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Increased Screen Time = Increased Eyestrain

February 17, 2016, by HR à la carte | Work Environment and Policies

We all love our gadgets.  How many screens do we look at a day and for how long?  No matter where one turns, the vast majority of us are staring at screens of all sizes; iPhones, smartphones, iPads, tablets, computer screens, TV screens.  This really hit home while away on vacation.  It was the first time I really noticed the change in our behaviour.   A holiday at an all-inclusive resort is a chance to get away from it all.  Yet so many people were still plugged in to the devices they just couldn’t part with for the brief time they were away.  I saw them on the beach, at the poolside, at the buffets and even in the sit-down restaurants. 

The same scenario plays out at work.  More and more of us are sitting behind screens for the majority of our day.  And this is taking a toll on our eye sight.  It’s called digital eyestrain, which The Vision Council describes as “the physical discomfort felt after prolonged exposure to digital screen and is associated with the close to mid-range distance of digital screens , including desktop and laptop computers, tablets, e-readers and cell phones.”

Some of the symptoms of digital eye strain according to the Vision Council include “dry, irritated, eyes, blurred vision, eye fatigue, neck and back pain and headaches.”

How can you prevent digital eyestrain?  An article in HR Professional Magazine outlines the following ideas for employers to help protect employees’ eyesight:

  • Encourage people to get up and walk around

  • Talk to people instead of sending emails

  • Try to accomplish tasks face-to-face during meetings rather than on a projector screen

  • Follow the 20/20/20 rule – after every 20 minutes, take a break for 20 seconds and look at objects that are 20 feet away

There are also some very helpful apps that can help employees manage their own screen activity and decrease the occurrence of digital eye strain.  LifeHack outlines 8 apps that help in this regard.  I have tried the following two: 

F.lux is a free download that monitors the time of day for your laptop or desktop and adjusts the screen colours and brightness accordingly to decrease the amount of blue light being emitted. 

Protect Your Vision (PYV) is a free on-line application that you can start every time you use your computer.  There are various settings you can use, such as 20/20/20 or 60-5 (for every hour on the computer you take a 5 minute break).  It also outlines “eye gymnastics” you can follow along with to help decrease symptoms of digital eyestrain. 

So far I am finding both of these apps to be helpful.  You don’t realize how quickly 20 mins goes by on the computer.  At first I found the reminder from PYV annoying, but now I just take it in stride, take the break and resume my activity.  I know my eyes are thanking me for it!

What tips have you found helpful in decreasing digital eyestrain at work?

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