the Effect of Workplace Eye Care on Productivity

In an uncertain economy, retaining and recruiting new employees is becoming ever more competitive. Employee health and wellbeing is an area where businesses can differentiate themselves from their counterparts, setting themselves ahead of the pack.

This is born out by the research, almost a fifth of UK businesses are planning to introduce new employee benefits this year according to a recent survey of 250 HR directors and managers.

The study, carried out by Secondsight, found that 53% of those questioned, offer benefits because they want to look after their employees, 44% used them as a recruitment tool and 42% believe they are good for employee wellbeing.

For those businesses exploring opportunities to expand their benefit offerings, one, often overlooked aspect of employee health and wellbeing is that of workplace eyecare. Recent research carried out by Specsavers (Specsavers Corporate Eyecare/EMedia, 2015) demonstrated a clear link between workplace eyecare and health, wellbeing and, crucially, productivity. Something that 84% of the 158 businesses surveyed agreed with.


Early warning system

Regular check-ups can forestall problems that may cause eyestrain and headaches, which could reduce company productivity. In addition, a good optometrist can diagnose a wide range of whole-body ailments which could have significant and lasting financial and efficiency impacts on any organisation.

For example, an eye test can flag up signs for issues such as;

  • diabetes;
  • brain aneurysms;
  • raised cholesterol;
  • temporal arteritis;
  • cardiovascular disease;
  • arthritis;
  • brain tumours;
  • thyroid problems;
  • pituitary tumour;
  • migraine;
  • cranial nerve palsies;
  • multiple sclerosis; and
  • cerebrovascular accidents

This early-warning system cannot be underestimated. Public Health England figures estimate that over five million people have undiagnosed high-blood pressure. If left untreated high blood pressure can lead to serious health problems. If this can be detected during a routine eye test it could have significant positive health impacts.

Adding eyecare to a workplace benefit package is well worth consideration for the health benefits alone. The value in letting employees know that their health and wellbeing matter to your organisation can demonstrably impact on productivity. Happily, many employers seem to recognise this, just 1% of those surveyed thought the only value of workplace eyecare is in complying with legal requirements.


Legal requirements for eye care

Many organisations however, are unclear on what their legal requirements are when it comes to eyecare in the workplace. What does the law require of employers?

For employees operating visual display units (VDU) or display screen equipment (DSE) as part of their daily job, the responsibility for requesting an eye test falls to them. Whereas for employees who drive or operate machinery as part of their employment, the onus is on the employer.

Although there is no evidence that screen use causes permanent damage to eyesight, regular testing is advised as it helps to avoid visual fatigue and other issues. Although the onus is on the employee to request an eye test the employer is required to pay for an appropriate optometrist. They must also cover the cost of basic frames and prescribed lenses, or a portion of the final cost.

Employees who drive or operate machinery for the business must have regular eye examinations in line with their licence. This is to ensure that they are fit for driving or operating the type of vehicle or equipment they use for work. Commercial licence holders, for example, are required to be tested at 5-year intervals.


Prevention is better than cure

It’s not just about the eye tests. Care can be taken in the workplace to minimise the chance of eye-related problems such as eye-strain, dry eyes or headaches occurring.

  • Correct chair, desk and monitor positioning is essential for those spending long periods working with VDU’s or DSE’s.
  • Position computer screens at arm’s length.
  • Individuals should sit at a height where their eyes are lined up with the top of the computer screen.
  • It is better to be looking directly at or slightly down on a monitor rather than up.
  • Encourage the use of the 20:20:20 rule. Every twenty minutes, stare at something twenty feet away for twenty seconds.
  • Encourage regular breaks away from the screen. Face-to-face meetings with other members of the team or brief walks around the office to reduce extended screen-time.


The right tool

There are a number of useful tools that can be used to remind employees to take short breaks and exercise their eyes:
Eyecare – A Google Chrome extension encourages you to try out the 20:20:20 rule.
EyeLeo – Leo will remind you to take regular breaks, show you exercises and won’t take no for an answer.
Time Out – Perfect for Mac users who lose track of time and forget their breaks.
Screenruler – Helps users to focus on sections of a page, using a highlighter bar, ruler or screen tint.
f.lux – Adjusts the screen colour to reduce glare depending on light levels and time of day.