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Lowering Workers’ Compensation Costs - Managing a Remote Workforce

By Alliant

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, from 2019 to 2021, the number of people who primarily work from home more than tripled from nine million to almost 28 million. While a recent release from the Labor Department indicates this trend may be declining, the ongoing demand from workers to have more flexibility continues. Given the complexity of many businesses, the task of developing and implementing a work from home (WFH) model can be challenging. 

While working remotely offers flexibility, it's essential to consider safety measures to ensure a healthy and productive work environment. Taking proactive measures such as providing ergonomic guidelines for home workstations and ensuring that employees follow safety protocols while working from home can help businesses lower workers' compensation costs. Regular communication, training on best practices and emphasizing the importance of reporting any potential work-related injuries promptly can contribute to minimizing workers' compensation expenses in remote work scenarios.

In our comprehensive guide, we explore options that include strategies and resources companies can utilize to help keep workers safe from injury and create an at-home work environment that reduces business risk.

Types of remote workers
A well-structured strategy should strike a balance between offering flexibility to employees while ensuring the company's goals and operational efficiency are not compromised. This may include the following:

  • As-needed remote work –working from home on an as-needed basis or an emergency situation, e.g., a sick child or a snowstorm.

  • A flexible work arrangement –working from home part of the time on a regular basis.

  • A remote worker –working from home 100% of the time.

As-needed/on-demand remote work
Every company faces attendance issues which can result from:

  • An office power outage

  • Inclement weather

  • An ill employee

  • An employee with a sick family member

  • An employee with a personal appointment or home maintenance need requiring him/her to be at home

For an organization to function optimally, providing all employees with the option to work from home temporarily is an important step in business continuity. If workers cannot get to the office on a given day, being able to work from home and continue productivity vs. using a personal day offers flexibility to the firm and the employee.

An as-needed/on-demand policy reduces the need for other workers to cover for the absent worker and eliminates the returning employee from feeling overwhelmed when they return with an increased workload. Additionally, there is no interruption in servicing customers.  

Flexible work
Flexible work arrangements accommodate the needs of workers and organizations. More companies are recognizing that to keep talent, they need to accommodate the lifestyle needs of their staff. Work-life alignment comes in many varieties. For example:

  • An employee drops children off at school and arrives later to work. They spend the bulk of their core working hours at the office. In the afternoon, they leave the office to pick up children from school and then return to their workday from a home office, allowing them the flexibility to complete their work for the day.

  • Working from home one, two or three days a week to meet both family and work obligations.

Full-time remote worker
A fully remote worker status allows the employee to work from a home office, never or rarely coming to the office. With the proper setup, qualified remote workers are highly productive.

There are a few reasons why an employer should consider allowing remote workers:

  • When employers risk losing a productive employee due to a geographic move, finding a qualified replacement and transferring the client relationship is far more difficult than setting up the employee to work from home. With access to technology, highly valued employees should not need to resign simply because they are moving.

  • In some cases, employers are unable to acquire talent within driving distance of their office location. An experienced remote worker is more effective and far less costly than settling for inadequate skills or experience.

How Can Alliant Help?
Alliant offers creative and powerful strategies with on-site consulting services to help clients effectively respond to the ever-changing circumstances and regulatory landscape. We offer a team of leading specialists to support key loss drivers and exposures.   

Our all-inclusive Risk Management Center (RMC) platform creates effective risk mitigation programs for employee safety and compliance. This unique and robust web-based suite of safety and risk management tools provides a risk reduction and safety center for all departments and locations across client organizations, designed to make risk prevention efforts more impactful, cost-effective and easier to manage.

Safety measures to reduce work-related injuries for remote employees
By understanding workstation specifications, you can minimize the impact of improper design and body positioning to reduce potential injuries and lower workers' compensation costs. Understanding how to incorporate workstation safety measures into a WFH environment is just one aspect of a comprehensive approach to managing a remote workforce. The longer an employee is working remotely, the more important it is to take steps to prevent injuries. 

  1. Make sure the screen is large enough for adequate visibility. Usually, a 15 to 20-inch monitor is sufficient. Smaller units will make it difficult to read characters and larger units may require excessive space

  2. The angle and tilt should be easily adjustable

  3. Flat panel displays take less room on the desk and may be more suitable for locations with limited space
  1. Split keyboard designs will allow you to maintain neutral wrist postures

  2. Keyboards with adjustable feet will accommodate a wider range of keyboard positions and angles. Adjustable feet on the front, as well as the back, will further aid adjustments. Increased adjustability will facilitate neutral wrist postures

  3. The cord that plugs into the CPU should be long enough to allow the user to place the keyboard and the CPU in a variety of positions. At least six feet of cord length is desirable

  4. Consider a keyboard without a 10-key keypad if the task does not require one. If the task does require one occasionally, a keyboard with a separate 10-key keypad may be appropriate. Keyboards without keypads allow the user to place the mouse closer to the keyboard

  5. Consider the shape and size of the keyboard if a keyboard tray is used. The keyboard should fit comfortably on the tray

  6. Consider keyboards without built-in wrist rest because separate wrist rests are usually better

  7. Keyboards should be detached from the display screen if they are used for a long duration keying task. Laptop keyboards are generally not suitable for prolonged typing tasks
  1. Keyboard trays should be wide enough and deep enough to accommodate the keyboard and any peripheral devices, such as a mouse

  2. If a keyboard tray is used, the minimum vertical adjustment range (for a sitting position) should be 22 inches to 28 inches from the floor

  3. Keyboard trays should have adjustment mechanisms that lock into position without turning knobs. These are frequently over tightened, which can lead to stripped threads, or they may be difficult for some users to loosen.
  1. The desk area should be deep enough to accommodate a monitor placed at least 20 inches away from your eyes

  2. Ideally, your desk should have a work surface large enough to accommodate a monitor and a keyboard. Usually about 30 inches is deep enough to accommodate these items

  3. Desk height should be adjustable between 20 inches and 28 inches for seated tasks. The desk surface should be at about elbow height when the user is seated with feet flat on the floor. Adjustability between seated and standing heights is desirable

  4. You should have sufficient space to place the items you use most often, such as keyboard, mouse, and monitor directly in front of you

  5. There should be sufficient space underneath for your legs while sitting in a variety of positions. The minimum under-desk clearance depth should be 15 inches for your knees and 24 inches for your feet. Clearance width should be at least 20 inches

  6. Purchasing a fixed-height desk may require the use of a keyboard tray to provide adequate height adjustment to fit a variety of users

  7. Desktops should have a matte finish to minimize glare. Avoid glass tops

  8. Avoid sharp leading edges where your arms come in contact with work surfaces. Rounded or sloping surfaces are preferable

  9. The leading edge of the work surface should be wide enough to accommodate the arms of your chair, usually about 24 inches to 27 inches. Spaces narrower than this will interfere with armrests and restrict your movement. This is especially important in four-corner work units
  1. The chair should be easily adjustable

  2. The chair should have a sturdy five-legged base with good chair casters that roll easily over the floor or carpet

  3. The chair should swivel 360 degrees so it is easier to access items around your workstation without twisting

  4. Minimum range for seat height should be about 16 inches

  5. Seat pan length should be 15 inches to 17 inches

  6. Seat pan width should be at least as wide as the user's thighs. A minimum width of about 18 inches is recommended

  7. Chair edges should be padded and contoured for support

  8. Seat pan tilt should have a minimum adjustable range of about 5 degrees forward and backward

  9. Avoid severely contoured seats as they limit seated postures and are uncomfortable for many users

  10. Front edge of the seat pan should be rounded in a waterfall fashion

  11. Material for the seat pan and back should be firm, breathable, and resilient

  12. The seat pan depth should be adjustable. Some chairs have seat pans that slide forward and backward and have a fixed back. On others, the seat pan position is fixed and the backrest moves horizontally forward and backward so the effective depth of the seat pan can be adjusted. Beware of chairs where the back only tilts forward and backward. These do not provide adequate adjustment for a wide range of users

  13. The backrest should be at least 15 inches high and 12 inches wide and should provide lumbar support that matches the curve of your lower back

  14. The backrest should widen at its base and curve in from the sides to conform to your body and minimize interference with your arms

  15. The backrest should allow you to recline at least 15 degrees and should lock into place for firm support

  16. The backrest should extend high enough to support your upper trunk and neck/shoulder area. If the backrest reclines more than about 30 degrees from vertical, a headrest should be provided

  17. Armrests should be removable and the distance between them should be adjustable. They should be at least 16 inches apart

  18. Armrest height should be adjustable between 7 inches and 10.5 inches from the seat pan. Fixed height armrests are not desirable, especially for chairs that have more than one user

  19.  Armrests should be large enough (in length and width) to support your forearm without interfering with the work surface

  20. Armrests should be padded and soft

  21. Most chairs are designed for weights under 275 pounds. If the user weighs more than 275 pounds, the chair must be designed to support the extra weight
  1. The document holder needs to be stable but easy to adjust for height, position, distance, and viewing angle

  2. If the monitor screen is your primary focus, purchase a document holder that will sit next to the monitor at the same height and distance

  3. If the task requires frequent access to the document (such as writing on the document) a holder that sits between the keyboard and monitor may be more appropriate
  1. Wrist rest should match the front edge of the keyboard in width, height, slope, and contour

  2. Pad should be soft but firm. Gel-type materials are recommended

  3. Wrist rest should be at least 1.5 inches deep (depth away from the keyboard) to minimize contact pressure on the wrists and forearm
  1. Choose a mouse/pointer based on the requirements of your task and your physical limitations. There really is no difference, other than preference, among a mouse, trackball, or other device

  2. A mouse should match the contour of your hand and have sufficient cord length to allow its placement next to the keyboard

  3. If you choose a trackball, avoid ones that require the thumb to roll the ball--they may cause discomfort and possible injury to the area around your thumb

  4. A smaller mouse may be more appropriate especially if you have small hands. Caution should be taken if a mouse is used by more than one person

  5. A mouse that has sensitivity adjustments and can be used with either hand is desirable
  1. If task requirements mandate extended periods of use or other manual tasks such as typing while using the phone, use a telephone with a "hands-free" headset

  2. The telephone should have a speaker feature for "hands-free" usage

  3. "Hands-free" headsets should have volume adjustments and volume limits
  1. Good desk lighting depends on the task you're performing. Use bright lights with a large lighted area when working with printed materials. Limit and focus light for computer tasks

  2. The location and angle of the light sources, as well as their intensity levels, should be fully adjustable

  3. The light should have a hood or filter to direct or diffuse the light

  4. The base should be large enough to allow a range of positions or extensions