All employers want a healthier workforce. A cost-effective solution may be right in front of their eyes.
While relatively low in cost, vision benefits have been traditionally under-valued in terms of the high return on investment that they can bring to a workforce. According to research by The Vision Council, which represents the vision industry, the average employer will see a return of $7 for every $1 invested in a vision benefit.
Below are three core reasons why all employers can benefit from offering a comprehensive vision benefit that covers regular eye exams and the right eyewear options to correct, protect and enhance an employee’s vision.
Employee Productivity Will Go Up
When employees aren’t seeing their best, they’re probably not feeling their best—and therefore they may not be delivering their full potential on the job. Vision problems can lead to headaches, fatigue from eyestrain and visual discomfort, all of which can drastically diminish an employee’s performance.
Research, such as a study on how astigmatic refractive error affects productivity, shows that even slightly miscorrected vision—so slight that the employee doesn’t even notice it—can reduce productivity by up to 20 percent. Additionally, employees who suffer from vision problems are more likely to take time away from work to deal with the symptoms and stress caused by these issues. All of this adds up to an astounding $8 billion per year in productivity loss.
The good news is that most employees understand the importance of getting regular eye exams to check their vision and to receive an up-to-date prescription. Unfortunately, when it comes to purchasing eyewear, many still underestimate the value of choosing the right lens options to enhance their vision.
While the right prescription can often correct an employee’s vision to 20/20 or better, there are other factors that can contribute to trouble seeing, such as sensitivity to light or glare. Consider that one in four employees attributes glare or light as a main cause of headaches, according to Transition Optical's 2008 Healthy Sight Global Survey. This is significant, since 90 percent also agree that headaches affect their work performance, according to research by the National Headache Foundation.
Health Care Costs Will Go Down
Annual eye exams are important for everyone, even if they have “perfect” vision. A comprehensive eye exam is the best way to check for eye health issues, such as cataract, macular degeneration, glaucoma and retinal detachment—conditions that contribute to $35 billion per year in medical costs, according to a report by Prevent Blindness America. Diagnosing eye diseases and conditions early is critical in helping to reduce medical costs and in saving an employee’s eyesight. Once vision is lost due to an eye disease, in most cases it cannot be restored.
Eye exams also offer an opportunity to detect underlying health issues, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and even brain tumors and certain cancers. Often, an eye doctor sees evidence of certain conditions even before a general physician does. Blurred vision, for example, is one of the first signs of diabetes.
While diabetes is one of the biggest and most costly health epidemics in the U.S., 25 percent of people with diabetes don’t know they have the disease. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to serious problems throughout the body. In 2007, diabetes alone cost an estimated $116 billion in medical expenditures and an additional $58 billion in reduced national productivity, according to a fact sheet from the American Diabetes Association.
In addition to checking for eye diseases and overall health conditions during the eye exam, the eye doctor can help to reinforce the importance of prevention through the proper eyewear. Extended exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, for example, can contribute to or worsen eye diseases such as cataract, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. Because of this, everyone—even those who don’t need vision correction—should wear eyeglasses or sun lenses that block 100 percent of UV rays. Those who are active in sports or other activities can benefit from impact-resistant lens options to prevent damage to their eyes from trauma.
Employees Will Be Satisfied
Offering comprehensive vision benefits can be a great way for employers to increase employee satisfaction. First, more than eight out of 10 employees say they are interested in a vision plan, according to the 2011 Consumer Perceptions of Managed Vision Care study by Jobson Optical Research. Moreover, higher-performing eyewear options are valued by employees. MetLife's 2012 study of employee benefit trends also suggests that employees who are happy with their benefits are three times more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, and less likely to leave.
While three out of four employees with access to a vision benefit choose to enroll, it's important to note that one in three is not using the benefit to get an annual, comprehensive eye exam. Additionally, half don’t know what lens options their vision plan covers, Transitions Optical's 2011 Employee Perceptions of Vision Benefits survey found. This reinforces the need for employers to educate their employees about the value of their vision plan and encourage its use.
With the right vision plan and proper employee education, employers will notice a tremendous return-on-investment in regard to higher employee productivity, lower medical expenses and increased satisfaction.
Pat Huot is the director of managed vision care and online retail at Transitions Optical, Inc., a provider of photochromic lenses.
Many Workers Develop Debilitating Computer Vision Syndrome, SHRM Online safety and security discipline, August 2010
Benefits: I Can See Clearly Now, HR Magazine, September 2000
SHRM Online Benefits Discipline