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Eye Strain Is A Rising Threat To Productivity In The U.S. Workplace

Written by Ken Gaebler
Published: 2/17/2014

New study reveal that more than half of all U.S. workers take at least one break a day just to rest their eyes.

The proliferation of screens and monitors in the workplace is starting to take its toll on U.S. workers, according to a new study by vision-benefits provider, Transitions Optical.

Eye Strain Due to Computer Use

A recent report by the Society for Human Resource Management highlighted the study findings, showing that an alarming 79 percent of employees said they encounter at least one visual disturbance that bothers their eyes at work.

Fifty-three percent of surveyed employees reported that they take at least one break per day because their eyes hurt or feel uncomfortable. On average, workers take two breaks per day due to eye-related strain. However, a third of workers are taking more than three breaks per day, and 13 percent are taking more than five.

Eye-related complaints reported by workers included:

  • Tired eyes (47%)
  • Dry eyes/blurry vision from bright screens (33%)
  • Teary eyes (18%)
  • Light from personal devices (16%)
  • Reflected light from outdoor surfaces (16%)

Even more concerning, nearly a third (29%) of employees reported suffering from headaches related to visual disturbances--a condition that the National Headache Foundation says costs $17 billion per year in absent employees, medical expenses and productivity losses.

"With so many workers reporting visual disturbances, it's not really surprising that more than half (53 percent) say they take breaks during the workday to rest their eyes, but it is a bit alarming that when we asked this question in 2011, only 29 percent were reporting breaks," said the researchers who performed the study. "That means there has been a 45 percent increase in people taking breaks from their workday to rest their eyes in the past two years, potentially a result of today's employees working longer hours and being exposed to more electronic devices."

The remedy for eyestrain in the workplace is to ensure that employees have the right eyewear and that eye prescriptions are kept up-to-date. But the rising cost of benefits (including optical insurance) and the increasing use of electronics in the workplace may be creating a perfect storm for employers and employees.

As much as possible, employers need to understand their options when it comes to small business health insurance plans and attempt to offer some form of eye coverage to minimize the impact of eyestrain on productivity and workplace morale.

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