Number of breaks to rest the eyes is on the rise.
ORLANDO, Jan., 2014 – The substantial majority of employees are regularly affected by at least one visual disturbance at work that could diminish their performance, with most taking multiple breaks during the day to rest their eyes, according to new research sponsored by Transitions Optical, Inc. The company’s annual Employee Perceptions of Vision Benefits survey reveals that 79 percent of employees say they encounter at least one visual disturbance that bothers their eyes at work, and more than half (53 percent) admit they take at least one break daily to rest their eyes because they hurt or feel uncomfortable.
“Eye health is critical to staff performance, and is a huge contributor to productivity,” said Vincent Young, M.D., who is chairman of the Division of Ophthalmology at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia and presented the new survey results during Transitions Optical’s 2014 Academy event. “To work well, you have to feel well. And you can’t feel your best if you aren’t seeing your best.”
The top visual complaint is tired eyes, with nearly half (47 percent) of employees reporting this. About a third of employees are bothered by other problems, including light reflecting off of their computer screen, bright, glaring light, dry eyes and blurry vision. Another 18 percent say their eyes tear, while 16 percent have trouble with light reflected off of personal devices and another 16 percent are bothered by reflections off of outdoor surfaces [TABLE 1]. Employees who identify themselves as Hispanic are the most likely to experience visual disturbances of all the ethnic groups polled.
A significant 29 percent of all workers say they suffer from headaches as a result of visual disturbances. According to the National Headache Foundation, headaches cost the nation $17 billion dollars in absenteeism, lost productivity and medical expenses. The Foundation also reports that while 90 percent of employees say headaches affect their work performance, only 33 percent tell their employers, indicating a potentially bigger issue than employers realize.
The Employee Perceptions of Vision Benefits research also explored times of day when vision problems are most prevalent, revealing that one third (32 percent) of employees’ eyes bother them most during the afternoon, followed by evening (24 percent) and morning (8 percent). An additional 17 percent reported that their vision bothers them throughout the day [TABLE 2].
With so many workers reporting visual disturbances, it’s not really surprising that more than half (53 percent) say they take breaks during the work day 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 Smith Wyckoff, key account manager, managed care/online retail, Transitions Optical. “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.”
Further demonstrating the negative impact on productivity, most employees are taking multiple breaks throughout the day on account of vision problems. The average employee takes two breaks per day, but nearly one third (32 percent) are taking three or more breaks, and 13 percent are taking more than five [TABLE 3]. While women are more likely to say they suffer from visual disturbances at work, men are more likely to say they take breaks because of them.
One study shows that eye focusing problems, which can occur with eyestrain and fatigue, may cause employees to lose up to 15 minutes of working time a day. The study reported that this translates into employers losing more than $2,000 per year per employee who suffers from this issue.