With social distancing and lockdown restrictions limiting our ability to connect and physically interact, daily screen time has seen a jump in the past year and a half. If you have experienced eye strain, headaches, dry eyes and fatigue more frequently in the past year, you’re not alone. According to a 2018 study of 2000 office workers, 37% attributed a headache to excessive screen time and this figure has only increased in the pandemic.
That said, there is so much we can do to avoid eye-related ailments by making simple tweaks in how we work. This article discusses visual ergonomics in detail and outlines a few techniques to follow if you need relief from too much screen time.
What is Visual Ergonomics?
Visual ergonomics or computer ergonomics is a multidisciplinary science that deals with understanding the interactions between humans and elements of the visual environment. It also addresses ways to optimise workstations to reduce eye strain and other vision-related ailments.
How can I ensure better visual ergonomics while working from home?
There are numerous factors to be considered while setting up a workstation to promote visual health, and they all take less than 5 minutes to set up.
🔆 Minimise glare
A problem commonly faced by office workers, glare occurs when there is a significant difference between an object and its background. In simple terms, glare is the reflection of light from a source like sunlight or a lamp that makes it hard for you to see your computer screen. You can minimise glare from phones and computers by adjusting your environmental lighting and increasing the contrast on your monitor. You can also opt for anti-glare screen filters to minimise reflections. In addition, experts also suggest setting up your screen background to be light green instead of the pre-programmed blue.
👁 Take eye breaks
Once you have adjusted the lighting, the next best thing for your eyes and overall health is taking an eye break. An eye break or a visual break is simply looking away from your screen to allow the ciliary muscles to relax and the eyes to rehydrate. Taking an eye break is easy to do and is highly effective against eye strain. A tip that we love is the 20-20-20 technique. This technique involves taking a break every 20 minutes to look at an object 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This allows your eyes to relax and acts as a much-needed mini-break for your mind.
🖥 Check the positioning of your screen
Contrary to what most people believe, our eyes have to work a lot harder to see something close up than far away. Therefore, the best practice to follow is to place your monitor an arm’s length away from you, aligning the top line of text to eye level. If you work with dual monitors, position them slightly farther than arm’s length to increase your field of view. You may need to adjust the font size a bit, but it is completely fine to do so. If your line of work involves you working with documents, use a document holder and place it at the same height and distance as your computer screen.
💧 Stay hydrated
Did you know that our blink rate naturally plummets when we look at a screen or read small font on a sheet of paper? Blinking less frequently makes our eyes more susceptible to drying out, therefore it is important to keep a glass of water close by while working. Keeping yourself hydrated is beneficial for your eye health and acts as a nudge to get away from your desk more frequently.
You can also use a humidifier in your home during the fall and winter to keep the air moist. If you find your eyes getting too dry, it is best to consult your doctor.
📵 Limit blue light before bed
Lighting should contribute to our circadian rhythm and improve the quality of our sleep. However, research has found that the blue light emitted from our devices reduces melatonin, a hormone that makes us feel drowsy. While this is great for daytime, being exposed to blue light in the evening can trick our brain into thinking it’s still daytime, disrupting circadian rhythms and leaving us feeling alert instead of tired.
A great routine to follow is to restrict the use of phones, tablets and other gadgets to an hour before bed. In case this isn’t possible, try using night mode on your devices to alleviate eye strain.
Have more questions? Here’s how we can help you.
Our partners, Spectrum Optimise, are Ireland’s leading ergonomics experts that have a team of physiotherapists and experts that will assess your workplace for you and give you some solid advice on how to work comfortably and get your office ergonomics right. Book an appointment here.
If you still have any more questions, we would love to hear from you.