Mobile tech devices are rapidly changing the very definition of "workplace." It used to be that employees went to a physical location, for a specified number of hours, every workday. It was fairly simply to determine if an injury was work-related; all you had to do was see where it happened (in the office or plant?) and when (between 9AM and 5PM?).
The proliferation of laptop computers, Smartphones, tablets, internet connectivity, Wi-Fi and 3G networks mean for many workers the "workplace" is wherever they want it to be.
For workers' compensation matters, the world has grown infinitely more complex. Just what is a work-related injury anymore? Checking your email while driving, you're distracted by some crisis that's developing in your inbox; you miss a light and crash into another car. Is this a workers' comp case? Maybe.
A recent story in the Insurance Journal notes, "insurance claims professionals say claims made by workers injured while doing things where the relation to their employment is unclear are on the rise."
Employers like the Improved Productivity
Employers like, and in some cases, may expect their employees to be available round the clock to deal with issues. Evening, weekends and vacations have become more porous, with many employees checking email, responding to problems, even participating in conference calls, miles from the office.
This is great for the employer, allowing them to do more with fewer people. Until one of those people is injured while enhancing the employer's bottom line.
Redefining the Work Place
In 2009, there were 17.2 million people working from home, and is expected to double by 2012, according to the Insurance Journal.
The questions will have to be resolved on a case-by-case basis, as there is no well-established precedence in workers' comp claims through technology fueled offsite accidents. Eventually employers may realize they have to enforce strict access policies and clearly define when employees can use mobile devices.
It may take years for policies to solidify around when and where employees should do their work. Employers will become focused on the issue when their insurance costs rise to a higher level.
If you have been hurt while working outside the office, your injury may still present a valid workers' compensation claim. However, there are unprecedented legal challenges; you and your attorney may have to put a convincing case together to demonstrate how it was work related.