More than a year into the pandemic, scientists and doctors are still uncovering long-term side effects of the COVID virus. One of the most alarming and debilitating of these side effects is a lasting cognitive impairment known as COVID brain fog. What causes it? And how can it affect your employees’ health and productivity? Here’s what the latest research indicates, and how BRIO can help you and your business navigate the fog.
What is COVID Brain Fog?
While COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, the virus seems to have far-reaching neurological effects on some patients and survivors. Months after infection, many COVID patients report memory loss, inability to focus and even confusion or dementia-like symptoms — as many as 30% of patients in some studies. Taken together, doctors have begun referring to this condition as COVID brain fog.
How Does COVID Brain Fog Affect Employees?
People with COVID brain fog tend to describe a general cloudiness or disruption of normal cognitive ability. While this may be a mild inconvenience for some, patients with severe symptoms can experience significant disruption to their daily lives and work output. Even mild COVID cases can still produce serious effects that leave people grasping for words or dizzy and fatigued. Neurological damage can lead to vision problems, difficulty speaking and tingling or loss of feeling in extremities. COVID brain fog can last for weeks or months past initial infection, with some patients still feeling the effects for a year or more.
For employees, COVID brain fog can be extremely frustrating or altogether debilitating. People who have never had trouble focusing and being productive find themselves incapable of remembering the task at hand, and can struggle to retain information from meetings or complete tasks that they previously found easy. Working from home can magnify these symptoms, but returning to a physical workspace may exacerbate COVID brain fog as employees must handle reintegrating into the office while still not feeling like themselves mentally.
How Do You Clear COVID Brain Fog?
Employees who report new or troubling cognitive issues that may be related to COVID brain fog should consult a doctor immediately in order to prevent worsening or permanent damage. Generally speaking, doctors are treating brain fog like a typical head injury, advising patients to get more sleep and more recovery. Cognitive stimulation like puzzles or crosswords can help clear the fog, as well as physical activity and enriching experiences like listening to music and light socializing.
Patience is key, especially as employees return to normal routines like going to the office, and ramping up as slowly as possible to avoid overwhelming situations. So far, there are no signs that COVID brain fog is permanent, so encourage employees to take as much time as necessary to work back to normal, and provide them with the support they need to return to full productivity.
Healthline - 6 Possible Causes of Brain Fog
Health Matters - Can COVID-19 Cause Brain Fog?
Harvard Health Publishing - What is COVID-19 brain fog — and how can you clear it?
The New York Times - ‘I Feel Like I Have Dementia’: Brain Fog Plagues Covid Survivors