If you work at a desk job, you probably don’t think of your employment activities as having a seriously negative impact on your health. Maybe there’s some stress and perhaps your posture isn’t great, but it’s nothing a little yoga or a trip to the chiropractor can’t fix, right?
The honest answer is … that depends. Many office jobs are basically low impact in terms of their demands on the body, but your increased reliance on computers could be causing serious damage to your vision.
Whether you’re an office worker or the manager who structures the workplace, you should be thinking about whether your office addresses proper eye protection. If it might not be, then it’s time to make some changes, because eye health should be a top priority for everyone.
Computer Vision Syndrome 101
The simplest way to sum up what happens when you spend too much time in front of a computer is what experts call computer vision syndrome (CVS). A combination of complaints, including dry eye, eye strain, and blurred vision, the condition not only involves vision problems, but as users lean forward toward the screen, it may also lead to back, shoulder, and neck complaints.
Other common issues among people who experience CVS are light sensitivity, double vision, and headaches, as well as difficulty focusing on distant objects. Individuals with presbyopia can also be more prone to CVS since their range of vision may be more limited or in flux.
There are dozens of reasons to object to the open office, including productivity issues, but it could also be detrimental to workers’ eye health. There are two key reasons for this.
First, open-office plans mean that workers have no control over the temperature or air circulation. They have even less input than in other typical office spaces, which can lead to more dry eye and eye irritation.
Second, working in an open office almost always means workers depend upon overhead lighting in the space, which is inevitably less than ideal for vision health. Lighting from the ceiling tends to create a lot of glare as well as being too bright.
When workers have individual offices, they can keep the lighting dimmer and use task lighting to reduce visual strain.
Managing Dry Eye
If you’re experiencing symptoms of dry eye at work, one of the simplest things you can do is to keep some artificial tears in your desk drawer or your purse. Apply these regularly throughout the day and see if that helps to relieve some of your symptoms and improves your vision.
If OTC drops don’t seem to be enough, approach your eye doctor about prescription eye drops, steroid-based drops, or other dry-eye treatments. Eye doctors today are increasingly aware of the many ways that spending a lot of time on your computer can strain your eyes and cause unpleasant symptoms, so they’re likely to have plenty of advice.
Check Your Desk Setup
Although eye strain is exacerbated by any amount of screen use, using the right screen under the right conditions is also worthwhile. We aren’t waging an all-out war against screens here.
Instead, make use of tips from the general knowledge base about workplace ergonomics, which can help you make some simple improvements to your individual work station.
First, make sure you’re sitting an appropriate distance from your screen, typically 18 to 30 inches. Also, the screen should be at a 90-degree angle in relation to any windows to reduce glare.
By sitting at the appropriate distance, you’ll make it easier for your eyes to focus. If this feels too far away to you, you may need to increase the font size on your screen.
Employers can also help to minimize eye strain and discomfort by fitting computer screens with blue light filters. Blue light can contribute to eye disease and has an adverse impact on workers’ circadian rhythms, which can leave them sleep deprived or unfocused.
Some workers already wear blue-light filtering glasses, either as part of their prescription lenses or in the form of specialty computer spectacles.
Computer-related eye strain is only going to become a bigger issue in the future, as even industrial jobs become more technology-focused. Both workers and employers will require further education on the issue to prevent serious vision health issues. This is a problem that will require a true partnership to solve.