Optimizing Vision & Protecting Eyes At Work
Part 1: Creative Jobs
These days, work means something different that it used to. No longer are “office jobs” the sole domain where computer work is essential - advances in technology have resulted in the subsequent integration of digital devices in workplaces where such tools had not existed prior, and most jobs now require at least some use of computers.
Eyeglass wearers in a wide range of professions stand to benefit from glasses specially fitted for their occupational needs. If you’re in your 40s and have been wearing vision correction for tasks such as reading and computer, and your work is concentrated in environments within 13 feet, you will likely also benefit from a pair tailored to your job requirements, in addition to general-use/’everyday” glasses.
To determine which eyewear will best suit your needs at work, your eye care professional should perform a visual task analysis, discussing: the task subject within your work area; field of view; the working distance, lighting conditions and contrast; color and depth perception considerations (these are imperative in some occupations, especially in the visual creative industries - lenses must maintain the quality of color perception and not induce chromatic aberrations). Patients should indicate whether the task is still or moving, and its typical duration, as well as their position when performing work and the motion requirements, and if the work presents any eye safety hazards.
To get the best results from your task analysis and fitting with occupational eyewear, provide your eye care provider with a smartphone photo/sketch out a diagram of your immediate working environment, and provide measurements relating to the typical distances between your eyes and objects that need to be seen clearly. Lighting conditions and the duration of tasks are also important factors.
The Art of the Matter
Do you work in an artistic field? Many creative jobs are still largely or entirely hands-on, and when flying debris results from drilling, soldering, or similar activity (e.g. when making jewelry, sculpting, metalworking, et al), safety eyewear is necessary to ensure proper eye protection while optimizing vision. A wrap frame, goggles or face shield will prevent bits of wood, metal, clay, dust, embers and other material from getting into the eye. Most are available in your prescription, if needed.
Other creatives - photographers, writers, graphic artists, fashion designers, animators, even deejays, to name a few - now rely heavily on digital devices to produce and refine their content. Whereas before, photographers spent hours in a dark room developing film, the bulk of their time is now spent editing photos using digital programs. Graphic designers are spending countless hours tweaking fonts, airbrushing photos and perfecting layouts for print and web publications. Architects finalize blueprints in specialized software; even printers spend a significant amount of time using computer programs to set up files for the trip to the press, as well as managing orders, etc. Video game development has long been computer-dominant domain. For these patients, we recommend eyewear designed to alleviate strain from the screen.
You will also likely benefit from ergonomic supports, adjustments, desk reorganization, and behavior modifications such as the 20-20-20 Rule and being cognizant of your reduced blink rate when using digital devices. A note for those in their mid-40’s and older: the normal age-related loss of near focusing ability (presbyopia) can exacerbate digital eye strain symptoms, since the eyes struggle more to adjust between the screen and the keyboard.
As technology continues to advance at breakneck speed, the nature of tasks in the workplace is changing in turn. Digital content creation only continues to grow, as developers continue to build platforms to aggregate and distribute it. For the last 2-plus decades computer-based activity has been steadily replacing other work methods (and workers), but even if your job does not [yet] require heavy use of digital devices, we as eye care providers take into account that millions of Americans also spend hours per day scrolling through smartphones and using tablets, computers and TVs at home – this means combatting digital eye strain is now one of our top-of-mind considerations for our patients, as we look to make the daily activities of our patients more comfortable and productive via proper eyewear.