The Modern Office Brings Emerging Risks
Pioneered in the workplaces of Silicon Valley, employee benefits, such as climbing walls, foosball tables, video games and the ability to bring pets into the office, are all emerging trends that emphasize collaboration and creativity. Risks that business owners might not have considered when implementing such programs include, but are not limited to, falls, strains and sprains, allergic reactions and bites. What started out as a way to promote productivity could lead to unexpected workplace injuries.
Having a conference bike or a treadmill desk might create an innovative atmosphere, but an injured employee or client could bring an end to the fun quickly, with lost work days and legal liability. These types of alternative workstations could pose a risk for employees or clients. The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) requires employers to provide a workplace that is free of known health and safety hazards. Employers should consider the safe design of new types of furniture, including conference bikes and treadmill desks, and assess and control any potential risks.
The Use of Mobile Devices
Are your employees working on the go or multitasking on their devices while they are in the office? Hours spent looking down at a smartphone or tablet puts a heavy burden on the neck and spine, and repetitive texting could injure thumbs. A formal policy on the appropriate use of mobile devices in the office can help protect employees from injury. Learn more about ergonomics at work.
In today’s office, many employees work from home at least once a week, but employers may not be aware of the many risks this may pose, including the risk of a data breach. Employees may be using their own devices without appropriate virus detection and security measures in place, leading to lost data or a cyber hack. Whether they are remote or in the office, talk with your employees about information security.
Pets in the office present new liability concerns for your business, from injured workers to potential lawsuits over allergies, injuries or emotional distress. When considering potential risks, think about your employees, as well as customers and other occasional visitors who might have fears or allergies. Of course, make sure that your animal-friendly policies and office rules allow for, and do not interfere with, service animals in the workplace. As with any policy that may involve legal questions, such as compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), etc., it is best to consult with an attorney.
24/7 Work Culture
Technology can be liberating, freeing us from waiting by our desks for a phone call or email. But it can also blur the lines between when the workday begins and ends. “Always on” demands can create physical and emotional health risks when employees have trouble shutting down. If you have a 24/7 work culture, your employees might not be getting the sleep they need so they can drive safely, stay healthy and be productive. Consider setting expectations about when employees should respond to emails.
Work + Play
Companies are coming up with new ways to engage employees, from climbing walls to scooters. But these new amenities can also present new risks if employees are injured. Companies need to weigh the potential risks that these activities pose and determine whether there are ways to make them safer for employees.