HR Homeroom: The Impact of Work from Home on Employee Engagement and Workers’ Compensation 


By Dr. Claire Muselman & Halle De Penning 

The shift to a work-from-home (WFH) environment has significantly transformed the landscape of employee engagement and workers' compensation. With many companies transitioning to remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the benefits and challenges of this new work model have become a focal point for both Human Resources (HR) professionals and workers' compensation experts. This article examines how WFH experiences impact employee engagement and the implications for the workers' compensation industry. By exploring the push and pull factors associated with remote work, we can gain insights into creating a balanced and effective WFH environment. Understanding these dynamics is crucial for HR professionals to develop strategies that maintain high employee engagement while minimizing workers' compensation claims. 

The Game Changer  

Since 2020, the traditional office environment has rapidly given way to WFH setups. This change, spurred by the global pandemic, has introduced a new dynamic to employee management and workers' compensation practices. The benefits of WFH include reduced costs for employers, lower employee turnover, improved work-life balance, decreased commute times, and access to a broader talent pool. However, the critical question remains: Do these benefits enhance employee engagement, and how does this shift affect workers' compensation? Addressing this question requires a comprehensive understanding of both the positive and negative aspects of remote work, including how these factors influence employee behavior and workplace safety. 

Pull and Push Factors  

Research identifies several pull factors that positively influence employee engagement in a WFH environment. These include autonomy, performance feedback, quality of supervision, work-life balance, social interactions, and empowerment. These factors help motivate and engage employees, making them feel more connected and committed to their work. On the other hand, push factors such as work overload, emotional dependency, and physical demands can negatively impact employee engagement. These stressors can be particularly challenging to manage in a remote work setting, potentially leading to decreased productivity and increased workers' compensation claims. Recognizing and addressing these factors is essential for creating a supportive remote work environment. 

Impact on Workers' Compensation 

The move to WFH has direct implications for workers' compensation. On the positive side, reduced commuting means fewer work-related travel accidents, leading to a decrease in claims. Improved work-life balance and flexibility can also result in fewer stress-related claims, as employees have more control over their schedules and environments. However, WFH also presents new challenges for workers' compensation. Determining the compensability of injuries sustained at home can be complex, requiring clear guidelines and support from employers. Employers must ensure that home work environments are safe and ergonomically sound to prevent claims related to repetitive strain injuries or other hazards. Additionally, the lack of direct supervision and potential for increased work overload and emotional demands may lead to a rise in mental health-related claims. 

The Reality Check  

A study conducted in Hyderabad, India, involving 462 IT workers, revealed significant factors affecting WFH experiences and employee engagement. The study identified autonomy, performance feedback, quality of supervision, work-life balance, social interaction, and empowerment as crucial pull factors. These elements played a vital role in enhancing employee engagement in a WFH setting. On the other hand, work overload, emotional demands, and physical demands were significant push factors negatively affecting engagement. For HR professionals and workers' compensation experts, these findings highlight the importance of creating supportive and well-structured remote work environments. Employers should focus on enhancing pull factors while mitigating the negative effects of push factors to maintain high levels of employee engagement and minimize workers' compensation claims. 

Strategies for Success  

To create a successful WFH environment, HR professionals should implement strategies that leverage the positive aspects of remote work while addressing its challenges. Key strategies include enhancing autonomy and empowerment, allowing employees to set their own goals and manage their schedules to increase their sense of ownership and job satisfaction. Providing effective supervision and feedback ensures regular communication and constructive feedback to keep employees engaged and motivated. Promoting work-life balance encourages employees to take breaks and maintain a healthy work-life balance to prevent burnout and stress-related claims. Addressing work overload and emotional demands by developing plans to help employees manage workload and emotional stress reduces the risk of mental health issues and associated claims. Ensuring safe home work environments by providing guidelines and resources for setting up ergonomically sound home offices prevents physical injuries. 

The transition to WFH presents both opportunities and challenges for employee engagement and workers' compensation. By understanding and managing the push and pull factors associated with remote work, HR professionals and employers can create supportive and productive work environments. This not only enhances employee engagement but also minimizes the risk of workers' compensation claims, leading to a healthier, more efficient workforce. When strategies are planned using these factors, a WFH environment can be very productive for both the company and its employees. There are many benefits to working from home, but the negative aspects must be managed in order for the positives to be effective. 

Dr. Claire Muselman is a workers' compensation thought leader and professor at Drake University, focused on driving meaningful outcomes for claims professionals and injured workers everywhere. 

Halle DePenning is a Drake University graduate from the Zimpleman College of Business where she obtained her Bachelor of Business Administration in Fall 2023. 

Work Referenced: Umapathi, P., & Tharimala, S. K. (2023). Impact of Work from Home on Employee Engagement: A Study on the Push and Pull Factors in IT Sector. IUP Journal of Organizational Behavior, 22(2), 39–57. 

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