Now more than ever, the Canadian workforce sits in front of computers. NewsWire.ca shows us that the average Canadian spends 11 hours per day in front of a screen, which causes concern amongst healthcare professionals who understand the dangers of sitting for too long. As a result, we’ve seen a rise in standing desks and other ergonomic office furniture. Now it’s time to focus on the additional danger from working at a computer all day, protecting our eyes.
Symptoms Shared by Office Workers.
We know approximately 20% to 25% of Canadians suffer from dry eye, a condition that is directly linked to excessive screen time. Other common symptoms from working in an office include:
- Blurred vision
- Eye pain
- Gritty Eye
- Itchy eyes
- Light Sensitivity
- Neck and shoulder pain.
Essentially, more time spent in an office or in front of the screen compounds these symptoms. That’s why caring for your eyes while working in an office; not only is the number of office workers constantly increasing, but these symptoms will increase and worsen as well.
Start by Improving the Lighting.
Whenever possible, opt for natural light. Sunshine through the windows is not as harsh as overhead lights, so the eyes are immediately grateful. In addition, you’ll probably find your productivity and mood are improved when working in natural light. Many also hypothesize that sunlight boosts creativity (though this perk hasn’t been scientifically proven yet, it’s nice to think of as a bit of a bonus).
If there aren’t windows, your next best choice is soft white LEDs. Some offices have started the switch from traditional overhead fluorescent lights, which are better for the worker and help reduce utility bills. However, fluorescent lighting isn’t ideal because the light produces an electric current that energizes a mercury vapour inside the light. This causes the light to pulse or flicker on and off very quickly. It can be challenging to notice consciously, especially in newer fluorescents, but that flickering still negatively affects us, even if we don’t notice it. After a full day of sitting under fluorescents, most people feel eye strain and migraines.
Upgrade Your Tech.
We don’t see the old cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors too often these days. If you’re sitting in front of one now, though, it’s time for an update. When shopping for a new monitor, look for a display with a dot pitch of .28 mm or less. The smaller, the better, as it allows for sharper images, creating less strain.
Regardless of the type of monitor you’re using, it’s likely you need to reduce the brightness. Many models are set at 100% brightness, which in most scenarios is too bright. Instead, try lowering it to 80% and experiment from there to find the ideal level. It’s also become trendy to switch your computer into “dark mode,” which often reverses the colour scheme of your computer and is easier on the eyes.
Your Eyes Need Rest and Exercise.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that when your eyes are tired, they’re less able to focus. This can wear your eyes out even earlier. That’s why, for many people, the quality and quantity of their work diminishes by the end of the day. Small fonts become challenging to read. We make more mistakes and usually feel the strain and pain discussed earlier. Fortunately, it’s very easy to exercise your eyes, and doing so can make a significant difference.
Take a mini-break as soon as you feel your eyes getting sore, dry, or tired. Look away from the screen at a distant object. This lets the eye relax. We recommend the 20-20-20 rule to make it easier. Every 20 minutes, you’ll want to look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. If you find it’s easy to forget this rule, set a timer on your phone or desktop. This will help you get used to it. Once you start recognizing the improvements at the end of the day, it’ll become easier and easier to remember.
Blinking can also improve how your eyes feel at the end of the day. Many of us forget to blink while we’re working or watching TV. It might sound weird since blinking is a natural biological function. Still, studies have shown we blink about 60% less than usual when we’re in front of a screen. Blinking helps create moisture, preventing irritation and providing us extra relief.
Still Experiencing Eye Strain?
Itchy, dry, and tired eyes are so typical for office workers. If you’re making changes to improve your routine but still feeling strain and discomfort, your next step is to book an eye exam. Your optometrist can ensure the pain or tiredness you’re experiencing isn’t caused by something else and then help you build a strategy to help manage and prevent eye pain.