Working at home was once considered rare and unusual. When hearing that someone had a job but didn’t have to leave their house was often ridiculed. That type of occupation was thought to be easy and not to be taken seriously.
Yet, over the past six months, workers plying their trades in a home-based office has skyrocketed. A move driven by a global pandemic has brought newfound respect to a once-maligned, but now growing segment of the labor market.
Unprecedented Times Creates Unprecedented Job Dynamics
Working at home should provide all the benefits of performing job duties in a cubicle or office. One of the essential benefits is workers’ compensation for an injury suffered while “on the clock.” Those who telecommute are largely covered by workers’ compensation laws.
Admittedly, employers have little to no control over the work conditions of remote staff. However, that does not absolve them from providing workers’ compensation. Whether the employee is onsite or is only seen in a Zoom conference, the employer is responsible for a safe work environment.
Providing safe off-site work settings is not beyond an employer’s purview. Proactive steps can help ensure worker safety at home and include:
- Establishing policies that define work-at-home expectations, including time management and reporting, designated workspaces, equipment use, and other work-related information
- Training remote staff on the proper ways to set up their home office and maintain a safe environment, promoting ergonomics to minimize the chance of injuries
- Specifying employee working hours and job duties, particularly if the pandemic resulted in any changes in time and tasks
The most detailed plan and well-thought-out policies will not prevent accidents from happening. In the midst of all the changes, what hasn’t changed in workers’ compensation claims is that the employee – remote or onsite – has the responsibility of proving a work-related injury. A successful claim must show evidence of acting in their employer’s interest when they were hurt.