Set up for success: how to avoid eye strain while working from home

Apr 13, 2020

You may have already noticed the need for a spine-friendly seat in your home office, especially after a long day of working slouched on the couch or hunched over a makeshift desk on the kitchen bench.

But a proper work setup isn’t just to benefit your back – it’s also for your eyes.

Eye strain is common in office workers and students – anyone who spends 8+ hours a day looking at a screen is bound to feel it sometimes – and with shifting to a work from home setup, this common problem can be exacerbated by poor lighting and bad desk setups.

With the current lockdown and possible extension increasing the number of people working and studying from home, we want to help you set up for success and take care of your eyes.

What you need to know about eye strain

If you’ve ever felt headachey after a long day in the office, or a stinging in your eyes at the end of an intensive day on the computer, you’ve experienced eye strain.

Digital eye strain is caused by spending long hours looking at a computer screen, or spending extensive periods of time under harsh fluorescent lighting. It’s exhausting for our eyes to focus on a screen for so long, which is why many of the symptoms present as tiredness.

Eye strain symptoms can include sensations in the eyes, head and neck, such as:

1. Eye fatigue

2. Headaches

3. Neck pain

4. Sensitivity to light

5. Dry or red eyes

6. Burning or stinging in the eyes

7. Difficulting focussing your vision

While eye strain will pass in time, it can be an unpleasant and uncomfortable sensation, especially if it returns on a daily basis. There are some simple steps to take to reduce your risk of digital eye strain at home, that can make all the difference with minimal work.

Remember to check on your children and teenager’s study stations to ensure they’re set up for comfortable learning.

Setting up your workstation

When setting up your workstation for peak productivity and comfort, there are three key things to consider: your desk height, your lighting, and your display settings.

1. Make sure your desk and chair height are right

When you’re setting up your new ergonomic workstation at home, you want to be aware of keeping your spine aligned and shoulders relaxed: this not only cares for your neck and head but also helps to keep your eyes happy.

When your computer monitor is at the right height for your neck, your eyes should be level with the top of the screen. This allows your eye muscles to rest while you look straight at your work, without tiring them looking up, down, or the side to view your work all day.

You also want to make sure your screen is a good distance from your eyes, ideally around 50-60cm away, which will help you to focus more easily on the screen.

2. Check your lighting

Too much or too little lighting, or even poorly positioned lighting, can also add to eye strain.

Try to avoid working directly under a bright overhead light, or next to the glare of a window or reflective wall. Aim for a softly lit environment, without harsh lights (natural or electric), even if this means closing your blinds for the working day.

Your computer screen should be the same brightness as your ambient environment, so when it starts to get darker in the evening make sure you’re turning on some lights to support your eyes, and not leaving the screen as a beacon in the dark room.

The lights you use around your workspace work best if positioned to the side, indirectly lighting your desk. If you’re working off paper or books on your desk as well as looking at your screen, make sure these pages are well lit but angle the bulb away from your face and your computer, so it’s not overpowering.

3. Adjust your display settings

Within the control settings of your computer screen, you will be able to change the brightness, colour temperature and magnification.

The brightness of your screen should be balanced to match your environment, so it’s not too bright but not too dark to read your work. This brightness may change throughout the day, but will become most noticeable in the morning and evening.

Adjusting the colour temperature of your screen can reduce the blue light being emitted, that’s often cited as a key cause of eye strain. Reducing the colour temperature or using a built-in programme that increases the red and orange colours in your screen can help to soften the effects on your eyes of a long day at work.

Magnifying the text you’re reading is another simple tool to avoid straining your eyes, and also your neck (we’re all guilty of occasionally craning in too far to read that tiny text, and coming away with a sore neck).

Throughout the day

Once you’ve settled into your seat and adjusted your lighting and display settings, there are still a couple more things you can do throughout the day to reduce your risk of eye strain.

1. Take screen-free breaks

Give your eyes a rest! Try to avoid looking at your phone in your work breaks, and keep off the newsfeed and social media for a tension-relieving lunch break.

Follow the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes, pause for 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away. This allows your eyes to refocus and reset for a moment, and can prevent overuse and strain.

2. Blink more

It sounds simple, but blinking more frequently throughout the day can moisten your eyes and prevent dryness and irritation – keeping your eyes healthy and naturally soothed.

If you can’t make yourself blink more often (or keep forgetting), consider using eye drops during the day to do the work for you and keep your eyes moist. You can get these from your local pharmacy.

Take care of your eyes, and take care of yourself. We’ll see you soon.

Got questions about your eye health? Get in touch today.

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