Research of UK employers earlier this year indicated not only a link between workplace eyecare and health and wellbeing, but also with productivity. Jim Lythgow, of optician Specsavers, argues that the benefits of eyecare go beyond meeting statutory requirements.
Boosting productivity is one of the most vital elements in making an organisation more successful. In 2015, Business Secretary Sajid Javid stated that the “economic challenge of our time” is increasing Britain’s productivity (BIS, 2015).
For many years, optometrists have extolled the wider benefits of eyecare. While most people visit the optician to have their eyesight checked, much more is possible through an eye examination. Not only can the health of the eye itself be assessed, but the optician is able to detect conditions affecting the whole body, including diabetes, high blood pressure and the risk of stroke.
Research undertaken by Specsavers Corporate Eyecare has now taken this one step further to indicate the link that employers see between workplace eyecare and health and wellbeing (Specsavers Corporate Eyecare/EMedia, 2015). Furthermore, it has even suggested a link between eyecare at work and productivity.
In the independent research among 158 heads of UK companies and organisations, representing a minimum of 300,000 staff, the following question was asked: “Eyecare helps with the detection and monitoring of serious health conditions relating to the whole body. Do you believe that having an eyecare policy helps with the overall health and wellbeing of your staff?”.
Seventy-nine per cent of employers said they believe eyecare helps with the overall wellbeing of their employees.
And when asked: “As eyecare can help to reduce issues like eyestrain, tiredness and headaches for ‘screen users’, do you believe eyecare can help to increase productivity at work?”. A significant 84% replied that yes, eyecare can help to increase productivity.
Further to the link to productivity, 23% of employers stated that they believe eyecare in the workplace improves the morale of employees. Indeed, eyecare would seem to have moved on significantly from being an obligatory requirement to being understood and valued as an employee benefit, capable of giving enormous value for money. Backing up this theory, just 1% of the employers surveyed believed the benefits of eyecare at work lay in meeting statutory requirements.
The reason an optometrist is able to detect systemic conditions is mostly related to their ability to examine the retina, using an ophthalmoscope. This simple, torch-like device allows the optometrist to view the small blood vessels (capillaries) in the back of the eye, to see if they have thickened, narrowed, or burst, which can be an indicator of changes in blood pressure.
Changes to the capillaries in the eyes can be repeated in other parts of the body, such as the kidneys. However, the changes can be viewed in the eyes quite easily by an optometrist, whereas viewing them in other parts of the body would be a far more invasive process. An optometrist is, therefore, able to detect such conditions as:
- brain aneurysms;
- raised cholesterol;
- temporal arteritis;
- cardiovascular disease;
- brain tumours;
- thyroid problems;
- pituitary tumour;
- cranial nerve palsies;
- multiple sclerosis; and
- cerebrovascular accidents.
Being able to not only detect such illnesses but also to possibly catch them early on, before more serious symptoms become apparent, is obviously an advantage for the individual and their employer. Figures from Public Health England, for example, show that more than five million people have high blood pressure, without being aware that they suffer from the condition (Public Health England, 2014). High blood pressure can be detected though simple, routine eye examinations. This is just one instance of where eyecare can have a positive effect on much wider health and, therefore, on employees and the businesses of which they are a vital part.
It is, however, the more simple aspects of eyecare that can make a big difference to organisations in reducing issues such as eye strain, tiredness and headaches for screen users. Indeed, the UK has had Regulations in place to look after the eye health of users of display screen equipment since 1992 in the form of the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992, and the American Optometric Association recognises the condition of computer vision syndrome (CVS) for the group of eye- and vision-related problems resulting from prolonged use of display screen equipment.
These include eye strain, headaches, blurred vision and dry eyes, which may be exacerbated by incorrect viewing distances, uncorrected vision problems and screen glare. It would seem from the research that reducing the occurrence of such issues is believed by employers to be capable of impacting positively on productivity.
With the Government is trying to increase productivity in the UK, the clear conclusion must be for employers to take the small step of introducing an eyecare policy.
Please note that this is a guide only and nothing contained herein shall constitute or be deemed to constitute legal advice and therefore should not be relied upon. Specsavers shall bear no responsibility or liability for the contents, their accuracy or any errors and/or omissions accordingly. It remains the reader’s responsibility to seek their own independent legal advice.
Jim Lythgow is the director of strategic alliances at Specsavers Corporate Eyecare.
Fixing the foundations: boosting Britain’s productivity. Speech from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Sajid Javid MP and HM Treasury. Delivered on 10 July 2015 in Longbridge, Birmingham.
Research was conducted on behalf of Specsavers Corporate Eyecare in November 2015, by EMedia, among 158 employers, and represents between 299,827 and 511,484 employees.
Public Health England press release, “New figures show high blood pressure costs NHS billions each year”, published 18 November 2014.
The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992, as amended by the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002.