Office work is visually demanding and requires good lighting for maximum comfort and productivity. "Good" lighting means providing enough illumination so that people can see printed, handwritten or displayed documents clearly but are not blinded by excessively high light levels (a cause of glare).
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The most common complaints resulting from poor lighting are:
Poor lighting affects not only the ocular system but can also contribute to stiff necks and aches in shoulder area. These problems can occur when people adopt poor or awkward postures when trying to read something under poor lighting conditions.
A good visual environment will:
An additional challenge occurs because most office work involves using the monitor and paper documents at the same time. Paper documents require a higher light level than the monitor. A desk lamp (any type of soft task light) can be used to illuminate documents while avoiding excessive light near the monitor. Glare can also result from an improper match or excessive contrast in light levels between the monitor screen and the paper.
The monitor also acts as a mirror. Reflections of objects, shiny walls, and any light source (specifically windows and overhead lighting) all cause glare. Eye discomfort can result but glare also forces the user into an awkward position as they try to avoid having the glare in their eyes. These positions lead to aches and pains in the upper body that, in turn, can also aggravate eye strain.
The quality of the images on the monitor is another important factor. Reading and interpreting blurred, fuzzy, tiny, or otherwise illegible characters for hours a day can strain the operators' eyes.
Other examples of work-related risk factors that contribute to eye discomfort are:
When people are exposed to glare or have uncorrected vision problems, they tend to lean forward or backward in an attempt to compensate. An awkward body position leads to eye strain and accelerates postural fatigue that, in turn, contributes to musculoskeletal injuries (MSI).
In general, anything between the operator and screen compromises the quality of the image. It is far better to control glare by proper lighting design and placement of the monitor than by use of an anti-glare screen. Many monitors currently available are already equipped with low reflective screens.
The ability to focus on objects at various distances decreases with age (presbyopia). Commonly, by their forties people cannot clearly see objects at close range with the naked eye. This is a gradual change, and has to be regarded as an important component in designing visual environments, particularly when the job involves computer work. Uncorrected vision may be an additional source of eye discomfort. It may have further consequences resulting in aches and pains because of awkward postures or positions adopted to "see better".
Depending on the amount of time you work at a keyboard, the kind of vision correction needed, and your personal preferences, your eye specialist may recommend bifocals, trifocals or even a separate pair of glasses for computer work.
Focusing your eyes on objects at the same distance and angle for prolonged periods of time can contribute to eye strain.
Frequently "stretching" your eyes like this will prevent feelings of fatigue from accumulating.
Document last updated on January 6, 2011