Remote work has been on the rise for years, but after the COVID-19 pandemic, things have shifted even more. Remote and hybrid—a blend of remote and in-person—work models have been coming to the forefront for many businesses, which has led to other changes in operations as well. How has the expansion of remote work impacted workers’ compensation insurance? Who’s eligible for workers’ compensation, what are some of the new challenges, and how can employers overcome them?
Are remote workers eligible for workers’ compensation?
Whether you work in an office, are sent on an assignment, or work from home, you’re still eligible for the same workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation is less concerned with where the accident happened and more with the cause.
For instance, if you get in a car accident while driving to or from a meeting with a client, you could still be entitled to coverage even though you weren’t on company property. While there may be causes of workplace injuries even while working remotely, keep in mind that evidence showing it was a direct result of the job is still necessary for a claim to be approved.
How has workers’ compensation insurance adapted?
With more people working from home on their computers, the types of injuries typically seen have shifted. A study from December 2022 shows that people who work from home experience more musculoskeletal pain than people who work in an office.
Offices tend to have ergonomic equipment to help support their employees as best as possible. At home, on the other hand, people may get comfortable on their couch or at the dining table to work for the day. A lack of ergonomic support can lead to muscle or joint pain, and for many remote workers, neck and back pain has become an issue. Over time, these issues could require some form of medical care.
The changes brought on by working from home have, in turn, meant workers’ compensation has had to adapt to fit the new needs of many employees. Often times, insurance providers can offer plans or programs specific to the needs of remote companies who have work-from-home employees.
What are the challenges in determining eligibility?
When it comes to workers’ compensation insurance, several factors play a role in eligibility—from the work status of an employee to what happened when an injury occured. In an office setting, it’s much easier to keep track of what’s needed to help determine whether or not an employee could receive compensation for their injury.
Business owners or managers can clearly see what’s going on in the office. If an incident occurs and someone gets hurt, there are typically people around to witness what happened and provide details.
Additionally, whether or not the accident occured during working hours is relatively straightforward. At home, the lines become blurred. An employee can easily claim they get injured during working hours when in actuality that wasn’t the case. In theory, remote workers could claim any incident that occured was due to their job. Because of those blurred lines, having proper documentation of injury or illness is necessary in order to make a claim.
How can you help protect your employees?
Navigating workers’ compensation can be complex—particularly now that things have moved drastically toward remote work. Many mid-sized businesses are turning to PEOs—professional employer organizations—for support.
Partnering with a PEO for workers’ compensation means they’ll take handle all of the daunting tasks that come with the territory. PEOs place high priority on safety at the workplace—even when that isn’t an office. Ultimately, proper risk management is the best way to help prevent injury.
Safety trainings are a great way to help employees make the right choices for their health by putting emphasis on ergonomics, being observant, and encouraging taking enough breaks throughout the day—whether they’re in an office or at home.
Additionally, some employers may choose to provide their remote workers with ergonomic equipment to help promote proper posture while working.
A final note
Ultimately, keeping open lines of communication with your employees is crucial when you have primarily remote workers. Build a working relationship based off trust, and implement safety trainings regularly to help protect your employees.