Last spring, workplaces across the world closed as COVID-19 spread. Millions of employees made the overnight shift to working from home, some from their couch, kitchen table or bedroom floor. Guy Carpenter, our clients and reinsurers were all up and running very quickly as we moved from our traditional office environments to remote working locations. We are proud of how the industry has responded to the unprecedented challenges we are facing.
From flexible working hours to better work-life balance, the benefits of remote work for employees are numerous. Companies can also benefit from a more engaged and productive workforce and reduced costs. But the shift to remote work doesn’t come without potential pitfalls, including the risk of an increase in ergonomic injuries.
Ergonomic-related discomfort is already on the rise, both in the U.S. and elsewhere. As employees in the United States worked more hours to keep up with their workload while taking care of their families, almost half reported new or increased pain in their shoulders, back or wrists. Similarly, British home-based workers reported an increase in new aches and pains, especially in the neck, shoulders and back. Between January and September 2020, costs associated with musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) have surpassed the annual cost during each of the past three years.
Although some have recorded a drop in overall new workers’ compensation claims in 2020, the upward trend in MSD costs is likely to continue. MSD claims are expected to increase by up to 16 percent over the next 12 to 18 months. MSD injuries could become a major expense, with each individual ergonomic claim costing U.S. employers an average of USD 17,000, according to Jeffrey Smagacz, Senior Vice President, Ergonomics Practice Leader and Global Ergonomist at Marsh Advisory and Susan Denecke, Senior Vice President, Virtual Ergonomics Practice Leader at Marsh Advisory.