Did you know that the average office worker spends 1,700 hours in front of a computer screen every year? That’s what the contact lens manufacturer Acuvue found in a study on screen time they sponsored a few years ago. And that only accounted for computer screens, not those of phones, tablets, etc.
With an uptick in complaints about eye strain, dry eye, headache and insomnia, it’s a great time for employers to review the eye care benefits they offer. Let’s look a little deeper at the impact of the workplace on eye health and at the benefits that support better eye health.
How Big of a Problem is Eye Health?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Vision loss takes a substantial social and economic toll on millions of people, including suffering, disability, loss of productivity, and diminished quality of life.
- More than half of adult Americans don’t seek eye care because of either lack of awareness or costs, according to state and national data, a situation often exacerbated by lack of vision care insurance.
- Vision problems among adults 40 years and older have an annual economic impact of more than $145 billion.
How Screen Time Affects Eye Health
Many Americans spend much of their day either staring at or interacting with computer screens, phone screens, and tablets. In fact, the U.S. average is just over 7 hours every day. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), when we look at digital screens we tend to blink our eyes less, as much as half the normal rate. While not permanent, a consistent reduction in blinking can cause dry eye, blurry vision, teary/watery eyes and/or headaches.
How to Reset Irritated Eyes
The AAO has some helpful suggestions to reset and refresh irritated eyes after too much screen time:
- The 20/20/20 Rule: Every 20 minutes, spend 20 seconds looking at a target 20 feet away.
- Keep computer screens about 2 feet away from your face, tilted so that you are viewing them at a slightly downward angle.
- Adjust brightness and contrast settings to reduce screen glare.
If these measures aren’t enough, try over-the-counter eye lubrication drops designed to reduce, if not eliminate, dry eye symptoms. Try swapping your contact lenses for eyeglasses on days you know you’ll be staring at the screen a lot. And finally, you may want to mount a matte filter on your screen.
When to Have an Eye Exam
Talk with an eye doctor if you are experiencing any of these issues or your vision just isn’t what it used to be. But even if you have no significant issues, you should still schedule periodic eye exams, just like you schedule periodic physicals and periodic dental checkups.
Eye exam guidelines from the Mayo Clinic:
- For children 3 and under, pediatricians look for healthy eye development and common age-related problems. From 3 to 5, pediatricians check their vision and eye alignment.
- Prior to their entering kindergarten, the child’s vision needs to be checked by an eye doctor. After that, eyes should be checked as directed.
- Healthy adults who have no noticeable vision problems should start having annual eye exams around age 40. The eye doctor will recommend a schedule at that point for future exams. Obviously, you will need to have your eyes checked more often if you need vision correction, have a family history of eye issues, or have a chronic disease or take medications regularly that can negatively affect eye health.
- If you don’t have any of these issues and are over 6o, aim for an eye exam every year or two to stay ahead of potential developments.
Paying for Eye Care with Benefit Accounts
You can learn more about the relief measures that are best for your individual needs during an eye exam. FSAs, Limited Purpose FSA* (LPFSAs), HSAs, and some HRAs can be used with some or all of these out-of-pocket eye care costs:
- Eye exams
- Eyeglasses and prescription sunglasses
- Contact lenses and supplies
- Vision correction surgery (LASIK)
- Other eye surgery and treatments
*LPFSAs are an option for employees who have a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) with an active HSA. The LPFSA covers qualified dental and vision care expenses only.
Why Should Employers Care?
Almost 80% of employees report issues with productivity related to the time they spend in front of screens. It’s estimated that employers lose $17 billion annually from headache-related absenteeism, lost productivity and medical costs.
DataPath, Inc. is a leading provider of technology solutions for cloud-based benefits administration.