Vision Wellness - Maintaining Eye Health at Work
Working on computers and laptops for long hours can be very taxing for the eyes. In the era of the pandemic, shifting to remote work has led to most of the employees spending long hours throughout the day continuously gazing at the screen. Today, employees are at greater risk of digital eye strain, and maintaining vision wellness is a big challenge for most employers.
According to the CDC, every day, about 2,000 U.S. workers sustain work-related eye issues that require medical attention. And this figure will increase further as workforces shift more to digital platforms.
Types of Vision Concerns in the Workplace
Possible vision concerns at work can involve many potential elements. It could vary from chemical fumes or dust to ergonomic challenges in the workplace.
High-risk occupations generally put employees more at risk for eye injuries.
Mainly the industries most at risk include-
But employees in every workplace have some degree of eyesight concerns if the issue is not addressed timely.
Another modern-day challenge to the eye health of employees is Computer vision syndrome. It is another eye-related problem that occurs from prolonged exposure to screens. It is most common in corporate and IT sector workplaces. The symptoms range from work fatigue to an itching sensation in the eye.
Causes of Vision-related Issues in the Workplace
Most vision problems occur gradually over time. In fact, in the initial phase, most people ignore the symptoms of eye problems. Following are some of the most common causes of deterioration of employee eye health in the workplace.
1. Staring at the Computer Screen for a Long Time
Computers and laptops are the main causes of eye problems in employees. Especially in today’s world, most of the work has shifted to digital platforms. So employees spend a major chunk of their time staring at the screens. This has led to eyestrain and eyesight defects in most of the employees in varying degrees.
Additionally, looking between paper documents and screens can exaggerate eye problems, as printed documents require more illumination than looking at a screen. Provide a table lamp on the desk of your employees so that they can see such documents better while avoiding excessive light near the computer screens, which can cause glare.
Some of the other factors that contribute to eye discomfort include:
- Staring at the screen from a close range for a long duration.
- Glare from lighting and sun rays.
It is the leading cause of vision loss for employees over the age of 40. In cataracts, employees usually report ‘cloudy vision’. It occurs when a layer is formed over the lens of the eye.
Usually, the affected employees experience issues with their work performance. They report painful eyes and headaches. Eye surgery is enough to cure this medical situation. Employees must report immediately if they face symptoms of blurry vision.
Another condition associated with the eye health of employees is presbyopia. It is mostly seen in aging employees. It develops when the eye lens becomes thicker and its flexibility is reduced.
It leads to the retina losing its ability to focus light onto the retina. The retina itself degenerates over time and such a condition is known as age-related macular degeneration or AMD. AMD is a leading cause of blindness in older employees, mostly those who are above the age of 45.
4. Dry Eye
Dry eye conditions among employees can also affect work performance. This occurs when there is not enough moisture production to properly lubricate the eye.
It can cause the eyes to become itchy, irritated, and painful. As a result, the vision may become blurry or the eyes may even water excessively. If the condition is left untreated, dry eye disease can lead to damage to the cornea.
Diabetes in the workplace is also linked with impaired vision among employees. High blood sugar causes the eye lens to swell, which changes the ability of clear vision.
When the eye lens gets cloudy, like a smudged window, it means the person has a cataract. Employees with diabetes tend to get them earlier, and it also gets worse faster.
Generally in diabetic patients, pressure builds up inside their eye and the fluid is unable to drain the way it should. This causes damage to nerves and blood vessels and causes changes in vision.
Diabetic employees also face other health complications like Diabetic Amyotrophy, which makes it even more tricky for such employees to sustain and perform in the workplace.
6. Lighting Ergonomics
Poor lighting and concerns regarding workplace ergonomics can cause several vision problems such as:
- Insufficient light – not enough light to perform office work.
- Glare – too much light on the eyes can be strenuous.
- Harmful blue lights from the computer and laptop screens.
- The flickering issue on some of the screens can be irritating to the eyes.
Tips for Employees to Maintain their Eye Health
1. The Triple20 Rule
Contribute your part to building a healthy work environment with the triple20 rule. It will give employees an opportunity to give their eyes, an essential periodic rest.
Look at something, which is around 20 feet away, for 20 seconds. Repeat the exercise after every 20 minutes. Employers can incorporate this idea into their wellness program so that employees actively participate in this to keep their eye health in check.
2. Use bigger Fonts on your Mobile Phone
Everyone has a cellphone these days. And be it anything related to work or casual private work, the screen time can be anywhere from 2 to 4 hours for an average employee.
While using a mobile device, employees should make sure that the font size is big enough. It will prevent unnecessary stress on the eyes.
3. Adjust the Brightness
Employees must keep a watch on the brightness levels of their laptop screens. They should make sure that the resolution is neither too dim nor too bright and adjusted rightly as per the requirement.
Adjust the screen just below eye level to reduce any undue pressure on the eyes. If needed, employees can get themselves a pair of computer glasses too.
3. Remember to Blink
While working on a computer for a long duration of time, employees automatically tend to blink less. Remember to blink your eyes because blinking prevents dry eyes by keeping the eyes moist.
4. Regular Eye Checkups and get Powered Glasses
The most common and key step in preventing vision problems is to register for a routine eye examination. Consult an eye specialist to discuss any issues related to the eye.
Regular eye exams are an excellent way for employees to know about the status of their eye health. Get powered glasses or contact lenses as suggested by the eye expert.
5. Take Mini-Breaks
It is advisable to take small short breaks while working on a computer screen for a long time. Get up from your seat, do some office stretches, walk around, and avoid looking at any form of the screen for that duration. Give your eyes an appropriate rest time.
- Do Some basic eye exercises:
Rotate your eyes in a clockwise and anti-clockwise direction for about half a minute each. This works as a workout for your eyes. Shut your eyes tightly then gently ease out. Constricting the eye muscles and relaxing them for a few cycles helps to keep the eyes healthy. Repeating these two sets of exercises 3 times a day will work wonders in keeping your eyes healthy for a long time.
- Wash your eyes and gently use a cotton cloth to clean your eyes. Try to wash the eyes every 3 hours to avoid eye strain.
Tips for Employers for Overlooking Vision Wellness in the Workplace
- Carry out a wellness assessment for vision care at the workplace.
- Reduce and remove any potential eye hazards in the office environment.
- Provide free eye checks for the employees.
- Offer safety eyewear and make it mandatory for employees to wear it whenever required.
- Conduct workshops to educate employees about eye safety at the workplace.
- Adjust the ergonomics at your workstation to improve lighting and other possible threats to vision wellness.
- Evaluate the eye safety dangers at work and carry out eye hazard assessments.
- Arrange for first aid equipment like eye drops and wipes in the office.
- Educate employees about eye safety at work and what needs to be done in cases of emergency.
Ergonomic Adjustments for Eyecare at Work
Luckily, almost all workplace eye injuries are preventable with the use of proper safety measures. Eye experts believe that the right eye protection can prevent 90% of eye injuries. Eye injuries cost over $467 million a year but indirect costs, such as legal fees, fines, and higher insurance rates, bump that estimate up to over $934 million each year.
- Measure the average illumination throughout the workplace. Compare this to the recommended standard levels.
- Replace bulbs on a regular schedule. Old bulbs give less light than new ones, so replace them with LED bulbs.
- Clean light installations regularly. Dirt on light sources can reduce the amount of light coming off them. Make sure that they are inspected regularly and that dirt does not accumulate on them.
To-do list for Emergency Eye Care in the Workplace
Seek medical attention as soon as possible following any reported concerns about vision. Particularly if you have pain in the eye, or blurred vision, do not ignore the situation as it can get quite worse from there. Educate your workplace about essential self-care that can be taken until medical assistance arrives. It is very important on behalf of the employer to arrange for basic first aid measures for eye care in the workplace.
- Do not rub the eyes.
- Try to let your tears wash out, do not irritate the eye with an artificial tear solution without medical supervision.
- In case of an issue due to foreign particles in the eyes, try lifting the upper eyelid outward and down over the lower eyelid to remove the particle.
- Wash your eyes gently with water and clean them with a soft surface.
- In case of an injury to the eye, gently apply a cold compress without putting excessive pressure on the eye. Crush some ice in a plastic bag and gently place it on the injured eye to reduce pain and swelling.
- Seek immediate medical care.
Owing to the excessive use of digital screens at work and home, vision problems have significantly increased in recent years. The increased duration of computer and mobile viewing by employees has led to the development of several issues related to the eyes. It can range from visual fatigue and headaches to more complicated problems like dry eyes, blurred vision, irritation, and so on.
By minor adjustment and awareness from the side of both employees and the employer, the condition can be managed without compromising work performance and productivity. Employers must organize timely eye checkups and provide basic eye care services in their wellness programs to help their workplace deal with the eye concerns of their employees.
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