Do You Have the Right Eyeglasses for Your Job?

Spoiler alert: Probably not! Depending on your work and your vision needs, one pair of glasses likely won’t cut it in the real world.

man working in fabric warehouse

You wouldn’t wear a suit to a barbecue. You wouldn’t wear oxfords to a pickup basketball game. So why do you own only one pair of glasses again?

“Your eyeglasses should match your lifestyle and what types of activities you do,” says Stephanie Zielenkievicz, an optician and manager of retail operations at America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses.

For example, she says, the person who sits at a desk all day will need a different pair of glasses than the person who spends most of their time driving a car or someone who works at a restaurant.

In fact, wearing the wrong glasses at work can result in serious eye problems. Every day, an estimated 2,000 workers in the United States require medical aid for eye injuries sustained on the job, many of which occur in construction and manufacturing occupations, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Nor are their desk-bound counterparts immune from injury, either. A 2018 study in the journal BMJ Open Ophthalmologynoted that an estimated 50% of people experience digital eyestrain (also known as computer vision syndrome) from using their computer, tablet, and cell phones. The symptoms range from eyestrain and headaches to dry eyes and blurry vision.

Just as there’s no one-size-fits all prescription, there’s no one-type-fits-all pair of eyeglasses. Here’s how to select the best specs for your job.

If You Work at a Computer
Try: Anti-reflective coatings and computer lenses

The average employee in the United States spends about 7 hours a day in front of a computer, according to the AOA. Problem is, if the light from your computer is too bright, your eyes will have to work overtime to see the screen, which is a major cause of eyestrain, according to the AOA.

Plus, signs of digital eyestrain tend to set in after just 2 hours of nonstop computer use, according to optometrist Mollie Veteto, O.D., who is with Nashville Regional Eye Care inside America’s Best.

A possible solution: Ask your optometrist or optician about anti-reflective coatings for your lenses, which minimize the glare from the light, says Zielenkievicz. The America’s Best NeverGlare Advantage anti-reflective coating costs $55 for one pair or $75 for two pairs.

Squinting at the monitor or sitting hunched over the screen can also tax your eyes, triggering fatigue, neck pain, or headaches.

The rule: Always position your screen about arm’s length away from your face, and so that your gaze angles slightly downward—if you’re struggling to read the screen, you may need to adjust your prescription.

“Once someone reaches the age of 40, they typically need to add some power to their lenses in the form of a multifocal or a progressive,” says Zielenkievicz.

A bifocal lens is divided in half; the upper area is typically a distance prescription, while the lower area is a reading (or near) one. Similarly, a progressive lens has both a distance and reading (or near) area, but they blend together with an area for intermediate (or arm’s length) in the middle.

“America’s Best offers a computer lens that works similarly to a progressive,” says Zielenkievicz. In a computer lens, the top of the lens is for intermediate vision or computer-distance work, about arm’s length, and the bottom of the lens is for reading or near. Since there is less of a change in prescription in a computer lens compared to a progressive (that goes from distance to intermediate to near) that allows the visual corridor to be wider, and more comfortable in a computer lens, than in a traditional progressive.

“It’s a nice option for people who are at a computer all day because it’s going to give them a bigger area and a more comfortable lens to use,” she says.

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If You Work in a Physical Environment
Try: Prescription safety glasses or polycarbonate lenses

Construction workers, manufacturers, and welders are just a few groups of people who are at risk for eye injuries, which can arise from flying glass or metal or even chemicals in the air, according to the AOA.

“Depending on what type of work people are doing, we sell safety glasses that are OSHA-approved,” says Zielenkievicz. (OSHA stands for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.) The key is to make sure you let your eye doctor and optician know about your work!

If your job takes you outdoors, you might also want to opt for polycarbonate lenses, which are impact resistant and can help protect your eyes, she says. As for the frames, choose ones with spring hinges, which are made of more flexible material that’s less likely to break than rigid hinges.

“That way if your glasses get bumped around, they’ll hold up better,” she says.

Other considerations: Look for frames made of lightweight material, like a titanium frame: “It’s a really lightweight, hypoallergenic metal, so the glasses will be comfortable and they won’t slide down as much,” she says.

If Your Job Requires Precision
Try: Single-vision lenses

If you do up-close work for long periods of time—say, you’re a seamstress, a model builder, or an electrician—you might want to swap your multifocals for a single-vision lens with just a nearsighted prescription.

“If you have the whole lens, your eyes will have more of a chance to relax,” Zielenkievicz explains, “whereas with a multifocal or progressive, you’ll have to crane your neck to find that sweet spot to focus up close.”

If You’re Always on the Road
Try: Polarized sunglasses or Transitions Drivewear® lenses

A nice pair of sunglasses is a must—ideally, ones with polarized lenses, says Zielenkievicz. “Polarized sunglasses work by blocking the horizontally reflected glare, so they’re really nice for driving,” she says.

“America’s Best also offers the Transitions Drivewear® lens,” she says. “I describe it as a ‘smart sunglass’ because it’s polarized and it has Transitions® technology in it.”

Transitions® lenses are photochromic, which means they automatically darken when they’re exposed to light, so they block out the glare from the sun and harmful UV rays.

“When you are out in direct sunlight, the lenses get this really nice, dark copper color, which helps block out the blue light and the glare from the sky and the sun,” she says. And when you go inside, the lenses will take on a yellow or greenish color in low light.

“That’s really nice on overcast days because it helps to highlight contrast,” she says.

If You Split Your Time in Front of a Computer and Real People
Try: Progressive lenses

Chances are you’ll need lenses that have both distance and reading (or near) prescriptions. For example, you need a near prescription for reading and a distance prescription for giving a PowerPoint presentation. But you don’t have to choose the classic pair of bifocals with the telltale horizontal line across the lenses.

In fact, the vast majority of people today are opting for progressive lenses over bifocals, says Zielenkievicz. Nor is it all about looks—progressive lenses are better able to mimic the natural focusing ability of our eyes, she explains.

“With a bifocal, you just have those two fields of vision—the distance at the top and the up-close at the bottom,” she says. “As soon as your eye passes over that line, you experience an image jump, where everything is magnified.

“The nice thing about a progressive,” she continues, “is that it’s going to work as close as possible to the way your eyes used to perform before you needed help seeing at different distances. There isn’t this harsh jump between the prescriptions. It’s a smooth progression.”