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Worker productivity and computer vision syndrome

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If you use a computer at work, you probably already know that a long day of staring at your screen can lead to eye strain, tired eyes, headache, muscle aches and other symptoms of computer vision syndrome (CVS). But you may not know that CVS also can cause work mistakes and lost productivity.

And if you own a company, you might be interested to know that studies suggest you can increase profits by providing your employees vision care benefits and computer glasses to help boost productivity, decrease errors and reduce worker disability claims.

Is Computer Vision Syndrome Really A Major Problem At Work?

According to a recent study by the University of Valencia in 20-34 years olds, seventy-two per cent of participants reported eye symptoms related to visual display unit (VDU) use with twenty-three per cent complaining of moderate-to-severe eye symptoms. These symptoms included eye strain, dry eyes, eye irritation, blurred vision and double vision.

With more and more of us using a computer at work, CVS is becoming a major public health issue.

CVS And Worker Productivity

A study conducted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Optometry examined the relationship between the vision of computer workers and their productivity in the workplace.

This study found:

  • A direct correlation between proper vision correction and productivity. This relationship is particularly evident with complex and/or repetitive computer tasks such as data entry.

  • A direct correlation between proper vision correction and the time required for a computer worker to perform a task. Computer-related tasks took much longer when the subjects wore glasses with less than the optimum correction.

  • Reduced productivity even among computer users who were unaware they had vision problems. Computer users with small refractive errors may not notice any vision discomfort. But without proper vision correction, their performance on a specific task can suffer significantly — by as much as 20 percent.

"Our data strongly suggest that improving the visual status of workers using computers results in greater productivity in the workplace, as well as improved visual comfort," said Kent Daum, OD, PhD, the study's chief investigator.

Computer Eyewear And The Bottom Line

According to the UAB study, the economic benefit to employers of providing computer eyewear to their employees can be determined by measuring the average gain in productivity for computer workers over a one-year period, and dividing this productivity gain by the costs associated with the eyewear.

For example:

  • If an employer pays a computer worker £125 per day to process claims, and that employee processes 100 claims daily, the cost to the employer is £1.25 per processed claim.

  • If computer glasses could increase the claim processor's productivity by just 5 percent (a conservative estimate in light of the UAB study results), the worker could now process five additional claims per day, for a daily cost savings of £6.25 (5 x £1.25).

  • If you assume the worker is at work 250 days per year, this is an annual cost saving of £1,562 for the employer (per employee).

  • If the company pays the cost of the worker's eye test and computer glasses (let's say it's £100), this is an annual net cost savings to the company of £1,462 per computer worker.

And if productivity is improved 10 percent, the cost savings more than double.

The UAB study also suggests computer vision benefits can add significant economic benefits to companies with large numbers of computer-using employees. Study results show that:

  • Providing computer vision care to all employees who use computers, even those who are not experiencing CVS symptoms, results in significant productivity gains and cost savings for employers.

  • Musculoskeletal problems, which may be caused by computer-related vision problems, can potentially be minimized or eliminated by including computer vision care in a comprehensive vision care benefits program.

  • Employees performing tasks with particularly demanding visual requirements, such as accounting, document editing, CAD (computer-assisted design) work, electronic design and engineering, could benefit even more from computer eyewear than the average computer worker.

  • A computer vision benefits program may also lower incidence of workers' compensation claims among computer workers.

"Our study confirms that investing in optimal computer eyewear for employees results in a significant cost-benefit ratio," Daum said.

And finally, remember that in the UK the law says employers must arrange an eye test for display screen equipment users if they ask for one, and provide glasses if an employee needs them only for DSE use.

American Optometric Association. "Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)." Productivity associated with visual status of computer users. Optometry. January 2004.

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