An unfortunate reality in our tech-heavy world is that using computers and other devices with screens can cause eye strain. The average American spends about 10 hours a day looking at a screen, and while this figure includes the use of smartphones and TV, many of us are working long hours on a computer screen. And that computer use is causing eye strain. The good news is that eye strain is most often not a real problem, and any discomfort is easy to reverse with things like good ergonomics and workstation adjustments. Do you want to support your employees eyes while using a computer? Please keep reading for more on what eye strain is, its symptoms, its causes, and how to prevent and reduce it in the workplace.
What is Eye Strain?
Like any part of the body, the eyes can get tired after long periods of intense use. Using a computer requires your eyes to focus closely on a screen, and even without adverse conditions like poor lighting or glare, doing that for hours can make your eyes tired. Eye strain is comparable to doing a long workout and having tired muscles.
Symptoms of Eye Strain
- Eyes that feel tired
- Dry eyes
- Watery eyes
- Pain in the neck, shoulders, or back
- Greater sensitivity to light
- Having a hard time concentrating
- Eyes that want to close
How to Prevent Eye Strain
Preventing eye strain often involves looking at your environment and creating one that makes computer work as easy on your eyes as possible.
- See the eye doctor.
A comprehensive eye exam will check your eyes and rule out any eye health conditions. You can measure the distance between your eyes and the computer screen and ask your eye doctor to test how your eyes work at that distance.
- Use optimal lighting.
Poor lighting can cause your eyes to overwork. Frequent culprits are glaring window light, excessively bright or dim overhead lighting, and fluorescent lights. Use blinds or curtains for window glare, turn off too bright overhead lights, and use lamps at your workstation to create optimal lighting.
- Eliminate or reduce glare.
Consider an anti-glare screen if you can’t eliminate the glaring light source. Or, if you use glasses, you can get lenses with an anti-reflective coating. If you have a lot of control over your workspace, such as in a home office, consider painting with a darker color and a matte finish.
- Use a better screen.
Flat panel LED screens, especially with an anti-reflective surface, are much easier on your eyes than the older CRT monitors. CRT monitors can flicker, which can cause a lot of strain on your eyes. Even if it’s not noticeable, your eyes are still working to track it. If you have to use a CRT monitor, change the display settings to use the highest refresh rate. Or, if you’re choosing a flat panel screen, choose one with a high resolution.
- Calibrate your screen settings.
Finding the correct brightness, text size, contrast, and color temperature on your computer screen can help your eyes work less. Adjust the following settings on your computer screen to help prevent eye strain.
- Your screen’s brightness should be about the same as your surrounding lighting. Look at the white background of a web page or document. If the white seems bright and emits light, it’s too bright. If the white seems gray or dark, then it’s too dim.
- When reading, writing, or editing large documents, use your comfort level to guide adjusting text size and contrast. Usually, black text on a white background is the easiest to read.
- Adjust the color temperature so that your screen uses less blue light. Blue light from screens can cause eye strain.
How to Reduce Eye Strain
- Blink frequently.
Remember to blink more often. This allows your eye’s natural lubrication mechanism to keep your eyes moist and to see clearly. If you’re dealing with dry eyes from a computer screen, try blinking slowly ten times in a row every 20 minutes. This will allow your eyes to be thoroughly wetted.
- Do eye exercises.
A good rule of thumb for eye health and computers is the 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away from you. This allows the muscle that contracts to focus your eyes a chance to relax, which helps your eyes save energy.
Another helpful exercise for your eyes is to look somewhere far away for 10-15 seconds and then look at something close to you for 10-15 seconds. Bounce back between looking far away and close up for ten cycles. This helps your eyes’ focusing muscles to release.
- Take breaks often.
Take a 5-10 minute break from your screen every hour or so to close your eyes, stretch and walk around. This will support your posture and give your eyes a break. During these breaks, stretch out your arms, legs, neck, back, and shoulders.
- Adjust your workstation.
Basic ergonomic principles ask us to make work as easy as possible on the body. One way that your workstation could be causing you eye strain is if you are constantly looking down at printed documents and then back up to a screen. Use a stand so that your papers are next to your screen. Adjust your workstation so you can have proper posture, with your computer screen 20-24 inches from your eyes.
- Use computer glasses.
If you’re a contact lens wearer, you might be more comfortable wearing glasses for computer work. Contact lenses can dry out with prolonged screen use, which is uncomfortable. Computer glasses have special lenses that make working on a computer easier on your eyes. Computer glasses are a good choice if you have bifocal or progressive lenses.