Could remote work lead to more liability claims for employers? – Internet Marketing 101

Could remote work lead to more liability claims for employers? – Internet Marketing 101

If we looked at the state of remote work about a year ago, we would have talked about it as software to track employee productivity a growing trend, something that most employees wanted, but that was only available to a select few, specifically those working in IT and those in multinational companies and, even then, remote work was only an occasional benefit. Many people even took a leap of faith and became freelancers because they wanted to avoid the dreaded commute and work from home.

If we look at the state of remote work now, it’s no longer the inaccessible benefit it once was. The pandemic proved that employees could indeed work from home without losing their productivity and that remote work can be a major money saver. To no one’s surprise, IT was the field that could adapt the soonest to remote work because the infrastructure was already there, but as more industries jump-started the digital transformation process, businesses of all fields and sizes made remote work possible.

According to a Gartner study, 82{1936381d4253f19a98bc2ecae94a0b0438ab0e234f1c555690d854373a3c9a42} of employers plan on allowing some version of remote work once the pandemic is over, and 47{1936381d4253f19a98bc2ecae94a0b0438ab0e234f1c555690d854373a3c9a42} want to allow remote work full time. The rest want to include “flex time”: employees can work from home some of the time and then come to the office a few days per week. This hybrid approach to work has many benefits, including an increase in productivity and worker experience and reduced costs on the company’s side.

However, the switch to remote work isn’t without risks for employers. While most leaders worry about maintaining corporate culture and productivity, there is another challenge that could cause bigger financial problems in the long run: worker injury liability claims.

At present, almost half of the US workforce works from home, and companies who want to avoid liability claims should pay attention to a few factors.

Why does remote work cause more injuries?
At first glance, there’s nothing dangerous about working from home. After all, you’re not driving to work, where you can be involved in a traffic accident, and you’re in the comfort of your own home. You picked all the furniture yourself, and you love it here, so what could possibly go wrong?

Well, a lot of things, because we built and decorated our homes for relaxing, not working, and the space we have at home might not necessarily be the safest for us. Case in point: neck and spine injuries.

As revealed in a New York Times article, 92{1936381d4253f19a98bc2ecae94a0b0438ab0e234f1c555690d854373a3c9a42} of chiropractors are reporting a surge in the number of patients who are complaining about neck and back pain and similar musculoskeletal issues. Why does this happen?

When the first lockdown started, everyone expected to work from home for two weeks, so they didn’t really prepare. Those who didn’t already have home offices improvised with various solutions or just resigned themselves to working from their beds or living room sofas. At first, this might not have seemed such a bad idea – to some, it was a dream come true to wake up five minutes before work starts, turn on your laptop, and work from your pyjamas. But, as the lockdown went on for a lot longer than initially expected, the medical consequences of these bad setups began to emerge. At first, only as mild discomfort, but then that mild discomfort can turn to pain and even serious chiropractic issues.

The problem is that, at the office, workers have ergonomic desks and chairs, which force the spine to sit in the correct position. Meanwhile, at home, the positions that seem comfortable are the ones that do the most damage to the spine. Plus, there are also other factors involved. If at the office most people have desktop computers, at home they use laptops, which are bad for you no matter how you use them: you’re either looking down at the screen, which puts pressure on your neck, or you’re lifting your hands to type, which puts pressure on your discs and may cause muscle imbalances. Also, at the office, you don’t just sit down looking at screens. From time to time, you get up to join a meeting, or you go to the watercooler, whereas at home, you often lose track of time and sit in the same position for hours. But the body needs movement, and when your entire day is sitting in bed looking at the laptop or sitting on the couch looking at your phone, it’s a matter of time until you feel discomfort.

What can employees do to help?
Although the success of an injury claim while working from home depends on many factors, including your field of activity and where you live, legal experts warn that liability claims are on the rise and that it’s not uncommon for a court to rule in favour of an employee working from home. Even though, as the employer, you do not have any control over the way people from remotely, you can offer them training and educate them on how to create a home office. Otherwise, you could be held liable in court.

Here are a few measures you can take to protect both your employees at your business:

Create guidelines for an ergonomic home office, such as the type of desks and chairs that support spine health. If you have the funds, you can even help employees who do not have such office furniture buy some.

Provide comprehensive safety training on how to safely use work equipment at home.

If your employees use laptops, you can purchase wireless keyboards and mice.

You can also help employees stay healthy by giving them tips on how to protect their spine. For example, that they should take breaks every 30 minutes to relax their neck and shoulders, walk around the room, and rest their eyes. More importantly, be understating and communicate your expectations clearly. Many employees avoid taking breaks from home because they somehow feel guilty for working remotely, so it’s important to emphasize that it’s essential to decompress.


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