By Ken Stellmacher
The search by employers for the right array of offerings to help maximize employee productivity continues. From ergonomic assessments and standing desks, to gourmet coffee, healthy snacks and high-tech office air purifiers, employers continue to invest in more comfortable work environments to drive productivity. These investments may indeed make the daily office grind for employees a bit more enjoyable and enhance productivity, but there is another area that employers should consider addressing: the connection between eye health and workplace productivity.
For most workers, seeing clearly is essential to performing well on the job. By providing vision coverage and educating employees about the value of annual eye exams, employers can help their employees take better care of their eyes. For the employer, having a comprehensive healthcare package—especially one that includes vision—is a surefire way to attract top candidates and to improve employee satisfaction and retention. It is a win-win for both the employer and employee.
Digital eye strain
The average office worker spends around six-to-seven hours of each workday looking at some type of computer screen. That number grows to 11-12 hours if you include screen time outside of work. Laptops, smart phones and tablets are everywhere. These devices emit blue light, a high-energy range of light, that is linked to digital eye strain and is unavoidable in a digitally connected world.
According to Vision Council research, digital eye strain has surpassed carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis as the leading computer-related repetitive strain injury for American workers. One study found that eye-focusing problems, which can be caused by digital eye strain, can cause employees to lose up to 15 minutes of working time per day, translating into an approximate loss of more than $2,000 per year per employee.
Thankfully, the productivity lost to digital eye strain can be addressed—and it starts with a trip to the eye doctor for an annual comprehensive exam. Unfortunately, a majority (68.5 percent) of Americans do not discuss their use of digital technology with their eye doctor. But talking about your lifestyle and visual needs with your eye doctor is a must—as there are solutions they can provide to conditions like digital eye strain. Anti-reflective coatings for your lenses, like TechShield® Blue, reduce blue light exposure and combat digital eye strain. It’s imperative that employers and HR benefit managers encourage employees to see their eye doctor every year to ensure healthy eyes, but comfortable vision as well.
Most Americans also don’t know that eye exams can play a key role in detecting signs of chronic conditions. In fact, according to a recent study, half the people in the U.S. are skipping annual eye exams despite the fact that nine out of 10 agree on the importance of healthy eyes. This disconnect occurs because people don’t understand the importance of annual eye exams and the connection to overall health.
Comprehensive eye exams provide the only possible non-invasive view of blood vessels and the optic nerve. As a result, an eye exam can help detect underlying conditions and health problems, such as diabetes, high cholesterol and certain types of cancer. Eye exams can be the first line of defense in identifying and managing conditions that could be better treated if caught early. This preventive measure can result in healthier and more productive employees. To better realize these outcomes, brokers should also elevate vision alongside medical in their benefits discussions with their clients. Employers should consider making an annual eye exam an employer-paid benefit, supplemented with a voluntary materials buy-up.
The value of vision coverage
In a competitive job market, businesses are continually working to recruit and retain top talent by providing lucrative benefits packages as an incentive. To have the greatest impact, employers should move beyond a one-size-fits-most approach to offer more personalized benefits, including vision benefits that offer flexibility and choice. After all, employees value more personalized benefits that cater to their individual circumstances and unique needs. By offering a more personalized vision benefits plan, employers better meet employee needs while also helping increase workplace productivity in the process.
Given the many benefits of annual comprehensive eye exams, personalized vision coverage should be a cornerstone of any benefits package. From detecting early signs of chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, to reducing the daily impact of digital eye strain on the eyes, offering vision benefits and encouraging employees to use them is an easy and powerful investment for employers. Don’t overlook vision as a great way to stay competitive in the market, attract talent and increase productivity.
Ken Stellmacher is the senior vice president and general manager for VSP® Vision Care overseeing the development and growth of the company’s business unit serving small and medium market commercial business. An entrepreneur at heart, with a passion for building and growing effective teams and businesses, Stellmacher’s expertise includes business development, leading growth strategies, brand marketing and operations management.