Ensuring vision remains a focus of employee wellness strategies

Jim Lythgow, below, Director of Strategic Alliances at Specsavers from Specsavers Corporate explores why a workforce’s eye health should be a key focus of your SME’s employee wellness strategy

UK businesses are more focused than ever on employee wellbeing. With the economic hangover of the pandemic still having an impact, a cost-of-living crisis, ongoing skills and labour shortages and high staff turnover, it’s vital to ensure your workforce is operating at its best.

Recent research by the McKinsey Health Institute for Business in the Community – The Prince’s Responsible Business Network – revealed that only nine per cent of employees are enthusiastic or engaged about work, with the UK ranking 33rd out of 38 European countries.

By prioritising employee health and wellbeing, responsible employers can ensure a lack of enthusiasm and low productivity don’t plague their organisation – be it a start-up, SME or global enterprise.

Bringing Vision into Focus

A well-considered employee wellness strategy should consider its employees’ physical, mental and financial well-being. If executed correctly, strategies can promote prevention over cure by tackling risk factors in the work – and work-from-home – environment before they materialise as an issue.

Employers are becoming increasingly attuned to staff wellbeing, particularly in the wake of the pandemic, which should be celebrated. However, they tend to promote physical wellness by offering free healthy snacks, encouraging walking meetings, providing discounted gym memberships or holding group challenges or classes. All hugely positive initiatives, but many overlook fundamental health needs, such as clear vision – and there’s a tangible benefit in getting back to basics.

Those companies that do offer eyecare-related benefits tend to be larger organisations. Yet, it could be argued that SMEs with smaller teams pay a larger price for health-related absences or a drop in productivity. And, when you consider that SMEs employ 16.4 million people in the UK – 61% of the total number of people employed by private-sector companies – and collectively turn over an estimated £2.1 trillion (51%) – the impetus to look after employees becomes clear.

Poor Vision = Poor Performance

In a bid to be productive, employees sit at their desks for longer and work harder with the aim of getting more and more work done in less time. Over time, this becomes counterproductive – output is drained, and hours are wasted.

When your vision is blurred, it can be impossible to get work done. In fact, according to our recent survey, eyestrain is the top reason for unproductivity caused by physical discomfort, with almost a quarter (22%) of respondents saying it affects their focus.

It might be that an employee’s lens prescription has changed without them noticing or they’re suffering from fatigue. Whatever the cause, straining of the eyes can lead to other symptoms such as headaches, double vision, sore neck and shoulders and increased sensitivity to light, known as photophobia.

Test for Success

Despite eyestrain having such a direct impact on workplace productivity, there’s a widespread lack of knowledge about the importance of regular eye tests and how to go about getting tested.

90% of office workers agree that it’s important to get your eyes tested by an optician at least once in two years but 30% consider eye tests to be too expensive, 22% admit they can’t find the time and 8% of employees don’t know how to get eye tests booked more regularly

Concerningly, 16% of respondents feel they should wait until they feel eye strain before getting tested and almost the same number of people (15%) are not sure when they should see an optician.

To prevent eye care complaints from having an impact on workplace performance and business success, SME business leaders can use wellness benefits such as Specsavers Corporate eVouchers. They offer employees convenient access to essential eye care benefits including free eye tests at over 970 UK stores, as well as discounted frames and lenses.

Welfare programmes like this ensure that employers meet their duty of care while demonstrating to staff that they value their health – a wellness win-win.

Digital Detox

Prolonged exposure to screens can have long-term effects on employee health and can be blamed for issues such as body aches, stiffness, sleep disorders, as well as eye stress and discomfort. Almost half (46%) of employees in the UK agree that it’s good to take a break at least every half hour, yet 40% of employees work constantly in front of screens without taking a break for over 2 hours. Moreover, 36% say activities using a computer such as emails, video meetings and working on spreadsheets are tiring.

Eye health specialists recommend the 20-20-20 rule, a scientifically proven technique to reduce the impact of digital exposure and prevent eyes from becoming strained – simply take a 20-second break to look at least 20 feet away, every 20 minutes spent working with a screen.

Encouraging such practices as part of a comprehensive employee wellness strategy that incorporates valued benefits like Specsavers Corporate eVouchers will not only enhance performance and improve staff retention but also help attract new talent. It’s time for SME employers to open their eyes to the importance of healthy vision.

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