The Second Pandemic – Injuries From Working At Home
Wednesday, September 16th, 2020
Our previous blog on the challenges of disability claims faced by people who are working at home in less than ideal settings has been confirmed by this recent article from The New York Times, “The Pandemic of Work-From-Home Injuries.”
Prior to March 2020, most Americans worked in ergonomic office spaces: a comfortable desk chair, monitors at eye level, and an external keyboard. This changed when office workers became remote workers. We personally know of many such individuals who didn’t realize that their grown kids’ bedrooms were not the solution. People carving out workspace in areas not designed for long periods of sitting and working on a computer are learning this the hard way.
One example from the Times article: a woman who began WFH in late March decided all she needed to become a digital nomad was her laptop. She worked in two places: on a wicker chair or sometimes on a couch with, in her own words, “cushions like marshmallows.”
A month later, she felt pain in her neck, wrist and shoulders that sent her to a chiropractor.
Typically, the discomfort begins slowly, then sharpens as time goes on, worsening until it becomes a “repetitive motion injury.” Carpal tunnel syndrome is one such injury, going from not so bad to unbearable.
An April Facebook survey from the American Chiropractic Association reported that 92 percent of chiropractors (out of 213 respondents) said their patients were reporting more neck pain, back pain or other musculoskeletal issues since the stay-at-home requirements were put in place.
Laptops that worked fine for short-term use or when used at an ergonomically designed office desk or table create problems when users are forced to either look down to see the screen, or (if it’s elevated) raise their hands to type. Both options are bad. Holding the head in a downward-looking position for an extended period of time puts pressure on the discs and joints of the spine and causes muscle imbalance in the neck.
Another culprit – the chair. Kitchen stools, sofas or folding chairs are not designed for long-term use with computers. The height puts users at risk by preventing users from sitting in what ergonomics consultant Nikki Weiner calls the neutral posture, or “ears over shoulders over hips”: hips slightly higher than the knees, arms relaxed at your side, neck relaxed and straight, forearms parallel to the ground, feet resting on the floor.
Disability claims for pain are always problematic because pain can’t be objectively measured. If you have been working from home for a while and find you can’t work because of injuries occurring from working from home, you have more than a musculoskeletal problem. A short or long-term disability insurance claim is going to face a number of challenges:
- How can your work performance be measured while you are working from home?
- Does your doctor have a thorough medical record that reflects your increasing or sudden inability to work from home?
- Are you able to document the probable causation of the pain?
- Can you show that you made efforts to eliminate the cause of the pain?
If you are facing making a disability insurance claim because of an injury related to working from home, we strongly encourage you to call our office at 877-583-2524. Disability insurance companies are swamped with claims right now. A number of them are pushing back on claims with an intensity we have not seen since 2008 – – this is not an ideal time to filing a claim, and your claim is too important to risk. The call is free, there’s no obligation, so call today.