Good visual health enhances workplace safety

January 28, 2024

A crucial aspect of supporting employees’ performance and productivity is paying attention to their personal health and well-being, including visual health. Consequently, a previous article here highlights the role of effective internal communication in keeping employees engaged. That can mainly be accomplished by implementing the right communication tools, whether it’s Slack for company-wide memos or Zendesk for customer-related reports, and ensuring managers lead by example. These practices are especially crucial given that a lack of engagement can lead to employee burnout and show as chronic stress, demotivation, and poor health outcomes. A positive workplace factor is that good visual health enhances workplace safety.

Beyond preventing burnout in the workforce, internal communication teams, in tandem with HR, are also responsible for communicating policies that can help maintain visual health and enhance workplace safety. Employees may have vision problems like myopia, which can affect how they perform and accomplish their tasks. In addition, the American Academy of Ophthalmology reports that about 20,000 eye injuries occur in the workplace annually, leading to significant losses. That includes a 10% and 20% reduction in productivity and accuracy, respectively.

Fortunately, following a few best practices can prevent and address these issues. In fact, according to data from the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), simple steps like wearing eyeglasses can improve productivity by 22%. But what eye health strategies will work best in the workplace? This article shares communication and collaboration strategies to better invest in employees’ eye health and overall wellness.

Supportive eye care benefits

A 2023 Workplace Wellness Survey by Transitions found that employees prioritize eye care. Notably, the survey found that 78% of employees reported issues with their eyes negatively impacting their workplace productivity, with nearly half of employees pointing to eyestrain as the main cause. However, their likelihood of getting a comprehensive eye exam is significantly influenced by their employers’ support for health support that includes premium vision benefits.

This means HR departments must actively communicate their policies on funding employee eye care. Several major companies, including Capital One and Meta, provide vision care benefits that cover regular eye exams and more. Yet, the 2023 State of Vision Health Report found that out of the 95% of employees with such benefits, only half use them to meet their eye care needs.

This highlights the critical role of internal communication, not only in providing information on eye exams but also prescription glasses that particularly benefit those with reduced visual abilities. Oakley is among the top eyewear brands that accept most vision insurance plans, allowing employees to access a wide range of high-quality frames and lens options for everyday use, including popular designs like Holbrook and Spindrift.

To give you a better idea of how to go about this, we’ll look at AbbVie. As an employer, AbbVie holds events where employees are given free vision screenings in addition to resource materials containing information on vision care benefits they can claim. This information includes the importance of eye exams and how to find an eye care provider in their network, on top of the various benefits they’re eligible for. Implementing a similar support and communication program in your workplace can ensure employees make the most of the benefits available to them.

Remind employees to wear proper eyewear

Internal communication strategies must also include workplace safety reminders, such as using the proper eyewear at all times. For this, you can use web-based resources similar to the 2011 Eye2Eye Safety Program from Prevent Blindness America and UVex, a primer that trains employees to communicate the importance of eye health and safety to each other, increases eye safety compliance, and fosters a stronger culture of safety in the workplace. The IAPB has a more updated collection of eye care toolkits and workplace resources that were released as part of World Sight Day 2023 that you can periodically circulate year-round to remind employees to prioritize vision health.

These can be ideal for use in digital-intensive workplaces, where not only employees with refractive errors must be reminded to wear prescription glasses for enhanced performance. Since the electronics used in regular desk jobs emit blue light that contributes to digital eye strain and poor sleep, even those with normal eyesight can be encouraged to wear blue light-blocking glasses designed for computer use.

This type of support by employers is especially important for communication professionals and related knowledge workers, whose work requires many hours of work focused on their computer screens and smartphones every day. The amount of work they deal with is stressful in itself as well as in the deadlines they have to meet. Therefore, eye health is particularly important in this profession.

Meanwhile, eye safety in non-digital workplaces like manufacturing and construction involves wearing safety goggles that shield the eyes from flying debris and projectiles. While companies like 3M are now modernizing safety goggles to make them more comfortable without compromising safety and protection, increasing worker compliance still relies on effective safety reminders communicated verbally by managers and safety officers and in written form through memos, handbooks, and signages.

Promote ergonomic designs and practices

Beyond eyewear, ergonomics can also play a role in visual health, such as poor working posture contributing to, or worsening, the symptoms of digital eye strain. Employers can promote ergonomic offices by improving the lighting, desks, chairs, and monitors to provide optimal visual comfort during work hours. That’s why tech giants like Meta (formerly Facebook), Apple, and Google are well aware of the benefits of having an ergonomic workspace.

Former Facebook human factors researcher Danny Nou likens a strong ergonomics program to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In a Risk & Insurance post, he considers that ergonomic support provides comfort and safety, allowing employees to meet their full creative potential and highest productivity level. First steps by employers would include improving the amount of natural lighting in an office and ensuring monitors in every workspace are set at eye level can work well toward preventing eye strain.

Also, internal communicators can work with management and HR to promote ergonomic practices that can supplement these initiatives and better motivate employees to take initiative in their own eye health. These include following the 20-20-20 rule to make screen breaks a habit, as well as eye exercises that nurture eye coordination, focus, and movement to reduce the risk of eye fatigue and dryness.

Keeping remote and hybrid workers in the loop

A Forbes article notes that as of 2023, 12.7% of US full-time employees continue to work from home. Another 28% worked on a hybrid basis. If your workplace looks anything like these statistics, it’s vital that such employees are included in all communications relating to visual health and workplace safety.

Industry sources reported in 2023 that over a third of remote and hybrid employees say that communication is a hurdle that they have often faced in the past 12 months. Additionally, a CNET feature notes that remote workers spend nearly 13 hours a day looking at screens, compared with just under 11 hours for on-site employees. Taken together, these facts stress the significance of communicating eye health tips to remote and hybrid workers.

To help ensure that work-from-home employees are prioritizing their visual health, you can have a dedicated communication channel on platforms like Slack. Having a dedicated space for funneling all reminders regarding eye health, including information on vision care benefits and similar resources, ensures that these communications aren’t ignored. Moreover, having all the relevant information in one place will make resources easier to access and prevent eye care reminders from cluttering other communication channels.

Healthy eyesight is crucial to workplace productivity and the reduction of human error. By effectively providing information on vision care benefits, eye safety protocols, and the importance of maximizing ergonomics in workspaces, internal communications teams can play a key role in promoting visual health and supporting eye care in the workplace.

Photo at top: Pexels.

Kim Harrison

Kim J. Harrison has authored, edited, coordinated, produced and published the material in the articles and ebooks on this website. He brings his experience in professional communication and business management to provide helpful insights to readers around the world. As he has progressed through his wide-ranging career, his roles have included corporate affairs management; PR consulting; authoring many articles, books and ebooks; running a university PR course; and business management. Kim has received several international media relations awards and a website award. He has been quoted in The New York Times and various other news media, and has held elected positions with his State and National PR Institutes.

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