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Work-related stress can be cause for a workers' comp claim

Is it time for the five-hour workday?

Before you moan about the mere thought of shortening the workday being another sign of America's work force going soft, you should hear about Tower Paddle Boards in San Diego. The company saw impressive results after founder Stephan Aarstol trimmed the workday for his nine employees from eight hours to five.

For the 12 months ending in June 2016, Tower Paddle Boards' revenues rose 42 percent, and sales were on track to hit $9 million by year-end, according to a report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Tower Paddle Board workers gave up their lunch hour and accepted the challenge of accomplishing the same amount of work in fewer hours. Apparently, it's working.

The high cost of workplace stress

Why does this matter? Because good health matters to workers and employers - and workplace stress continues to be a major problem. According to a 2015 study by Harvard Business School and Stanford's Graduate School of Business, job-related anxiety contributes to at least 120,000 deaths each year and accounts for up to $190 billion in health care costs.

New York workers' compensation statutes allow an employee to recover compensation if mental stress, anxiety or depression that is directly caused by a job prevents that person from performing the duties of his or her job. In order for a claim to be compensable, the injured worker must show that the stress he or she is experiencing is greater than that which other similarly situated workers experience in the normal work environment.

Recovering workers' compensation benefits for work-related stress is difficult and uncommon. Courts are generally not willing to approve stress-related claims based on increased workload or minor disagreements with coworkers or managers. A claim for mental stress resulting from reprehensible treatment, such as discrimination or sexual harassment, is more likely to be approved, especially if the employer is notified of the problem and does not attempt to resolve it.

Long hours and a lack of support

The Harvard/Stanford study identified the top stressors on doctor-reported illnesses. The top five, in order: job insecurity; long work hours; low social support at work; low job control; secondhand smoke exposure.

"One of the biggest failures of how business is set up is that we are measured by how much we work and not by what we accomplish," Chris Bailey, author of "The Productivity Project," told SHRM . "It's easy to measure time. It is harder to measure the work of the brain."

There is no direct correlation between working extra hours and being extra productive. In fact, says Bailey, the opposite may be true. People become less thoughtful and creative after five or six hours. "Hours are the wrong focus," he says.

Long hours can also lead to carelessness, which can easily result in serious physical injuries in many work environments.

If you suffer a work-related injury that prevents you from working for more than a week, it is important to know your rights regarding workers' compensation. The experienced legal team at Silverman, Silverman & Seligman are ready to review the facts of your case during a free consultation and recommend an effective course of action.

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