How eye care can make or break employee well-being

Vision care has long been an in-demand employee benefit yet, in the last few years, it has not met employee expectations. As leaders set their sights on improving employee well-being, do not overlook vision care—which directly impacts employees’ health and ability to perform at work.

Based on research performed by VSP® Vision Care in early 2024, half of your employees struggle with at least one eye issue, negatively affecting everything from their productivity to their quality of work.

In partnership with Workplace Intelligence, we polled 800 HR leaders and 800 full-time employees at U.S. organizations to assess the state of eye health in the workplace. Our data revealed both a dramatic rise in screen time and a rising need for organizations to better understand how eye care impacts employees’ overall health.

If you want your employees to support your organization’s vision, your organization must support their vision care. Start by understanding the prevalence of eye issues, how poor eye health negatively affects the workforce, and how to help all of your workers (even if they have 20/20 vision).

The surprising prevalence of eye issues

Fifty percent of employees in our survey say they’re struggling with at least one eye issue, and 84% long to improve their eye health. The top three eye issues reported are:

  1. Blurred/poor vision (30%)
  2. Eye strain/fatigue (17%)
  3. Dry/itchy eyes (17%)

Other common eye issues mentioned by survey respondents included cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic eye disease.

One obvious culprit of poor eye health is excessive screen time, with employees surveyed spending 91% of their waking hours looking at a screen on an average workday. More than that, employees indicate that the #1 factor impacting their eye health is excessive screen time, according to our data.

The impact of poor eye health at work

Eye issues negatively affect employees’ ability to feel their best and do their best work. Based on our data, poor eye health has a negative impact on employees:

  • Productivity (63%)
  • Ability to focus (55%)
  • Mental health (42%)
  • Quality of work (40%)

The good news: employers who do offer quality, comprehensive vision care wind up reducing overall healthcare costs as eye exams are proven to catch many health issues early on.

What’s stopping employees from improving their eye health?

A slim majority of workers (55%) get an eye exam at least once a year, our research found. One in three employees (29%) say they’re too busy with their personal lives, and about one in four (22%) say they’re too busy due to work.

For those who don’t get eye exams, 29% in our survey think they don’t need to because they have perfect eyesight, even though eye exams can detect signs of over 270 health conditions. This marks an opportunity for employers to educate employees on how vision care can support other aspects of their well-being.

6 steps to improve employee eye health

Employers play a pivotal role in ensuring employees have access to proper eye care and are empowered to use it. Take the following steps to meet—or even exceed—workers’ expectations for vision care.

  • Help workers reduce screen time. Encourage breaks, assess employee workloads to prevent long work hours, and establish healthy boundaries (52% of leaders in our survey have implemented policies that prohibit replying to emails after office hours or on weekends).
  • Increase access to vision benefits. Even though nearly 9 out of 10 employees surveyed say it’s important for employers to offer vision benefits, only 66% of HR leaders say their company provides them. For workers who do not have vision benefits, 52% are seriously considering finding a job that offers vision benefits.
  • Improve existing vision plans. Ninety-two percent of HR leaders and 74% of employees surveyed are not satisfied with their company’s vision insurance. Consider improvements like offering more plan options, providing more convenient access to care, allowing employees to customize coverage, and letting employees start/stop their coverage at any time.
  • Increase communication around vision benefits. Would you be surprised to know that nearly 1 out of 4 workers surveyed can’t name their company’s vision care provider? Avoid this scenario by communicating about your benefits more regularly (e.g., more than just during open enrollment) and ensuring information is always accessible to employees.
  • Encourage employees to make the most of their vision benefits. Consider incentivizing your employees to use their vision benefits. Based on our survey, the strategies employers currently offer include PTO for preventive care (71%), matching contributions to HSAs or FSAs (60%), and gift cards or coupons (49%).
  • Consider offering technology-driven solutions. With AI growing in popularity, this is an area to watch—and an area your company can stand out in. Workers are most open to using AI-powered technologies to educate them about an eye condition, help them understand their vision care options, help them select a vision care plan, and personalize eye health content.

As an HR leader, you have an opportunity to support your employees, boost organizational productivity, and lower healthcare expenses by prioritizing eye health and ensuring workers’ access to vision care.

Boost vision care to make your vision of happy and healthy employees a reality. See how VSP can make the entire process easy.