By Sara Bonizio

“We need to discuss the budget forecast with Anne. Send out a GoToMeeting invitation for tomorrow at 10:00am.”

“See if you can clean up this image in Photoshop—crop out the pigeon in the background, do some color-correcting and e-mail it to the client.”

“Go through this slideshow and pick out new looks for the fall line.”

These days, work means something different than 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. Part 1 of this two-part series on occupational eyewear will focus on recommendations for patients employed in office settings and in the creative industries (no longer mutually exclusive).

While previously not all “office jobs” required computer work, now the term almost guarantees a significant amount of time spent in front of a screen. In the not-so-distant past in our own eyecare industry, the doctor’s office and dispensary used paper charts, record cards and appointment books, printed frame catalogs and insurance guides, and the like. Today, electronic medical records have mostly replaced paper files, scheduling is increasingly performed online, and authorizations and claims submission is done almost entirely online. Other industries have changed drastically too, with the digital technology revolution disrupting methods of creating and distributing products and services in creative jobs.

Digital advances have shifted the way workers produce and collaborate across nearly all sectors, affecting all generations of workers and not just “digital natives.” In-person meetings can now be replaced by Skype, and other virtual meeting programs, and with the advent of “flex time,” employees are able to work from home—checking e-mail, accessing their files and programs via remote desktop log-ins. This can increase hours spent on screens, which is on top of home Web browsing, movie and television streaming, and smartphone scrolling.


To determine which occupational eyewear will best suit the worker’s specific needs, ECPs should perform a visual task analysis, asking about the size of the task subject within the work area; field of view; the working distance, which will dictate the power of the near addition and the range of distances which need to be catered to; lighting conditions and contrast; color and depth perception considerations (these are imperative in some occupations, especially in the visual creative industries, so 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.

Prior to the office visit, ECPs should suggest that patients bring in smartphone photos or sketch out a diagram of their immediate working environment, and provide measurements relating to the typical distances between their eyes and objects that need to be seen clearly. Lighting conditions and the duration of tasks are also important, i.e., if computer work is frequently broken up by meetings or other activities away from the desk. Based on the working distances, ECPs should adjust the lens powers accordingly based on focal lengths necessary to do the job.

Patients in a wide range of professions stand to benefit from occupational eyewear. For presbyopes whose work requires that their vision is concentrated in environments up to 13 feet, ECPs should recommend a pair tailored to job requirements, in addition to general-use progressives.

Many creative jobs are still largely or entirely hands-on, and when flying debris is yielded from drilling, soldering or a similar activity (e.g., when making jewelry, sculpting, metalworking, etc.), safety eyewear is necessary to ensure proper eye protection while optimizing the viewing experience. An Rxable wrap frame, goggles or face shield will prevent bits of wood, metal, clay, dust, embers and other materials from getting into the eye.

Other creatives—photographers, graphic artists, fashion designers, animators, even deejays, to name a few—now rely heavily on digital devices to produce and refine their written and visual content. Whereas before, shutterbugs 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 in the Adobe Creative Suite, tweaking font choices, airbrushing photos and perfecting layouts for print and Web publication. Architects finalize blueprints in specialized software; even printers spend a significant amount of time using computer programs to set up files for the eventual trip to the press, as well as managing orders, etc. Video game development has long been a computer-dominant domain. For these patients, ECPs should recommend occupational eyewear designed to alleviate strain from the screen.

In addition to the evolving creative positions discussed above, for others whose daily work activity requires heavy computer use (including but not limited to programmers, IT gurus, data and financial analysts, accountants, bankers, executive assistants, customer service representatives and marketers), degressive occupational eyewear designed for computer users provides the patient with wider corridors than traditional progressives for a clear view of the keyboard and printed page, computer screen and beyond, but not usually further than 13 feet. The visual task analysis will help determine between the need for lenses that offer a wider but shallower field of view (better for sustained computer work) or those that offer good computer vision and also let the patient see clearly at a distance. For presbyopic computer users who are not comfortable using varifocal lenses, a regular bifocal can also get the job done.


“Early adopter” ECPs should recommend wearable tech such as camera glasses for videographers and photographers seeking to expand their creative canvases. For those seeking greater flexibility, such devices allow users to document travels, urban exploration, streetscapes and more, hands-free. In more traditional office settings, wearable tech can also be used to film presentations, interviews and other meetings less obtrusively than standard recording equipment.

Other smart eyewear uses wearable virtual display technology to project information such as data, navigation and images in or adjacent to the field of vision; by providing additional facts, figures and guidance about work subjects and environments, this augmented reality can increase efficiency and also inspire new ideas and perspectives (an essential element in creative positions especially). Advancements in virtual reality headset technology have allowed video game developers to provide new immersion capabilities to eager “gamers” (as well as frequent business travelers looking for portable airplane entertainment).

There is no “one-size-fits-all” job, and the fitting approach should be informed less by the manufacturer’s lens design and average use-case scenario, more by the ECP’s understanding of how a variety of traditional and newer options could potentially suit the patient’s individual needs. A flip-up clip-on providing more add power could be the right solution for an electrologist; inverting the power windows of a bifocal, or employing other older lens designs such as a Double D or Ben Franklin bifocal, can be solutions for other tasks.

A single-vision lens with AR could suffice for a younger patient without a complicated Rx; even stock magnifying readers with lights can work best in some situations. Regarding frame selection, steering the patient toward one with adjustable nosepads will allow for a better margin of error when fitting the patient.

For heavy screen users in any industry, the ECP’s goal is to provide the patient with reduced blurriness and glare, and sharper focus when working for prolonged periods at intermediate and near distances in front of a blue light-emitting screen. Long prescribed to decrease reflection from overhead light, thus improving acuity and contrast, anti-reflective lenses can and should be combined with blue defense technology to selectively absorb harmful blue light. Patients who don’t require vision correction can benefit from plano blue defense lenses to prevent strain and blurring (and worse—a growing number of research studies strongly suggest that the cumulative effect of exposure to HEV blue light over time contributes to retinal damage). In this case, prescribing from the chair can be effective, with the OD’s explanation of blue light’s short and potential long-term effects on the eye preceding the recommendation of a lens that will mitigate its effects.

ECPs should also stand ready to recommend ergonomic supports, adjustments, desk reorganization and behavior modifications such as the 20-20-20 Rule and increasing what is usually a reduced blink rate. For presbyopes, the normal age-related loss of near focusing ability can exacerbate digital eye strain symptoms, since the eyes struggle more to adjust between the screen and the keyboard.

Technological advances are changing the nature of even the most basic personal tasks, as well as those in the workplace. Digital content creation and editing are skyrocketing, as developers continue to build endless platforms to aggregate and distribute it, and for the last two-plus decades, computer-based activity has been steadily replacing other work methods (and workers). Even if a patient’s job is not yet digital-heavy, ECPs must 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 should now be a top-of-mind consideration both in general and as dispensers look to make the daily grind—which often takes up the majority waking hours of the day—more comfortable and productive via proper eyewear. ■