Combatting burnout with AI, the “Motherhood Penalty,” and How to Combat Digital Eye Strain for Employees

News Spotlight

Women pay the “motherhood penalty.” If it’s not already hard enough to juggle a child and a career, mothers see their pay decrease by an estimated 4% per child, compared to men who receive a 6% “fatherhood bonus” (Fast Company).

Phased retirement is the new endgame. With Baby Boomers about to age out of the workforce, companies are increasingly taking a phased approach to retirement, allowing older workers to reduce their workload while continuing to earn (Fortune).

Less work on Friday, a more productive workweek. More Americans are working remotely and signing off early on Fridays than ever before, helping employees recharge, avoid burnout, and increase productivity on other days (The Wall Street Journal).

Stat of the Week

A new study finds that 68% of people struggle with the volume and pace of their work while 48% of workers say they feel burned out. But with 3 in 4 employees using generative AI at work, the benefits are clear: 90% say it saves them time and 84% say it boosts creativity to focus on other work.

While many workers fear that generative AI could replace their jobs, many are also finding key ways that the new technology can help them be more innovative, creative, and productive in their work. And with employers increasingly expecting employees to have these skills, workers must keep up with the rising trend.

Deep Dive Article

4 Ways Companies Can Help Workers Combat Digital Eye Strain

In today’s digital workplace, people are on their screens more than ever before. Between computers, tablets, phones, and TVs, many of us are bombarded for hours each day, whether at work or at home. Workplace leaders have the opportunity to help their employees navigate the new realities of our increasingly web-based world — in particular, helping them reduce the impacts of prolonged screen time.

A new study from VSP Vision Care and my company, Workplace Intelligence, found that today’s workforce is increasingly struggling to manage screen time. On average, employees are spending more than 96 hours on their screens every week, estimating that work accounts for about one-third of that time. Altogether, this translates to 4 full days of screen time each week, or 208 days per year, a staggering number that reflects how important screens have become to our daily functioning.

The rise of remote work has been a major driver of this trend. Fully remote and hybrid employees report they spend more than 7 hours on screens while working, compared to just 5.5 hours for on-site workers. While hybrid and remote work offer greater flexibility and work-life balance, these employees tend to rely more on video calls and other forms of web-based communication, resulting in more time spent in front of their computers than their on-site counterparts.

Hybrid workers especially seem to be struggling with the work-life boundary. An alarming 78% of hybrid workers say their companies expect them to put in longer hours — compared to 58% of remote and 66% of on-site workers who say the same. Half of hybrid workers (50%) also report they’re likely to work while on vacation, signaling that for these employees, it’s especially challenging to be “off the clock.”

In addition to hybrid workers, younger employees are also much more likely to work longer hours, including 82% of Gen Z and 78% of Millennial workers. Most concerning is that 54% of Gen Z employees report that working longer hours has worsened their eye health, underscoring the importance of promoting better work-life balance for those entering the workforce.

Digging deeper, employees also emphasized the negative impacts of deteriorating eye health. Overall, 50% shared they’re struggling with at least one eye issue, with the top three issues — blurred vision, eye strain, and dry/itchy eyes — all potential results of excessive screen time. Workers say their eye issues have negatively affected their productivity in the workplace (63%), their ability to focus (55%), their mental health (42%), and the quality of their work (40%). These impacts are not only bad for workers; they can also hurt a company’s bottom line.

The good news is most employers recognize the importance of setting boundaries that help mitigate eye strain. About half of HR leaders (52%) share that their companies prohibit replying to emails after office hours or on weekends and 69% say their companies require workers to use their vacation time. However, only 2 in 3 HR leaders report that their companies currently offer vision benefits, while 9 in 10 employees want their companies to do so. Although employers may not yet be meeting employees’ expectations on this front, 30% of leaders say their companies will add vision benefits within the next year, suggesting eye health is increasingly important to employers and employees alike.

The digital workplace isn’t going anywhere. And as technological advancements in AI and communications continue to accelerate, the eye health of the workforce will be increasingly at risk. What can employers do to help employees reduce eye strain while keeping up in today’s digital age? In today’s article, I’ll explore 4 ways that leaders can help employees reduce the impacts of excessive screen time, backed by the findings from my company’s latest research with VSP Vision Care.

1. Encourage breaks.

One of the most important steps that employees can take to help manage their eye strain is taking regular breaks. Encourage employees to follow the 20-20-20 rule, which recommends that for every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, you should take a 20-second break and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away.

HR leaders can incorporate these guidelines into onboarding sessions for new employees, helping them prioritize this practice from day 1. Companies can also institute 20-20-20 reminder systems, such as desktop notifications or scheduling software, and provide screen-free spaces where employees can take longer breaks.

2. Normalize offline and phone meetings.

In the post-pandemic workplace, video conferencing — using software like Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams — has become a default meeting format. And while video calls allow workers to connect outside the office, they also lead to fatigue that not only worsens eye strain but affects mental and heart health as well.

Instead of relying solely on video conferencing, encourage your on-site team members to hold meetings in person when possible, setting up phone conferencing for those out of the office. This can help reduce the amount of time employees spend on screens overall and mitigate the uniquely taxing effects of virtual meetings.

3. Promote better work-life balance.

As we learned in our study, today’s workers — especially hybrid and Gen Z employees — are struggling to find work-life balance. For the 69% of employees saying they’ve worked longer hours over the past year, the impacts of excessive screen time on eye health are almost unavoidable.

Establish clear expectations for your workers and make sure their workloads are realistic and manageable. For hybrid workers especially, it’s crucial to check in regularly to discuss workload, progress, and any challenges they might be having when completing their work. For Gen Z workers, who are new to the workforce, be sure to lead by example, demonstrating healthy work habits and respecting work-life boundaries.

4. Provide vision benefits.

In addition to the above steps, vision benefits can also help employees reduce the impacts of screen time. According to our survey, employees agree that regular vision care can improve overall health (98%) and increase productivity (86%), but just 55% reported that they get an annual eye exam.

By ensuring your employees have access to regular eye exams and proper prescription eyewear (including blue light filtering lenses), you can help them integrate vision care into their regular health screenings. Provide educational resources for your employees about the benefits of eye exams —such as their ability to detect signs of over 270 health conditions — and offer the coverage they need to address their eye health and the impacts of digital eye strain.

Addressing digital eye strain begins with balance.

In order to help employees meaningfully and consistently address digital eye strain, HR leaders should consider the unique needs of their workforce. Check in with your workers about the ways that too much screen time might be affecting them and find out what’s keeping them from managing this issue. Hybrid workers and younger employees are more likely to work longer hours, struggle with work-life balance, and shoulder heavy workloads, making them more vulnerable to eye health impacts.

All employees will benefit when workplace leaders take the above steps, particularly as we continue to build a world of technological innovation and reliance. In addressing the key factors that lead to excessive screen time, HR leaders can set their employees up for better health overall — and set their companies up to thrive.

Thanks for reading — be sure to join the conversation on LinkedIn, and download the report to see the complete findings from my company’s latest research with VSP Vision Care.

Thanks for reading — be sure to join the conversation on LinkedIn and let me know your thoughts on this topic.

Welcome to our newsletter!

Check out the previous issues of the Workplace Intelligence Insider newsletter below and subscribe now to get new articles every Monday.

Read more from Welcome to our newsletter!

News Spotlight Wage insurance could protect workers in job transition. Wage insurance can be the answer to major economic shifts because it protects workers who lose their jobs or switch careers from substantial earning losses for several years until they can bounce back (Marketplace Radio). Hybrid working has resulted in a “coordination tax”. With employees switching from home to an office, there are mismatched schedules and too many communication tools that make it harder for them to get in...

News Spotlight Women could be the biggest AI victims. Multiple studies suggest that jobs held by women are more likely to be disrupted by advancements in AI (Fast Company). The disappearing diversity goals. Companies are changing how they report diversity initiatives as DEI programs have come under legal and political threat (Wall Street Journal). Climate change is impacting workers' mental health. Health conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory illnesses, and mental health...

News Spotlight The cost-benefit of WFH for women. New research finds that WFH impacts women differently depending on where they are in their careers — boosting output for senior workers but impairing training for junior workers (Harvard Business Review). Hybrid hot desking declines. While hot desking — where workers choose desks on arrival — took off during the pandemic, many firms are returning to permanent desks to help workers feel more comfortable and in control (Bloomberg). Workers turn...