In a time where many adults are working from home and children are attending school online, our dependence on digital screens has increased. When staring at a screen day after day without any breaks, it’s easy to have tired, dry eyes, leaving your employees unengaged and unmotivated. Routine activities like commuting to and from work, chatting with coworkers, and going out for lunch have been replaced with more screen time and an inability to turn off for the day. In this new reality, it’s never been easier to spend 11+ hours a day with our eyes connected to screens. As an employer, it’s important to understand how extra screen time affects the eye health of your employees before providing suggestions on how they can protect themselves.
How does screen time affect eyes and vision?
Excessive screen time can lead to a combination of symptoms collectively termed digital eye strain, which is caused primarily by two things – close proximity to screens and the length of time spent on them. Digital eye strain sufferers may experience achy, tired eyes, dryness, burning, intermittent blurry vision, and neck and shoulder pain. Glare from computer screens and decreased contrast of print can aggravate the strain on our eyes and makes uncorrected vision problems, like astigmatism, worse. Other factors like poor lighting conditions, poor posture, and improper viewing distance can intensify symptoms. Many workers also tend to blink less when focusing on screens, which causes tears to evaporate quicker, leading to dryness, burning, tearing, and a tendency to close or rub the eyes.
Another problem is the blue light emitted by digital devices, as it boosts alertness which can disrupt a worker’s circadian rhythm and make it harder to fall asleep. Blue light glasses may provide some relief if worn before bed, but there isn’t much evidence to support the use of these glasses. However, employers can recommend the following strategies to employees to reduce eye strain and enhance eye health.
How to Protect Yourself
- Schedule an eye exam – An exam with an optometrist is the best way to find out if our eyes are being affected by digital eyestrain and if a spectacle prescription can help, such as anti-glare or computer glasses to reduce strain and improve visual clarity. Optometrists can also evaluate the extent of dry eyes and recommend the best management, such as moisturizing drops.
- 20-20-20 rule – Every 20 minutes look 20 feet away for 20 seconds to relieve the focusing power of the eyes.
- Increase blink rate – Blinking more often helps lubricate the eyes to alleviate dryness and burning. Remove any blowing air, such as fans or heaters, from workspaces to prevent further drying out the eyes.
- Limit digital devices before bed – Stay off digital devices one to two hours before bed and use the dark mode function if available. This reduces the amount of blue light transmitted to the eyes to help get a restful night of sleep.
- Use good ergonomics – Place monitors an arms-length away and use an appropriate chair with feet comfortably resting on the ground.
- Take breaks – Don’t forget to take some time away from the computer! Spend a few minutes stepping away from work, similar to a water cooler break but in your kitchen or outside.
Working from home keeps everyone safe, but it can have unintended health and wellness consequences if employees aren’t aware of them. To help your employees protect their eyes, encourage them to use the tips above, stay off screens after work, and disconnect from the digital world, giving their eyes a much-deserved break.
Since 1982, Premise Health has been operating vision centers that integrate into organizations’ onsite and nearsite healthcare programs. Our vision program can identify eye problems and offer immediate care in the event of a worksite injury. From glasses and contacts to safety lens fittings, we emphasize the importance of taking care of your eyes. If our vision program sounds like a good fit for you, get in touch with us here.