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Workplace Health & Safety

Tips to help employees minimise digital eye strain

tired woman on computer

Digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome, refers to a group of eye- and vision-related problems resulting from the prolonged use of a computer, tablet, e-reader or mobile phone. According to a Chubb Work from Home Survey conducted in America in 2020 in the wake of the pandemic, more than one-third of people are working longer hours, including 16% who are working more than an additional 10 hours per week. Even more remarkable, 43% of respondents to the survey have not prepared their workspace to accommodate for the additional time spent working from home.

As employees continue to work remotely, more hours are being spent in front of screens, causing an increase in reported cases of digital eye strain.


Causes and symptoms of eye strain

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), some of the most common causes of digital eye strain include:

  • Inadequate lighting
  • Glare on a screen
  • Improper viewing distances
  • Poor posture
  • Uncorrected vision problems
  • Being stressed or fatigued
  • A combination of the above


Heavy screen users who do not take precautions may experience symptoms of digital eye strain, including headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck and shoulder pain, among other ailments. 


How to help prevent and alleviate eye strain

Encourage your employees to take the following measures to improve their visual comfort:

  • Maintain good posture — Adjust the height of your desk chair so feet are flat on the floor and your arms are supported by your desk or chair while typing. (Read our Ergonomic and Safety Guide for Employees Working from Home for more details on setting up your workspace.)
  • Adjust your monitor position — According to the AOA, your computer screen should be 12 - 15 centimeters below eye level (measured from the centre of the screen) and the screen should be 50 to 70 centimeters from your eyes.
  • Increase your font size — Increasing the font size on your computer can help reduce some of the stress on your eyes and prevent unnecessary strain.
  • Rest your eyes — After staring at a screen all day for work, it’s important to give your eyes time to rest. Unplug altogether later in the evening to read or spend time with family.
  • Use anti-glare screens — Anti-glare screens or blue light filters can decrease the amount of light reflected from a screen. Many devices are now sold with blue light filters as a standard element, but it doesn’t hurt to ensure you have it.
  • Check lighting levels — Being exposed to bright light while using screens can exacerbate eye strain symptoms. Ensure your ambient light is no brighter than your screen.
  • Blink more — Believe it or not, blinking plays a big factor in preventing eye strain, since blinking moistens eyes and prevents dryness and irritation. Exercising prolonged blinks (closing your eyes for 2-4 seconds at a time), not only provides additional moisture but also helps eyes relax.


Maintaining eye health

Just as you would get a medical or dental check-up yearly, it’s important to have your eyes examined on an annual basis. If you wear glasses, check-ups help ensure your prescription is up to date. If you don’t wear glasses, regular eye exams are still recommended.

It’s also important to wear the right glasses for the job, since not all prescription glasses are created equal. Talking to an optometrist will help you determine if you might benefit from customised computer glasses designed for heavy screen use.

Digital eye strain has become an indirect consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following these guidelines will help ensure your employees avoid eye strain and stay healthy and productive whether they’re working from the office or home.

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