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Can I suffer a work injury while working from home?

Both here in Harrisburg and around the country, employers have directed their staff to work from home whenever possible. This is meant to slow down the spread of COVID-19. But mandatory work-from-home government orders and company policies could have an unintended consequence: job-related injuries.

New ‘office’ job conditions in Harrisburg

If you work on a computer all day, on the surface, your job is the same whether you do it at home or the office. But for many white-collar workers, the entire nature of their job has changed. Instead of an ergonomic office chair, they are sitting on a couch or recliner. Rather than a large computer monitor set at eye level, they are bent over a laptop screen. And they are twisting their wrists to type on their laptop’s keyboard instead of using a full-sized external keyboard resting at the proper height on a desk. Working like this for 40 hours a week can lead to back, neck, shoulder and wrist pain.

Physical activity has disappeared for many

Many people who worked at home part-time before their offices were shut down have home office setups that replace the ergonomically friendly space they used to have. But they still must contend with a lack of movement. Gone are commutes that often involved at least some walking or bike-riding. No more walks down a long hallway to another room for a meeting or lunch break. And coffee breaks now mean walking a few steps to the kitchen instead of walking across the street to buy a cup.

As a chiropractor told The New York Times, good workplace ergonomics alone will not prevent musculoskeletal injuries. Sitting in the same spot all day without physical activity to break it up can put tremendous strain on muscles and joints.

What to do about work-from-home injuries

Fortunately, regular breaks to stretch and move during the day can help prevent injury. So can regular cardiovascular exercise like walking, biking or using an elliptical machine. But once an injury has already happened, it can take several expensive treatments to heal. You might even have to miss work for a period, during which workers’ compensation benefits could help. The fact that you are working at your home and not the office should not make a difference, as long as there is a connection between your injury and your work duties.

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