Perhaps it’s unsurprising that National Sunglasses Day this month, on 27 June, is an American invention. But even if it has yet to catch on as “a thing” in Britain, there are important employee health and wellbeing and eye health messages contained within it that UK employers could do well to embrace and promote.
Employee health and wellbeing – promote eye health on National Sunglasses Day
National Sunglasses Day on 27 June is an initiative run by the Vision Council in the US to highlight the importance of wearing sunglasses to protect the eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.
While it may be a calendar marker that is, as yet, little known within the UK, the health and wellbeing messages it is promoting are just as valid, and valuable, to the UK workforce (even if does tend to be less sunny here) as to our counterparts in the US.
The campaign is based largely around social media activity but also encourages safe sun behaviour, in other words wearing sunglasses – even if the Vision Council argues this should be “throughout the year”, which is perhaps less relevant in the UK, given our climate.
Sun safe and eyecare messages
But the effective use of social media to get “sun safe” messages across is something UK employers could mimic at little cost, time or financial.
Important messages in this context include wearing sunglasses while working outdoors, wearing UV-protection glasses rather than cheaper equivalents and, for those who wear glasses, the value (especially in a safety critical environment) of investing in prescription sunglasses.
This, in turn, can all feed into wider employee health and wellbeing conversations and health promotion around eye heath and eye care, including the value of regular eye checks and benefit for employers of offering eyecare and dental (as they will often be combined) health and wellbeing benefit packages.
‘Window’ on to other health conditions
As Dr Lucy Wright, Optima Health Chief Medical Officer, explains: “The eyes can be an important ‘window’ on to or early warning system of other potential heath conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and even cancer. An eye test will often be an opportunity to kickstart wider health and wellbeing conversations.
“While the value of traditional display screen equipment assessment is perhaps becoming more limited in our the modern, increasingly screen based, workplace, the fact we do live on our screens so much at home and at work means it is even more important to be having regular eye checks.
“Having regular eye checks is also important for anyone working in a safety-critical role or a role that requires extensive driving.
“Regular testing is important because eyesight can deteriorate very gradually over time and you may not notice a chance, at least initially. But if you are having to strain more it may affect your work and productivity, especially if it causes mistakes, headaches, loss of concentration or even migraines.
“The cost of going to see you optician privately can often be a barrier to getting tested. This is another reason why employer-provided eyecare benefit packages can be good idea, as well as simply sending out a very strong ‘we’re looking after you’ employee health and wellbeing message,” Lucy says.