With the average adult clocking in at almost 11 hours a day consuming media, it’s no surprise that the majority of that time includes looking at a screen. It usually begins first thing in the morning, when you roll over to reach for your smartphone on your nightstand. While eating breakfast, you turn on the television to catch up on the news. Work includes you sitting in front of a computer or monitor for the most part, with an occasional video conference call thrown in there. Once home, you use your smartwatch to monitor your workout. After a long day, you lay in bed reading some chapters from your E-reader. And there you have it—a full day spent looking at screens.
While this pattern is so natural for most of us, it has wildly unnatural effects on our health. Two-thirds of American adults experience symptoms from too much screen time, and some suffer to the extreme when their pains become a diagnosis—Computer Vision Syndrome, or Digital Eye Strain. According to the American Optometric Association, the most common symptoms include eye strain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck and shoulder pain. These can be caused by many factors impacting you while working on a screen, from the lighting in your office to the glare of your computer or even an improper viewing distance between your eyes and the screen. If none of these are the case, it could simply be because digital devices emit blue light, UV light, and glare, which can all irritate your eyes.
Now, I’m not saying to throw away every electronic device you have and avert your eyes from technology forever. But if you’re someone suffering from any of these symptoms (or want to avoid them in the future), there are ways you can give your eyes a break throughout the day. It’s hard for experts to put an hour-per-day limit on screen time since it is so often associated with work tasks, but as soon as you feel any eye strain, you should try to cut down and use these tips and tricks.
The 20-20-20 rule
It’s simple and easy to follow. Take a 20 second break every 20 minutes to look at something 20 feet away. It can be a wall, window, or the coworker you think is super cute (as long as they don’t catch you staring). Though it may not seem like a lot of time, your eyes will thank you for taking periodic breaks and preventing eye strain.
Shade out the screen
If you want to look uber cool at work AND protect your eyes from the haters (aka screens) then try out glasses made specifically for this! With technology to reduce the blue light, UV light, and glare coming from your screens, brands such as Trust Optics are giving workers relief from eye strain without changing their habits.
Power off (temporarily)
After 4 hours of working at a computer, going on your phone during your lunch break may not be the best decision. Bring a page-turning book or the latest gossip magazine to read. Play cards or a game with coworkers, or get a quick meditation session in! Your eyes will feel refreshed and alert going back for the second half of your day.
Pick and choose
Just like reaching for the chips when there’s fresh fruit in the fridge, you might feel guilty choosing screen time when you know it’s not the best for you. So make a healthier decision! Grab some friends, get some fresh air, and put the electronics away for the moment. You’ll have less distractions and less pressure on your eyes.
Get creative with tactics
Just because the keyboard was invented doesn’t mean you can’t use a good, old fashioned pen or pencil during your day. Take down notes from a meeting on a pad of paper, brainstorm with coworkers on a whiteboard, or bullet your company’s goals on IdeaPaint, dry-erase paint that you can find around NGIN’s walls!
Instead of erasing screens from daily life, let’s adapt to them. Your eyes will definitely thank you for taking proper care of them. If you try any of these suggestions, I’d love to hear how they worked out for you! Leave your results or any comments/suggestions below.
By Madeline Veneziano, NGIN Workplace Intern