Telecommuting may seem like the answer to everyone’s challenges—employee and employer alike.
Working from home, the employee cuts out the time, expense, and aggravation of a lengthy commute. The distraction of colleague chit-chat is eradicated. And there’s no way to overstate the glory of working in your PJs.
For an employer, telecommuting employees can positively impact the company’s bottom line. (That may be why, according to a survey by WorldatWork, 88 percent of companies offer some form of telecommuting.)
But, as you might expect, there is a downside. The increase in telecommuting’s popularity has also led to an increase in workers’ comp claims against employers for incidents occurring in the home office.
Yes, you read that right: workers’ compensation laws hold employers responsible for injuries that occur to the employee while working from their home office. Fortunately, there are steps an employer can take to ensure employees’ safety in the home office—as well as to keep telecommuting employees’ workers compensation claims down.
- Establish fixed work hours and set break periods, so an employee can’t argue that you are responsible for an accident occurring outside of work hours.
- Describe the scope of work activities. It should be clear that activity outside the employees’ job description—such as using a knife to slice a sandwich—is not part of the job.
- Establish the boundaries of the home office, so that if an accident happens elsewhere (for instance in the garage), you will not be liable for it.
- Work with your telecommuting employees to ensure that their home offices are set up safely—and ergonomically. You may even want to conduct site checks.
- Require that the home office be clear of hazards and that safety is maintained.
As you can see, a successful telecommuting situation depends on the employer establishing appropriate boundaries, and the workers sticking to those boundaries. Together, you and your employees can make telecommuting a win-win for your business.
Beall Financial and Insurance Services has been working with business-owners for more than 25 years to help them protect their most important assets, and their companies’ future. If you have questions about insurance coverage for your business, contact us.