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Workers' Comp Trends: Are Your Telecommuters Working in a Safe Workspace?

Topics: Workers' Compensation

More and more employers are offering a telecommuting option. In fact, 37% of American workers telecommute at least part of the time, according to a 2015 Gallup poll. And this trend is likely to increase if you consider that regular work-at-home has grown 103% since 2005, according to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com.

And there’s good reason that telecommuting is on the rise at leading companies. There’s no question remote workers save employers money, as productivity and retention rise when employees are offered a telecommuting option. According to research published in Inc. magazine, telecommuters are more than twice as likely as non-telecommuters to work more than 40 hours a week.

Employers pay for workers’ compensation insurance regardless of where the employee works, because premiums are based on payroll. So the real question employers need to ask themselves, is, “are my risks effectively managed?” This is essential to protect the employee and the company from unnecessary risks.

A key best practice to ensure safety and reduce claims risk is to establish a telecommuting policy. Within that policy, it is wise to incorporate risk management guidelines.

Here are 5 tips to reduce risks for remote workers:

  1. Safety first – Inspect the home workspace to ensure it is ergonomically-friendly and hazard-free.
  2. Define work area – Define the area of the home where work is to occur.
  3. Define work activities – Write a job description that lists activities the employee performs.
  4. Set work hours – Establish normal business hours.
  5. Teach injury prevention – Train employees on how to prevent work injuries.

Making sure the employee’s residence has an ergonomically-friendly workstation, in a workspace that is free from obvious fire and ventilation hazards is a smart move. And be sure to train employees in the prevention of injuries relevant to their role, such as how to prevent musculoskeletal injuries for workers who may sit at a desk all day.

You should also define the physical boundaries of the workspace. If the employee has an admin job, this might be a desk in a spare room. The types of work the employee does are also important to outline, as are normal working hours.

All of these definitions provide a more clear delineation between an injury sustained while performing work duties and an unrelated accident in the home. States define a workers’ compensation claim must arise out of and occur “in the course of employment.”

These tips can help your remote workers remain highly productive, protected from unnecessary risks—and keep your business from suffering the cost of claims from preventable injuries.

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