With work from home trends continuing to rise, and more businesses going digital, the amount of time spent in front of a computer screen has dramatically increased. With the increase of screen time comes some unwanted risk. Any extended sitting — such as at a desk, behind a wheel or in front of a screen — can be harmful. An analysis of 13 studies of sitting time and activity levels found that those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to the risks of dying posed by obesity and smoking.
Another negative effect is the potential damage being in front of a screen can do to the human eye. If you’re a business owner this is important to know for you and your employees. So what can you do to protect yourself and others? Offering your employees education, health insurance, and eye tests could be a step in the right direction. Especially if their roles involve heavy computer use. While you’re not required to make sure your employee health plan includes eye care, you should think about providing staff with some form of health insurance if your business meets certain conditions.
Other dangers of sitting in front of screens for hours
- Increased risk of diabetes-It is unclear why, but doctors think sitting may change the way your body reacts to insulin.
- Undo your workout benefits-The effects of too much sitting are hard to counter with exercise. Even if you work out 3 hours of more per week, you can’t reverse the effects of sitting 7 hours at a time.
- Higher chance of depression and anxiety-Looking at screens for several hours per day can worsen a person’s mood. Researchers in a 2017 study found that adults who watched TV or used a computer for more than 6 hours per day were more likely to experience moderate to severe depression.
Digital Eye Strain on the Rise
Digital eye strain (DES), also known as computer vision syndrome, encompasses a range of ocular and visual symptoms, and estimates suggest its prevalence may be 50% or more among computer users. The average American worker spends seven hours a day on the computer either in the office or working from home. With more and more businesses using digital devices or sales and services, the risk of DES increases for you and your employees.
According to the American Optometric Association, the most common symptoms associated with DES are eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes and pain in the neck and shoulders. The good news is that many of the visual symptoms experienced by users are only temporary and will decline after stopping computer work or use of the digital device. However, some persons may experience continued reduced visual abilities even after stopping work at a computer. This is why it is crucial to take DES seriously for yourself and your team.
What Does the Law Say?
The law doesn’t force any employer to provide health insurance or eye tests for their employees, but you could suffer under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) if you don’t. If your business has 50 or more employees working full time, then you may be subject to penalties. By offering health insurance to 95% of your full-time employees, you could avoid fines of up to $3,860.
Should I Offer My Employees Eye Tests?
As far as company perks go, offering employees eye tests is a really useful one, and you may find staff to be more satisfied at work because of it. While computers don’t usually cause lasting damage to a person’s eyes, they can make things uncomfortable. What’s more, many people may put off having an eye test if it isn’t included in their health plan. This could mean they’re working without a prescription they desperately need, which may lead to more mistakes or a decrease in productivity.
Eye tests could also be useful for anyone working in hazardous conditions, even if they’re not sitting at a computer. This will help to reduce the risk of mistakes for a safer working environment. Depending on the type of health insurance you choose, costs can vary. But even if you’re opting for a basic plan, having eye tests included could make employees more comfortable and more productive. But buying a pair of glasses is typically up to an individual unless you decide to include this as a company perk. Whether employees choose an online store like EyeBuyDirect (check out their wooden frames) or a local store, you could discount their purchase by a set amount to help them with costs.
Desk Health and Safety
Eye tests aren’t the only thing you should consider if your workers are using computers throughout the day. You can find many guidelines about suitable desk setups online, helping your employees to avoid repetitive strain injuries after long hours on the job. Make sure your staff feel comfortable while taking any complaints about pain seriously. A particular setup might work for some members of staff, but others may need extra support, such as a footrest or ergonomic mouse.
You also need to make sure your employees are taking breaks as needed. Rather than taking one long break each day, regular short breaks can benefit desk workers more as it allows their eyes to rest. Make sure computer users are educated about the 20-20-20 rule, which means taking a 20-second break every 20 minutes where you look at an object 20 feet away. Discouraging eating lunch at your desk can also help employees find more time to go for a walk to stretch their legs.
Here are some more things you can implement to help you and your worker stay healthy.
- Try to take a 5 minutes break for every one hour to stretch, stand and walk around.
- Encourage employees to sit in a correct posture
- Maintain certain distance between your eyes and the compute
- Choose healthier snacks while working
- Give your eyes a break frequently