Navigating the new normal: insights into remote and hybrid work culture

Managing remote and hybrid employees' workers' compensation claims

Navigating the new normal: insights into remote and hybrid work culture

Workers Comp

By Nicole Panteloucos

This article was created in partnership with Davies Group.

With many of us now setting up offices in our homes, the onset of remote work following COVID-19 has increasingly blurred the lines between professional and personal life.

Although remote work benefits organizations and employees, it complicates workers’ compensation claims, as challenges lie in distinguishing between work-related activities and personal life within home settings.

As modern workforces continue transitioning into the gig economy, where workers operate with increased flexibility, employers must ensure adequate measures are in place to protect employees.

Beverly Adkins (pictured above), president of workers’ compensation and property and casualty TPA, Davies, sat down with Insurance Business to discuss this and other trends in workers' compensation claims.

Telecommuting policies

To ensure employers keep up with the new way of work, Adkins advised having a telecommuting policy, which are guidelines detailing how remote and hybrid workers should engage in their tasks.

“You want to clarify how their workspace is set up at home. Employees can have accidents at home, and you want to establish whether there’s a separate office,” Adkins said.

However, Adkins also acknowledged that home offices still create legal grey zones, and risk factors are more challenging to control when employees work remotely.

Citing a case where an employee tripped over their dog while working from home, which was later overturned and ruled not compensable, Adkins said, “You have to be cognizant of different statutes and rules in various states, but also understand your employees’ remote work environments.”

Adkins also noted that unique risks can arise from the constant switch hybrid employees make between work and home, an issue that was not prevalent before COVID-19.

“Employees are splitting their time between remote and office work, so claims could also arise from the transition between work and home environments.”

Psychosocial hazards

Adkins explained that employers must be aware of mental health considerations, as returning to the office has been a source of anxiety for many.

A recent McKinsey survey found that nearly one-third of employees who have already returned to the office reported negative mental health impacts. Additionally, half of those employees still working remotely anticipated that returning would negatively affect their mental health.

“Employees may experience increased stress levels and anxiety about returning to the office, which could lead to workplace accidents or exacerbate preexisting injuries,” Adkins said.

Regular assessments and training

According to Adkins, remote work has increased workers’ claims in home offices, including slips, trips, or comfort-related issues due to improperly set up workstations.

“Covering things like hazard identification and ergonomics is crucial. Regular refresher courses can help reinforce safety protocols and reduce the risk of workplace accidents,” Adkins said.

Providing additional advice to employers, Adkins emphasized the importance of setting up safety committees.

“If they don’t already have a safety committee, developing one with representatives from both management and frontline workers will help promote a workplace safety culture,” Adkins said.

Predictive analytics

With technological advancements, Adkins cited employee wearables as another strategy businesses can employ to mitigate employee injury and risk. 

These devices often monitor physiological indicators with the ability to detect fatigue and stress, while some can monitor if an employee is lifting correctly to prevent injury.

For Adkins, using technology wherever possible to create a culture of accountability and continuous improvement is key to creating safe workspaces.

“Predictive analytics play a crucial role. Identifying patterns, trends, and risk factors associated with workplace injuries can help organizations anticipate potential hazards and allocate resources to better mitigate risks,” Adkins said.

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