A recent survey by Zippia revealed that almost three-quarters of US companies are using or planning to use a hybrid model. Hybrid work refers to a combination of remote and in-person work and for the foreseeable future, it’s here to stay.
The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the move toward hybrid work arrangements, with many organizations turning to this option as an alternative to traditional office-based working. A by-product of this shift in corporate policy was the affect on workers' compensation, with employers and insurers having to consider the various risks associated with the hybrid model.
Changes in Workers' Compensation Claims Due to Hybrid Work
According to research published in December 2022, hybrid workers were more susceptible to musculoskeletal pain than their counterparts who work exclusively in the office. One reason for this may be because hybrid workers might not have access to ergonomic equipment at home, opting for couches as their workspace.
This increase in hybrid workers could increase workers' compensation claims and liability costs for employers. In addition, there’s a heightened risk of injury while working remotely due to the lack of oversight. Not that managers and bosses are expected to correct posture in the workplace, but an employer cannot ensure the safety of their employees’ homes as they would their office space.
Tracking personal and work-related time is essential to determining workers' compensation. But working from home blurs those lines, which might lead to disputes over an employee's eligibility for benefits.
Challenges in Determining Eligibility for Disability Insurance
Just like at the workplace, when working from home, an employee may be injured in the midst of their job duties. This could include slips and falls, which often result in sprains, strains and other soft tissue injuries. This issue of determining liability is much more complicated when an employee's duties are split between remote and office locations.
Workers can also claim they were injured within the scope of their job, such as driving to a client's office. Of course, this can be difficult to establish because of the lack of direct supervision and oversight in an employee's home environment. This may cause another complication in determining a workers’ compensation claim.
An employee can also claim an accident happened within working hours — even if it didn't. This can make it difficult for employers and insurers to determine who is liable in such cases, as the timeline of events may be unverified.
Strategies for Employers and Insurers
Change is the only constant, even when it comes to the workplace. Therefore, employers and insurers should consider strategies that align with current trends. Integrating electronic tracking of work hours and regular safety audits can reduce the risk of on-the-job injuries.
Apart from that, improving communication and documentation to support workers' compensation claims is essential. Employers and employees should record the timeline of events to ensure that disputes over liability are quickly resolved.
To reduce the risk of injury, employers should provide the necessary resources, such as ergonomic equipment, hybrid work safety training, and proper supervision of remote work. Employers may also want to enact policies to ensure that time tracking is accurate and transparent.
The lack of direct oversight in remote work increases the risk of injury. Also, determining who is liable for an injury can be difficult due to blurred lines between personal and work-related time.
These emerging challenges require employers and insurers to rethink their strategies. Employers might consider providing the resources needed for employees to work from home. On the other hand, insurers may want to improve their communication and documentation to ensure that all claims are resolved quickly.
By taking proactive steps, employers and insurers can minimize the risks associated with hybrid work and ensure workers' compensation is handled responsibly.