return to work where you gradually build back up to your usual hours over weeks or months. This may need to be longer than the statutory 4 weeks.
  • Adjustments to usual working hours.
  • Adjustments to work setting. Working in a quiet environment, reduces the need to filter out noise and external distractions that could add to fatigue, this could also include working from home.
  • Extended or frequent breaks.
  • Reducing caseload of work.
  • Equipment, for example specialist headphones, suitable desk chair.
  • Reasonable adjustments, whether extended return to work, equipment, or other reasonable things, are a legal entitlement but it is up to your employer to decide what is reasonable.

Strategies to support whilst at work:

  • Remember to pace your activity throughout the day.
  • Use compensatory strategies and external aids e.g., diaries, To-do lists and Calendars.
  • Schedule the most demanding tasks around when you feel most alert.
  • Only complete one task at a time and try to reduce distractions.
  • Change position throughout the day to move the body to help with fatigue and reducing aches and pains.
  • Ensure you take regular breaks. Where possible, take regular 10–15-minute mental breaks throughout the day. Ensure these are a time of complete rest.
  • Ensure regular contact with management.

General tips:

  • Remember to be kind to yourself: the adjustment will take a while.
  • Take time for yourself - Practicing mindfulness using apps such as Smiling Mind or Headspace can help. Deep breathing or relaxation exercises can also be useful.
  • Keep a routine where possible: get a good night's sleep and eat a balanced diet.
  • If the stress gets overwhelming, seek support from your employer, occupational health or your local GP.
  • Further support can be seen on the Cognition and Fatigue management leaflet.

If you are struggling to return to work, consider discussing a vocational rehab referral with
your GP or at your clinic appointment.

Useful links for return to work and finance:

The Society of Occupational Medicine - COVID-19 return to work guide: For recovering workers -


Citizen Advice:

Step change: Free debt advice online, and support for as long as you need it:

Money Buddies: Free Money advice service whose aim is to help clients out of debt,
poverty and have social justice:

Help for Households:

Useful link for employers:

Access to work factsheet for employers:

The Society of Occupational Medicine - COVID-19 return to work guide: For managers -

Page last updated: 21 May 2024

Review due: 31 October 2025