Background: The aim of this project is to examine the potential connection between the astigmatic refractive corrections of subjects using computers and their productivity and comfort. We hypothesize that improving the visual status of subjects using computers results in greater productivity, as well as improved visual comfort.
Methods: Inclusion criteria required subjects 19 to 30 years of age with complete vision examinations before being enrolled. Using a double-masked, placebo-controlled, randomized design, subjects completed three experimental tasks calculated to assess the effects of refractive error on productivity (time to completion and the number of errors) at a computer. The tasks resembled those commonly undertaken by computer users and involved visual search tasks of: (1) counties and populations; (2) nonsense word search; and (3) a modified text-editing task.
Results: Estimates of productivity for time to completion varied from a minimum of 2.5% upwards to 28.7% with 2 D cylinder miscorrection. Assuming a conservative estimate of an overall 2.5% increase in productivity with appropriate astigmatic refractive correction, our data suggest a favorable cost-benefit ratio of at least 2.3 for the visual correction of an employee (total cost 268 dollars) with a salary of 25,000 dollars per year.
Conclusions: We conclude that astigmatic refractive error affected both productivity and visual comfort under the conditions of this experiment. These data also suggest a favorable cost-benefit ratio for employers who provide computer-specific eyewear to their employees.