By Matthew Moffitt
Here’s a riddle for your clients—what affects nine out of 10 employees, is detrimental to their productivity, and can be mostly resolved through one benefit offering? The answer is light in front of them.
That’s not a typo. The light in front of employees is literally impacting your clients’ bottom lines. In fact, nine out of 10 employees (86 percent) say they’ve experienced light sensitivity in the workplace—and, of those who have, an equal amount (89 percent) say it has negatively affected their ability to perform their jobs, according to the 2019 Transitions Employee Perceptions of Vision Benefits survey. There are several steps that you can take to help your clients address light sensitivity in the workplace—starting with understanding its impact.
The Productivity Impact of Light Sensitivity
Light sensitivity—or photophobia—is typically described as being sensitive to or bothered by different types of light, according to leading experts and optical organizations. Light sensitivity in the workplace can be caused by many sources—ranging from computer screens and mobile devices, to fluorescent or incandescent lighting, to the sun outdoors, to glare or reflections indoors. If not addressed, light sensitivity can lead to problems such as squinting, eyestrain, eye fatigue and even headaches.
Light is everywhere we go—and it’s needed to accomplish just about everything we do—so it’s not a surprise that it can have a big impact on a workforce. According to the 2019 Transitions Optical survey, while nine out of 10 employees have experienced light sensitivity at work, more than half (54 percent) say they’re experiencing it frequently—with growing demographic groups, such as millennials and Gen Z employees, more likely to say they experience it all the time.
Even more concerning, virtually all employees who participated in the survey say that light sensitivity is affecting their ability to complete their work—with half of employees saying these distractions are a regular occurrence. When asked how light sensitivity is affecting their work, the top response among all employees was productivity—with four in 10 employees saying that they are less productive than they could be because of light sensitivity. Additionally, more than one-third of employees say that light sensitivity makes them unable to focus and that it leads them to take more breaks than they’d like during the day. Millennial employees were the most likely to report that because of light sensitivity, they are unable to work as many hours as they’d like—with one in five saying this.
Helping your clients address light sensitivity at work is important for many reasons—not only because it’s impacting their bottom line in terms of productivity, but also potentially in terms of health care costs if employees are seeking medical attention for headaches and other issues caused by sensitivity to light. Beyond this, it’s important to address with your clients because it matters to employees. According to the Transitions Optical survey, 44 percent of today’s employees are more concerned about light sensitivity than they have been in previous years—and the vast majority are looking to their employers to offer solutions, such as comprehensive vision benefits, to address these issues.
Four Tips for Addressing Employees’ Light Sensitivity
Here are a few simple steps to share with your clients to help them reduce the occurrence of light sensitivity.
- Offer a comprehensive vision benefits package.
Probably the most important thing any employer can do to alleviate light sensitivity is to offer a comprehensive vision benefits package. Vision benefits—which are relatively low in cost—have a tremendous return on investment, with the Vision Council estimating that employers can save up to $7 for every $1 spent on a vision plan. Offering vision benefits can help to attract and retain top talent. In fact, 52 percent of employees say that whether an employer offers vision benefits has been important in their decision to accept a job, according to the Employee Perceptions of Vision Benefits survey.
Eyewear options that are covered by many vision plans—including anti-reflective coatings to help reduce glare; photochromic lenses, like Transitions lenses, which adapt their level of darkness and tint to provide more comfortable vision in changing lighting conditions; and blue light protection, to help protect against harmful blue light from sources such as digital devices and the sun—are important considerations for reducing light sensitivity.
One way to learn more about lens enhancement options like those mentioned above with a simple interactive tool on EyeMed Vision Care’s consumer vision education website (eyesiteonwellness.com/lens-guide/#/enhancements). Clients and members can access this educational information any time, too. What’s more—94 percent of employees say that premium lens options, like these, are important to them when selecting eyewear, and eight out of 10 say they’d be more likely to enroll or keep using vision benefits that cover premium lens options.
- Dim those lights!
You won’t want to keep your clients in the dark when it comes to informing them about the impact of light sensitivity—but they may want to literally keep their employees in the dark when it comes to digital screens and fluorescent lighting. Optical experts suggest that taking small steps such as dimming the lights in the workplace—not too much, but enough so that employees can read their computer screens and papers comfortably—and encouraging employees to dim the brightness settings on their computer screens can make a big difference.
According to the Transitions Optical survey, six in 10 employees have not taken the step of dimming the brightness on their computer screens to protect their eyes from light sensitivity. Additionally, seven in 10 say they have not dimmed the lights in their office or workplace.
- Limit screen time.
This is not an easy strategy to execute—especially when many employees rely on computers or other electronic devices to complete their work. The bigger problem is that many employees are “always on”—using their computers and other digital devices during breaks and after work hours, further contributing to symptoms from light sensitivity.
According to a 2018 Nielsen study, American adults spend more than 11 hours per day watching, reading, listening to or interacting with media—with much of that time being screen time. Assuming a person sleeps for 8 hours per night, that’s the vast majority of their day! Employees who use computers or digital devices often should be encouraged to limit screen time as much as possible outside of their work day—making sure to tune out and give their eyes a break. Employees should also speak with their eye doctor about eyewear options to help make viewing their devices more comfortable—such as lenses with anti-reflective coatings and photochromic lenses. (The two paired together offer even more protection from light and glare and vision benefits can help employees save on these premium options.)
- Encourage breaks—to avoid too many breaks!
The Vision Council encourages employees who are required to stare at a computer screen for most of the day to follow the 20-20-20 rule—take a 20 second break every 20 minutes to look at something 20 feet away. While it may sound counter-productive to ask employees to take breaks—it’s not. Twenty second breaks every 20 minutes only add up to around 8 minutes per work day.
Consider the alternative—how much extra time an employee would need to recover from a headache caused by light sensitivity. Employers should encourage employees to follow the 20-20-20 rule—and can even take steps to create an office space that allows employees to feel comfortable doing so, such as stationing visuals around the office that can be used to look at.
Light sensitivity is among the most common problems faced by today’s workers. Fortunately, it’s also one of the easiest to correct if employees are encouraged to take advantage of their company’s vision benefits offerings. Providing employers with educational materials about the impact of light sensitivity and how to address it can help their employees minimize the symptoms caused by light sensitivity—and, in turn, boost productivity.
Matthew Moffitt is a consultant with Lockton’s San Diego Benefits Practice. He specializes in complex, self-funded, large market clients in nearly every industry—including skilled nursing, private equity companies, high tech, manufacturing and education. He has significant experience in building and maintaining client and carrier relationships and has a reputation of providing excellent service to his clients. In his role, Moffitt focuses mainly on strategic direction, as well as overall planning and financial analysis for his clients.