Beginning in 2020, working from home has become routine and will continue in the future in at least some modified form. Now, almost one in four Americans telecommute from their homes. According to estimates, 70 percent of the workforce in this country will work remotely at least five days each month by 2025. But like their counterparts in an employer-based workplace, remote workers may suffer work-related injuries.
Remote workers may be eligible for workers’ compensation for injuries arising out the course of employment. The slips, falls and other injuries associated with the traditional workplace can occur at home. But remote workers also face the risk of other injuries.
Homes typically lack the precautions and safeguards found at a central in-person workplace. There is usually little planning and attention to ergonomics for chairs and computer stations. Remote work environments were often created haphazardly and include situations such as working on the couch or coffee table.
Workers often lack a dedicated workspace, proper chairs and desks, correct monitor and keyboard placements, special illumination and other basic precautions that help reduce accidents.
Employees working at home are also prone to work longer than in the customary office situation. Employers may work straight through their days with little or no breaks which can cause physical fatigue and injuries from carpal tunnel, neck, and back pain.
There has also been greater stress and anxiety with telework. Employees often have difficulties balancing work with taking care of their children and other home duties. Distractions at makeshift workplaces come from children, pets, and other family members. It has been difficult to have in-person collaboration with other workers.
OSHA’s current standards do not hold employers responsible for their employees’ home offices. Employers are not required to inspect these workspaces.
Business, however, need to take affirmative steps to protect remote workers from injuries. Employers should compile a work-from-home plan, impose safety requirements for remote work and assure that teleworkers possess proper technology. Companies can provide or offer stipends for purchasing ergonomic chairs, surge protectors and fire extinguishers. Hour and break rules should be followed.