Wondering why you’re not getting as much work done as you (or your manager) would like? It could be your eyes that are letting you down.
Read on for a better understanding of how to manage workplace eyestrain and get your productivity back on track.
Desk work puts the eyes under a lot of pressure. The combination of a dry environment, backlit screens, long periods of staring at small print and the toxic effects of computer-emitted blue light all add up to produce eyestrain, even if your eyes generally give you no trouble at home. Here are some of the factors contributing to work-related eye strain and what you can do about it.
Uncorrected visual error
Maybe you can follow a golf ball for 300 meters but that doesn’t mean your vision is perfect at all working distances. Small amounts of long-sightedness or astigmatism, which generally cause no symptoms in day-to-day life, can increase the workload on your eyes and cause eyestrain. Afternoon drowsiness isn’t necessarily from too much lunch. It could just be your eyes asking for help.
The answer? A pair of task glasses can take a lot of pressure off and allow your eyes to relax. Prism can also be incorporated into these glasses if there is any significant muscle imbalance between your eyes. Any eyestrain should be thoroughly investigated by your optometrist to rule out small refractive errors.
Blue light toxicity
Make sure if you are getting task glasses, that they incorporate a blue blocker filter to block blue light. Modern digital screens emit far more blue light than older technology, and put you at risk of oxidative damage to the retina and macula at the back of the eyes. Some computer monitors (such as those made by BenQ) use blue blocker filters on their screens, but most screens don’t offer any protection. You can also get blue blocker glasses without a prescription.
By the time you reach your early to mid-40s, symptoms of tiredness and near blur start to kick in due to the onset of presbyopia. You may be prescribed your first pair of reading glasses but find they blur your distance and computer screen. There is a vast array of modern progressive lenses that can be tailored to your exact needs to allow comfortable vision at work.
Some people experience more than just eyestrain, headaches and dry eyes at work. Text can appear to jitter or throb on the computer screen or on print documents, leaving you tired and overwrought. The pattern-glare test to the right should look like a series of stationary black and white lines. If the lines appear to move, throb, vibrate or if there appear to be colours or a dazzling effect, you could be suffering from Irlen Syndrome, or visual stress related to how your brain ‘sees’. Visual stress is much more common in dyslexics but can occur in anyone. It is successfully managed with tinted lens, the exact tint of which is very subjective. If you test positive for the pattern glare test, speak to your HR manager about an eye test including colorimetry, to determine if coloured tints could alleviate your symptoms.
The eyes don’t tell all the story…
Managing eye strain will only take you so far. Setting your desk up correcting is one of the best investments you can make in your health and wellbeing at work. You can spend a fortune on optometry, physio or chiro appointments – money that could be saved if you knew how to prevent the symptoms of eyestrain, neck and back pain.
Here are the basics in workplace ergonomics:
- Make sure you have a good quality chair, suited for 8+ hours usage per day.
- You should not have to lift your gaze to look at your screen – this will lead to hunching forward and tilting your head back, which in turn leads to muscle shortening in the back of your neck.
- Make sure you can rest your feet firmly on the floor. If you’re short, you can use a foot rest.
- Your hands should be level with your elbows. If they are higher, you are more prone to lifting your shoulders.