The Workers’ Compensation Challenges of the Work-from-Home Business Model

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The onset of the coronavirus pandemic marked a significant shift in how we do business. Remote work has become a staple for the contemporary business model and millions of Americans have made the shift to working from home. As we figure out how to return to normalcy, it appears that remote work will continue to play an important part in American business culture going forward. For business owners, this new way of working has created new workers’ compensation insurance exposures.

Transition to the Work-from-Home Model

More Americans are working from home now than ever before. A Pew Research article details how millions of Americans have made the transition to work from home during the pandemic. At the end of 2020, 71 percent of Americans were working from home, compared to one in five before the pandemic. Now, 54% of workers say they want to continue working from home once the pandemic is over.

There are many reasons why Americans enjoy working from home. The most common reason is that it saves time. The United States Census Bureau says that the average American one-way commute time was 27.6 minutes in 2019. Eliminating the commute saves an hour per day, on average – adding up to five extra hours every week!

Work from Home Exposures

Just because your employees work from home does not mean they are safe from work-related injuries and illnesses. According to SHRM, remote workers who experience work-related illness or injury generally qualify for workers’ compensation insurance benefits. Remote work presents business owners with unique workers’ compensation insurance exposures to consider.

As in the office, repetitive motion injuries are a significant exposure to consider for work-from-home employees. According to Insurance Business America, tools and furnishings available to an employee working from home have often not been ergonomically vetted by an employer. This unique work from home situation can potentially cause cumulative trauma injuries, such as carpel tunnel or epicondylitis.

Another prevalent exposure at home is that an employee's workspace may be located in areas with other functions. Flex spaces often contain toys and exercise equipment which can create a higher potential for slips, trips and falls. Likewise, a worker that sits on a couch or at a dining room table all day could begin to experience back or shoulder pain.

Work from home has also given employees more scheduling flexibility. In some cases, workers put in more hours to get more done, leading to situations where an employee is overworked and in turn, not as safe.

Employers should also be mindful of mental health exposures. Workers who are at home may feel more isolated. Mental health challenges can also interfere with recovery from other work-related injuries and illnesses.

Work from Home Controls

Controlling workers’ compensation exposures in a work-from-home environment presents a new business challenge. Although there is no standard method of protecting your employees at home, there are steps you can take to mitigate the risk.

The most important control is to encourage your employees to create a functional workspace. According to the Nonprofit Leadership Center, finding space in your home devoted to your work is critical to work from home productivity. This includes a place where you don’t have to set up and put things away every day as well as a place that does not serve a dual-purpose.

Another effective control is to encourage team members to establish and adhere to a daily routine. This routine can resemble a normal office day or a flexible schedule so your employees can work effectively and safely. Soliciting a work from home survey can gauge employee satisfaction with their remote environment.

Focus on physical and mental wellness initiatives that engage those who are working from home. Always proactively communicate, and especially following a workplace injury or illness.

Learn more about Flexible Work Comp Options

By recognizing the exposures of remote work and implementing effective controls, you can prevent and mitigate the incidence of claims from team members who work from home.

Need guidance? Contact Heffernan Insurance Brokers today to help mitigate your work-from-home business risks.