As working from home has become more normalized due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, a new health issue is being reported to medical care providers. Hours spent in front of a computer can lead to pain in the neck and back. The American Chiropractic Association reports that approximately 80 percent of people will have back pain at some point, and it can be due to a variety of factors. According to a chiropractor at the Cleveland Clinic, the human body is not designed to spend eight to 10 hours sitting and slouching at a desk, and people do not realize how bad their posture is until the pain starts. Not every remote worker sits at a desk, either. Many choose to use their laptop while stretched out on their bed without adequate back or neck support, which can cause pain.
UCLA Health agrees that sitting for long periods of time can easily cause back pain, and prolonged sitting increases stress to the back, neck, legs, and arms. It can also place added pressure to a worker’s spinal discs and back muscles. If the person is slouched, it can strain their spinal discs and stretch their spinal ligaments. The Cleveland chiropractor states that his group is seeing more patients with flattened discs, changes in the curvatures of the spines, and bone spurs.
Can Workplace Ergonomics Help?
Workplace ergonomics is the science of improving workplace arrangements and product designs to reduce fatigue, strain, and workplace injuries. Examples would be an ergonomically-designed chairs and properly positioning computer monitors and keyboards. Another tool would be a standing desk, which allows some people to work more comfortably.
For those who do not want to invest in new office equipment, there are a few suggestions that experts recommend. The first is to ensure that the computer is at eye level and the proper distance to prevent neck and eye strain. Also, a keyboard should not be too close to a monitor and using a wireless keyboard can help.
UCLA Health also offers some good suggestions. Armrests should be adjusted to slightly lift the arms at the shoulders, and this can help relieve some of the strain from the shoulders and neck. The lower back should be right up against the chair’s back with some lumbar support to prevent slouching. The elbows should be parallel to the spine at a 90-degree angle. Proper leg positioning is also important. The worker should be able to pass a clenched first in between the calf and front of the chair; otherwise, the chair is too deep. They should also be able to slide their fingers beneath the thighs right at the leading edge of the chair. If that cannot be done easily, adjustments should be made.
Moving Around can be Beneficial
Taking frequent breaks is also helpful. Sitting in the same spot for more than 30 minutes is not recommended. Getting up and walking around the house, stretching the neck, and even doing a few jumping jacks from time to time can help reduce back and neck pain. At-home workers should also move their shoulders, arms, legs, ankles, and hips in circles to get good blood flow.
Checking one’s posture during the day is also suggested. People often do not realize that they are slumped in their chair. It can be difficult to remember to check frequently, but a great way to remember is to set a timer.
Are Remote Employees Entitled to Workers’ Compensation?
Employees who suffer on-the-job injuries and illnesses are eligible for Workers’ Compensation. Those who qualify could receive partial compensation for medical expenses and time that is missed from work. The laws vary according to state, but in most cases, employers are required to provide Workers’ Compensation benefits for employee injuries, regardless of fault. However, if the injuries occur when employees deviate from their expected work responsibilities, the benefits will likely be denied.
At-home employees may be at higher risk for repetitive stress injuries, which may be covered by Workers’ Compensation. These injuries are associated with computer work and can affect the hands, arms, wrists, and other parts of the body. Workers who feel pain should reach out to their supervisor or Human Resources (HR) department to see if there are any accommodations that can be made for them. Not all employers may be willing to make accommodations, though.
How Do I File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
It is critical to document the work-at-home agreement, onset of the pain, and any communication made to the employer about the health problem. Injured workers have to first report their injuries to their employers, and states have time limits about reporting work injuries and illnesses. Waiting to long to do so could affect how the claim is handled. If immediate medical attention is needed, the employer should head to an emergency room or contact their physician.
After the injury or illness is reported, the employer should provide the worker with forms that have to be filled out. The forms are sent to the state Workers’ Compensation agency and the company’s insurance provider. The deadlines and procedures vary from state to state, and information can be found on state Workers’ Compensation agency websites. Federal employees use a different system, and the instructions and forms for filing those kinds of claims are found on the Division of Federal Employees’ Compensation website.
After the paperwork is filed, the insurance provider will carry out an investigation, which takes about two to four weeks. The employee will be notified if the claim has been approved or denied. Upon approval, the employee should start receiving the benefits. When claims are denied, further action may be needed.
What Factors Lead to a Denied Claim?
There are four main reasons why Workers’ Compensation claims are denied, and the first one is missing the deadlines. Not all states are as strict as others, but it is always best to report the injury and file the claim as soon as possible. Claims can also be denied when employees file them after employees quit, are terminated, or laid off. Other claims do not meet state guidelines, or they are not severe enough to qualify for the benefits.
Another common reason for a denial is when the employer argues that the employee was not working at the time they were injured. Denials do not always terminate the claims, though. The denial letter should be read carefully, and it may include information about how to appeal the decision. This could be at a hearing in front of an administrative law judge, a state board, or through a state labor department.
Preparing for a hearing would involve gathering together all the information and any evidence related to the injury. The appeal process can be challenging, and there is no guarantee that the employee will be successful in getting their claim approved afterwards. If the employee still cannot get benefits, contacting a qualified Workers’ Compensation lawyer could be the best choice.
Wilmington Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Help Employees Suffering from Severe Neck and Back Injuries
Remote work can cause significant neck and back injuries if employees are not careful. If you are working from home and acquire an injury, you may be entitled to benefits. A knowledgeable Wilmington Workers’ Compensation lawyer at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC can help you collect available benefits for your injury. Complete our online form or call us at 302-888-1221 for a free consultation. Located in Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients throughout the state, including Dover, Newark, and Middletown.