laptop computers, tablets, e-readers and cell phones.” Workers are
spending more and more time in front of screens, which is causing
greater fatigue and dry, itchy or burning eyes, and this is affecting
their work and productivity over time.
Jonathan Ormsby is a strategic account manager with
Transitions Optical. He says extended use of the devices leads to
many physical problems.
“Employees who can’t see well can’t work well,” he said. “Vision
problems can really affect employees in many other ways depending
on the type and severity of the problem. Vision problems
resulting from eye disease may have little or no symptoms at first
but can lead to gradual vision loss or complete blindness if you are
THE EMPLOYER POINT OF VIEW
The effect of digital eyestrain is twofold. The first, and most obvious,
problem is the physical issues that can arise from excessive use
of digital devices. However, the second problem can be seen from
the employer’s point of view. The more people experience these issues,
the more it will negatively affect work. As a result, workplace
productivity and medical claims become part of the bottom line
for that company.
“The workplace has evolved tremendously,” said Yafa Sakkejha,
general manager with The Beneplan Co-operative in Toronto.
“When we used to price for vision benefits and someone would
ask, ‘How much will it cost for me to add vision?’ we would assume
that 60 per cent of the population are probably going to be
wearing glasses; now, we assume 80 or 90 per cent of the population
will be wearing glasses.”
Sakkejha says before employers spend money on changing their
benefits plans or adding more vision care to them, it is important
to look for root causes and make changes in the office culture, if
“Adding vision benefits can be expensive and that’s why a lot of
companies don’t have it, but I think the root cause is people staring
at their screens,” she said, and that’s where changes need to
Once the changes have been explored and the employer is still
inclined to add benefits to their plans, Sakkejha says that rather
than just coverage for glasses being added, eye exams should become
part of the benefits package.
“Doctors will not only give you advice on how to ease the
eyestrain in your life but they are able to detect diseases earlier because
there is a lot the eye can tell you,” she said.
Ormsby agrees and says employers should offer a vision plan
that provides comprehensive eye exams and high quality lens options.
The next step, he explains, is for employers to educate their
employees about proper eyewear options that can help alleviate
strain and stress.
“The right options can help alleviate stress at home and at work,
but many employees are not often aware of the options available
to them through their vision plan at work,” he said. “It’s really important
for employers to educate them about the lens options that
are available, as well as some recommendations for the type of eyewear
employees should be asking about.”
BACK TO BASICS
The traps of the modern workplace, including the digital tools we
can’t seem to live without, are only increasing in usage and importance.
As screen time grows, so does the potential for things like
digital eyestrain, and ultimately employees with growing health issues.
A change in culture and education can help ease some of the
issues but there has to be buy-in at all levels to ensure this occurs
and is maintained. It can certainly be part of a benefits package, but
a back-to-basics communication approach with more face-to-face
time will be the first step in fighting the effects of digital eyestrain. n
health & wellness
NINE OF OUT 10
EMPLOYEES SAY THE
QUALITY OF THEIR
WORK HAS BEEN
BY PROBLEMS WITH
for digital eyestrain
According to Yafa Sakkejha and Jonathan Ormbsy,
some of the best ways for companies and their
employees to encourage a cultural shift when it
comes to screen time include:
■■ Encouraging people to get up and walk around
■■ Talk to people instead of sending emails
■■ Try to accomplish tasks face-to-face during
meetings rather than on a projector screen
■■ Encourage employees to work without their
screens and use of the Internet
■■ Follow the 20/20/20 rule – after every 20 minutes,
take a break for 20 seconds and look at objects
that are 20 feet away
38 ❚ JANUARY 2016 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL