Episode 182 CCOHS Podcast: Eye-Opening Tips to Prevent Digital Eye Strain

Isabel: For up to seven or eight hours a day, five days a week, workers in many office environments, including those working from home, can be found staring at glowing, glaring screens. And those 35 to 40 or so hours? That’s only accounting for the screen time of an average full-time work week.  

Chris: Today, with smart phones and apps giving employees access to email and work accounts any time and anywhere, our eyes can be glued to the screen for far too long.

Isabel: This time includes those moments when we’re not supposed to be working but find ourselves checking our emails, or maybe responding to a client’s text. Plus, think of all the time spent looking at other screens – like sitting in front of the TV, or scrolling through social media!

Chris: You’re right. So, on that note, we invite you – the listener, to do just that – listen!

Isabel: Turn off the screen, sit back and relax, or maybe even go for a walk while you learn more about digital eye strain and how to prevent it on this episode of CCOHS podcasts.

(Intro Music)

Chris: Digital eye strain is “a group of related eye and vision problems caused by extended computer or digital device use” “Extended use” is usually considered to be 2 or more hours. After this time, you may start to feel eye discomfort and fatigue, dry eye, and blurry vision.

Isabel: And symptoms don’t just end with your eyes. They can include headache, neck and back pain, and disrupted sleep, too.

Chris: Exactly. The more time we spend on our screens, the more likely it is for these symptoms to occur.

Isabel: So, how much time are we spending on our screens?

Chris: Well, a 2019 study reported that Canadians spend about 11 hours a day looking at a screen. This number is divided between the computer, television and phones.

Isabel: 11 hours is a lot of time to be looking at a screen!

Chris: I know. And when we’re looking at a screen, it means we’re not doing other things that may be more beneficial to our health – like exercising or unplugging for a mental break.

Isabel: We’re also not giving our eyes the break they need. To do this, we can try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes you spend using a screen, look away at something that is 20 feet from you for a total of 20 seconds. Another exercise is to take 15 minutes away from the screen after every two hours of continuous screen use. Use this time to stretch your legs or make phone calls (but not Zoom calls!). Both  tips help your eyes refocus.

Chris: Another quick tip? Remember to blink! On average, people blink 12 times per minute, but when we’re on the computer, that number drops to only 5 blinks per minute, adding to dry eyes and discomfort.

Isabel: Thanks for the reminder! Let’s talk about the workstation now.

Chris:  Good idea. Workers should position their computer screen at about an arm’s length from their eyes and 20 degrees below eye level. You can also adjust screen settings on your device to suit your eyes. You’ll also want to make sure that the brightness of your screen matches the brightness of your surroundings.

Isabel: Try to minimize glare on your screen by dimming the lights in your room, or by using a protective anti-glare screen cover. If either of these options aren’t available, move your screen so that it sits perpendicular to windows and other bright light sources.

Chris: And remember to clean your screen! Keep it free of fingerprints and dust, which can make your eyes work harder than they need to.

Isabel: If your eyes are still feeling the strain, computer glasses may be an option. These are prescription glasses that you can wear when you’re doing computer work. They’re specially designed to let you focus your eyes on a digital screen, which is farther away than reading material (like a book) is normally held.

Chris: Now, let’s get out of the workstation and bring our eyes to the great outdoors. Or, at least, outside of our office.

Isabel: Good call. Taking a break from the computer, phone, or tablet is a healthy option for not only our eyes, but our mind and body, too – especially when you consider how much extra screen time workers have been participating in once work-from-home became the norm.

Chris: For example, think of in-person meetings and even small things, like water cooler chats. These events used to be a welcome break from looking at a screen, but without the in-person office, screen breaks have been replaced with screen time. Now, video conferences, video chats, and FaceTime can be so common in a worker’s day, and even occupy their free time.

Isabel: While being face-to-face (or screen-to-screen) with coworkers is a great way to stay engaged and be present, it can be okay to request a phone call instead. Not only are you resting your eyes that way, but you might also be able to turn your chat into a walking meeting, so you can also take a break from sitting at your desk!

Chris: That’s a good idea. Another tip for our eyes is to be mindful of how we’re decompressing. Instead of relaxing in front of the television at the end of the day, try reading a book, meditating, or exercising.

Isabel: And don’t get us wrong – we don’t mean you can never zone out to a good tv series. Instead, think of it as toning it down rather than completely turning it off.

Chris: I love that idea! A digital diet versus a full-on detox – I think our eyes would appreciate that, don’t you?

Isabel: I do! It’s a good way to give ourselves – eyes included – a rest. By setting time boundaries around when to be screen free, and making sure we use our screens with purpose, like only checking emails during work hours, our eyes can have time for other things – like enjoying that sunset in real life or finally reading that paperback you bought last year.

Chris: That sounds much better than dry, irritated eyes; blurred version; headache; and neck pain.

Isabel: It does, doesn’t it? For more information on how you can keep your eyes healthy, visit ccohs.ca and search “digital eye strain”.

Chris: Thanks for listening!

(Outro Music)