With many more people working from home and more meetings taking place online, rather than face to face, everyone needs to be aware of the risks to their eyesight from screen working. Long spells at computers are unlikely to cause permanent damage to your eyes if done for a limited amount of time, but can lead to discomfort from dry eyes, tired eyes, temporary short-sightedness, headaches and sometimes blurred vision. The UK Health and Safety Executive also require employers to do a workstation assessment and to provide information and training for employees using screens when working at home.
The best way to avoid any problems working at computer screens is to take small, frequent breaks away. Taking a 5 minute rest every hour is more beneficial than 20 minutes every couple of hours. Another way of taking a break is to switch tasks, for example by making phone calls. If there are no natural changes of activity, then short rest breaks should be planned and there is even break-monitoring computer software available to help if you need it. Blinking frequently helps if you are susceptible to dry eyes.
It’s important to pay attention to the size of the text you’re reading on your screen. Enlarge the text on your device and, if possible, work on a larger screen rather than a tablet or mobile phone to reduce eye strain. You may find that reducing the screen brightness settings helps by reducing glare. When you take a break, look out of the window, and focus on something in the distance.
Sometimes we place a laptop or screen too close to our eyes for comfort, ideally, they should be between 40 and 76cm apart.
Long periods of screen working can also cause insomnia, especially if we use screens in the evening. This is because the blue light generated by the screen interrupts our normal, healthy REM sleep patterns. You can reduce this risk by changing the settings on a phone or tablet to ‘night shift’ settings, which changes the screen to a more yellow hue.
Some people who use screens over extended periods of time can develop a permanent change in their eyesight as they can become near-sighted (or myopic). Research has been done which shows that people who work outdoors are less likely to develop myopia than those who work indoors in offices. Although it’s not always easy, parents should encourage children to be sensible about the time they spend on screens because they are less likely to realise for themselves that their eyesight is changing.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of discomfort or a change in your eyesight, it’s easy to arrange an appointment with the friendly and helpful opticians at Monnow Eyecare by phoning on 01600 715 299. If you require reading glasses for screen work, an eye test will identify the issue and ensure you can continue to work in comfort in future.