Over the course of the past year, more than half of American workers have found themselves working from home due to office closures, local lockdowns, and concerns about exposure to COVID-19. This rising trend to be “on the clock” while out of office has correlated with a noticeable decrease in workers’ compensation claims.
However, fewer reports of workers’ compensation claims do not necessarily mean that fewer workers are getting hurt on the job in 2021. Working remotely, or from a home office, can still lead to a number of job-related injuries. Some of the most common involve slips, trips, sprains, and strains, as well as repetitive stress injuries such as bursitis, tendonitis, or carpal tunnel syndrome.
Workers’ Compensation Claims Decline as Remote Work Becomes More Frequent
Despite fears that working from home would disrupt productivity, remote workers showed themselves to be resilient, dedicated, and focused during the transition away from traditional offices and workspaces. Instead of getting less done, remote workers turned out to be more productive than ever during the past year and a half of disruption.
However, even as productivity rose, workers’ compensation claims declined, without proof that work-related injuries similarly decreased. Some posit that remote workers simply kept working through injuries that ordinarily would have been reported to HR and kept them at home.
Additionally, causes for concern have increasingly cropped up during the course of the past year of remote work. Eye strain, neck strain, back and muscle fatigue—even ear strain and ear infections from overuse of earbuds and over-ear headphones—are all on the rise as employees have made do with makeshift workspaces during the transition. A 2020 poll from the American Chiropractic Association found that more than 90% of respondents said that their patients or someone they knew was experiencing increased musculoskeletal pain since beginning to work from home.
Usually, these pains would likely be reported as part of the workers’ compensation claims process. However, as opposed to sharing these issues with HR, many remote workers may have handled them personally, without reaching out for support. Many employees feared being forced to return to the office early, and so they may have hesitated to report issues related to poor ergonomics or other remote workstation concerns.
Remote Workspaces and Workers’ Compensation
Before COVID-19, some of the most common workers’ compensation claims filed by remote workers included:
These concerns have not gone away during the global health crisis. If anything, certain factors may increase the risk of on-the-job injuries. During 2021, workers have on average reported several increased risk factors, such as:
- Remote workers may spend more time at their workstations, on average up to 1.5 more hours per day. More time spent at work can lead to more chances of being injured during office hours.
- Remote workers may face more distractions, especially when not working from dedicated workspaces. Children, pets, and other factors may blur the lines between work and home spaces. Increased distraction during work is correlated with a higher risk of injury.
- An overall increase in stress levels, as well as a decrease in physical activity and exercise, has affected most Americans throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Common Injuries Linked to Remote Work
Of the 71% of American workers who currently report working from home, 23% claim that having an adequate workspace has been either a somewhat or very difficult component of the transition. Many remote workers have adapted to working from living rooms, kitchens, or even from bed, as opposed to being at a workspace with proper ergonomics.
Poor workstation ergonomics is one of the main risk factors for suffering from repetitive stress injuries. Alarmingly, two in five remote workers report experiencing new or increased pain in their shoulders, back, or wrists in the past year. Surprisingly, workers in the youngest age group, 20-35, experienced the highest uptick, with over half reporting new work-related aches since transitioning to remote work.
Resources Available to Injured Remote Workers
While claims may have fallen during the past year, workers’ compensation remains a useful resource for employees, whether remote or onsite, who are injured during the course of their work-related duties.
Workers’ compensation usually takes the form of weekly payments to compensate for expenses such as:
- Cost of medical care to treat the injury: This may include doctor’s visits, hospital stays, surgery, or medications. For repetitive stress injuries, physical therapy or rehabilitative care may be especially important and is often covered by workers’ compensation policies.
- Diminished earnings: If an injury requires a worker to take time off to recover, or to find another line of work that is less physically demanding, workers’ compensation may help an injured employee recoup some of their lost income during the transition.
Injured? Contact the Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Shulman & Hill
Shulman & Hill is New York’s premier injury law firm, specializing in workers’ compensation claims. Shulman & Hill’s workers’ compensation attorneys are dedicated to helping New Yorkers secure the compensation that they need in order to get back on their feet and recover from accidents and injuries.
If you have been injured on the job, even while working remotely or from home, you may still qualify for workers’ compensation. If you are unsure about how to file a claim, or if your claim was challenged or denied, contact Shulman & Hill for help. We can investigate the source of your injury, gather evidence to support your claim, and negotiate with insurers to help you get the financial assistance you may deserve.
Schedule your free, no-obligation case evaluation today to learn more about how Shulman & Hill can help during these challenging times.