CLOCKING IN AT HOME COMES WITH RESPONSIBILITY
The Office. Wow, how this has changed during the last two years, with more companies offering hybrid work environments or moving from a brick-and-mortar office base to one that’s home based. Let’s face it, many of us were not set up to conduct business from home, and there are some common remote work pitfalls that are potential liabilities for employers.
From a workers’ compensation perspective, if you’re on the clock, your ‘office’ can be home or in an employer’s building and the same rules apply. Here are some exposures you might not think about—and reasons to review your employee handbook to address the New Normal for your workforce.
DESIGNATE A REMOTE WORKSPACE
Explain the expectations for a work-at-home setup. Employees should identify a dedicated space that is free of distractions and obstacles. That includes slip-and-fall hazards like a laundry basket blocking a printer, obstructed pathways, and inadequate seating and desk space. Ergonomics matter. Also, employees should identify a nearby exit in case of an emergency. Be Sure there are working smoke detectors and a fire extinguisher on hand. Ask employees to provide a photo of their at-home work space so you can identify potential hazards that could result in an accidental injury and resulting workers’ compensation claim.
Moving employees to home-based offices requires secure internet connections and cyber protection. Equipment and devices with weak security open the door to hacking and can put your entire business at risk. Surge protectors should be used to protect equipment. Also, insist that only employees can use company equipment. Discuss cybersecurity with your insurance advisor, and make sure your policy covers remote workers.
CREATE A WORK-AT-HOME CONTRACT
Home is chock full of distractions. Could you put in a load of laundry before answering an email? Sure. But this wouldn’t happen at the office, and the disruption could cause loss of focus and productivity. If you’re on the clock and trip down the stairs while doing laundry, the incident is a possible claim.
Update your employee handbook with clear expectations of what the work-at-home environment looks like and how employees must behave when they’re remote. Consider setting a defined lunch hour or put in place a time-in/time-out system for accountability. Wage and Hour exposures can increase when employees are based at home. If workers are paid by the hour, emphasize that they are expected to only work during set hours and must be clocked in. Even well-meaning employees who work off the clock to finish a project could present a Wage and Hour risk. Whatever you decide, get it in writing and then ask employees to sign a work-at-home contract. The key: set expectations, require accountability, and document everything.
Many of the changes to what work looks like are positive for employers and their team members, offering more flexibility to balance life’s demands along with reducing commutes and overhead expenses. Just Be Sure your employee handbook reflects these changes.
‘Be Sure’ Checklist
- Update your employee handbook to include work-at-home expectations.
- Request that employees provide a photo of their home office so you can identify potential hazards.
- Create a work-from-home contract to emphasize accountability while working remotely.
- Discuss these changes with your insurance advisor so you can Be Sure proper risk management solutions are in place.
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