As the holiday season approaches, pandemic-related activity and news are reaching a crescendo. On the bright side, multiple pharmaceutical companies are touting promising results in early Coronavirus vaccine trials. But there’s bad news as well: a spike in cases has forced state and local governments to contemplate new rounds of business restrictions and stay-at-home orders.
Social distancing rules, stay-at-home orders, and other pandemic restrictions have taken a toll on individuals and presented myriad complications for organizations. Even with vaccines on the way and an end potentially in sight, the pandemic will likely continue to impact business operations. As companies try to figure out how to handle the emerging risks and workplace policy issues brought on by COVID-19, workers’ compensation insurance has become a significant area of interest for many employers.
The National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network (NWCDN) and WorkersCompensation.com recently hosted a conference to address many of the mounting questions on how to navigate workers’ compensation in the coming months. The aptly named conference, Workers’ Compensation in a Post-COVID World, included a panel session on the insurance industry’s post-pandemic future. The panel featured several workers’ compensation experts including Andy Johnson, the Chief Risk Officer at Captive Resources (CRI).
The panelists discussed trends in the workers’ compensation insurance industry that have emerged from the pandemic, like changes to premiums, claims administration issues, regulatory challenges, and more. During the session, Johnson addressed the common challenge of employees who hadn’t worked from home pre-COVID.
“Suddenly, on March 13th or 14th, many companies had to pivot very quickly to working from home,” said Johnson. “This change meant ergonomics in a work-from-home environment would become more and more of an issue, whether or not workers’ compensation claims were filed.”
When working from home first became a trend years ago, risk managers worried there would be a rash of unprecedented workers’ compensation claims (e.g., personal injuries from tripping over the family dog). These dubious predictions never materialized on a large scale, but there are risks involved in forcing workers to leave the comforts of ergonomically friendly offices to the potentially unprepared confines of their homes.
According to Johnson, employees’ ability to set up flexible and ergonomic home work stations can impact workers’ compensation. Spending all day in uncomfortable home work environments could lead to back and shoulder issues, high blood pressure, weight gain, and other health issues. Creating comfortable home work stations is a skill that Johnson believes workers need to continue to hone long after the pandemic subsides.
“Long-term, I think you’re going to see more and more people working from home, more often,” Johnson said. “Once we do all return, there will be fewer people actually in the office and possibly restrictions on the size and types of meetings for a while.”
“We may never have as many people working in an office, every day like we saw until March of this year.”
To hear more of post-COVID predictions and analysis, click the link below to watch the full session.
Web link (registration required): https://events.nwcdn.com/s/example-series1/home
Dill Battle – Chair of Workers' Compensation practice group at Spilman Thomas & Battle Charleston