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July 11 2022 - Working on computers and other digital devices for extended periods can be very taxing for the eyes. Employees today are more likely to experience digital eye strain after long hours of work, and maintaining vision wellness has become a major concern for most organizations.
Poor eye health and conditions - such as cataracts, dry eyes, refractive errors, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) - have a significant impact on employee productivity and well-being. Fortunately, employers and HR can do a lot to foster a healthy workforce and an eye-friendly working environment.
Continue reading to find out how HR professionals can promote eye health, safety, and wellness.
1. Remind Employees to Practice the 20-20-20 Rule
Reading on a computer screen or watching a movie on a smartphone can put a lot of pressure on the eyes. This is why it is crucial to give your eye muscles regular breaks when using digital devices.
The problem is employees tend to take fewer breaks when they are working. This frequently leads to digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome (CVS), which causes headaches, blurred vision, and dry eyes.
HR staff should encourage the workforce to follow the 20-20-20 rule to reduce digital eye strain. Remind employees to spend at least 20 seconds looking at something at least 20 feet away every 20 minutes. Encourage participation by setting timers to prompt employees to take a break.
2. Educate Employees on the Harmful Effects of Blue Light
There is mounting medical evidence that blue light from digital gadgets can cause eye strain and several health problems. These include irreversible eye damage, sleep disturbances, and mood disorders. According to studies, prolonged exposure to blue light can lead to damaged retinal cells and vision problems.
Here are some ways you can set up your workstation to limit blue light exposure:
- Install screen filters. Adding a screen filter to your desktop, laptop, smartphone, or tablet reduces the amount of blue light your devices emit. Switching your device to "night mode" and lowering the brightness of your screen can also help.
- Wear computer glasses. Computer glasses have specifically designed lenses that reduce the amount of blue light reaching the eyes. Anti-reflective coatings on lenses can also help minimize glare, increase contrast, and block blue light.
3. Encourage Employees to have Regular Eye Exams
Workplace eye care entails considerably more than just ensuring employees can see well. During a routine eye exam, an optometrist will examine the vision and eye health of employees, looking for early indicators of conditions like cataracts or glaucoma. The optometrist can also detect and monitor more serious conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic illnesses. Early detection and intervention of these conditions can help resolve them with more affordable treatments.
Because of the added expense, many employees choose not to visit an eye doctor. Employers and HR professionals can help promote eye wellness by providing vision insurance and reminding employees to take their yearly eye exams.
4. Implement Safety Measures at Work
According to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), around 2,000 US workers suffer an eye injury that requires medical attention daily. And more than a hundred of these injuries result in employees missing at least one day of work. Fortunately, safety experts and eye doctors believe proper eye protection may decrease or even prevent 90% of these eye injuries.
Provide protective eyewear appropriate for a given task, such as safety glasses for general working conditions where there may be dust, chips, or flying particles; face shields for workers exposed to hazardous chemicals and bloodborne pathogens; and helmets or goggles for jobs that involve welding or working with lasers.
Conduct an eye hazard assessment of the workplace, and eliminate eye hazards where possible. Consider replacing any dangerous substances with safer, non-toxic alternatives.
5. Promote a Healthy Lifestyle
Smokers are at an increased risk for vision loss and eye diseases such as AMD, cataracts, dry eyes, and diabetic retinopathy. Smokers are four times more likely to lose their vision than nonsmokers. Heavy alcohol use may also increase the risk of developing early AMD.
Encouraging healthy behaviors in the workplace can help promote eye health and improve employee productivity and performance. For example, the company may offer more fruits and vegetables in the cafeteria. A diet rich in colorful fruits, leafy greens, and seafood is vital for maintaining good vision.
6. Conduct Eye Care and Safety Seminars and Workshops
Effectively communicate with employees and let them know the potential hazards that could occur if they do not use proper eye protection. Conduct workshops or webinars to educate employees about eye safety at work and what needs to be done in cases of emergency.
In addition to live sessions and customized eye health webinars, provide accessible resources about the common causes of vision loss, eye care, and how the appropriate eyewear may improve and protect eye health.
The workforce’s growing reliance on computers and mobile devices has led to the development of many eye-related issues, from headaches and blurred vision to more complicated problems like dry eyes and cataracts. With eye care awareness and small changes in habits, employers and employees can work together to prevent and manage these conditions. HR professionals must schedule regular eye exams, encourage employees to maximize employer-sponsored vision benefits, and include eye care services in their wellness programs.