It has been 100 years since workers’ compensation laws changed the way workers were compensated for injuries sustained at the workplace. When lawmakers considered legislation which provided benefits for injured workers, the definition of “work-related” injuries was fairly clear. Workers reported to a specific location where they performed specific job duties for a specific period of time. The mobile society in which we live today is vastly different from the social and work environments of a century ago.
As stated in an article published by InsuranceJournal.com, “In 2009, there were 17.2 million people working from home. That number is expected to double by 2012.” Telecommuting has changed what was traditionally considered the “workplace”. As a result the line separating workplace injuries versus injuries sustained outside of the workplace.
Advances in technology allow workers to perform work-related tasks from just about any location imaginable. Smart phones make it possible for workers to send and receive email on the go, or participate in conference calls while on vacation. Wireless Internet and laptops make it possible for employees to log hours of work from coffee shops, airports or a neighborhood park. Employees have the ability to not only work from any location but also at any time. As long as deadlines are met and work is completed as required, many employees enjoy the freedom of working hours outside of the traditional 9-5.
While this new and less restricted work environment has been credited with increased productivity and less stress for employees, insurers question how this environment affects workers’ compensation claims. Flexible hours and work locations make it difficult to determine whether or not an accident resulting in injury occurred as a result of work-related activities or personal activities.
It is unclear how these situations will be handled in the future. As mobile technology continues to change the way business is conducted, adjustments will have to be made to address the new and evolving “workplace” of American employees.