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Working from Home and Eye Health: 9 Ways to Optimize Your Workspace

Posted on January 28th, 2021

As of late, many of us may have shifted away from our consistently lit offices, ergonomically correct workstations, and well-timed breaks to working from home. This could mean we’re spending our working hours in less-than-ideal set ups such as at a small desk, at the kitchen table, on the couch or even in our beds. It also means new challenges - these include anything from trying to accommodate multiple family members holding conference calls at the same time (and taxing our Wi-Fi)), to juggling childcare and remote learning, scheduling healthy boundaries for breaks and meals as well as staying active.

These new challenges can also include issues that affect your eye health, ranging from mild to severe. One health issue you may be hearing more about these days is Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) – the term for digital eye strain. Take a look at our blog dedicated to CVS to learn more on the topic.

Computer vision syndrome is gaining attention as we continue to use screens for most things - from our work, our means of keeping in touch with friends, and our entertainment - redefining more than just our workspaces. CVS can be caused by several factors including posture, the distance to the screen, workplace lighting, glare, and the length of time spent performing these functions. Pre-existing eye conditions can also cause CVS. We can feel the effects of it as eye strain, pain (headaches, neck, and shoulder discomfort), blurred vision, excessive blinking, the need to strain to focus properly, and dry eyes.

Working at home has the potential to aggravate many pre-existing health issues pertaining to computer vision syndrome that warrant a discussion with your optometrist. If you have uncorrected astigmatism, myopia, or presbyopia, for example, these can exacerbate the negative effects of prolonged screen time. Respectively, symptoms of these underlying conditions may also worsen due to eye strain caused by screens. Read our blog on working from home for a more in-depth analysis on adjusting to this new lifestyle.

When our eye muscles become strained, we tend to blink less. Did you know that when we’re using screens, we tend to blink almost 50% less than the normal amount per minute? Blinking smooths the tear film and keeps it moist. These behaviours lead to people being affected by dry eye syndrome. Prolonged screen time can contribute to or increase the symptoms of dry eye. Without proper lubrication, coupled by reduced movement due to protracted focus, our eyes can become inflamed, red, irritated, and itchy. This potentially results in damage to the surface of the eye. In turn, these eye problems may lead to other health issues. Talk to your optometrist if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

Straining our eyes and squinting, combined with less-than-ideal working conditions and the blending of work and home life can lead to many health concerns, but especially your eyes. Below we have picked out the best 9 tips to help you with symptoms related to working from home.

Ways to Prevent and Treat Eye Strain

1) When working at a computer, try looking away for twenty seconds every 20 minutes. This gives your eyes a brief break from the screen glare and blue light, allowing them to readjust on other objects and relax.

2) Look across the horizon when you take a break from the screen. Adjusting to a different distance range of over 20 feet allows your eyes some time to adjust from everything but it may be hard to determine what 20 feet is. Looking over the horizon ensures the distance is over the recommended amount.

3) Consciously blink frequently to keep your eyes moist and maintain your ability to focus. Increased blinking is proven to help reduce eye strain and properly moistens your eyes, which may assist in the prevention of dry eye or its symptoms.

4) Adjust your monitor. Position it more than an arm's length away and lower the brightness if possible. Don’t forget to adjust the contrast to a higher setting. The more defined difference between colours and brightness takes some of the work away from already strained eyes and viewing your screen from a greater distance can make objects appear better defined and sharper, reducing the chances of not just strain, but nearsightedness, which can develop with prolonged screen time.

5) Use anti-glare protection—whether that means applying a filter to your screen or picking up a pair of customized glasses or contacts with blue-light lens coating, the extra protection provided takes pressure off your otherwise potentially exposed eyes. Our article dedicated to blue light coatings will help you understand these differences and make the smart decision in combating eye fatigue.

6) Be mindful of your posture. Keeping your wrists elevated, back straight and feet flat will help with concentration and tension pain. There are many options to help aid in posture support. Ergonomic chairs with lumbar support, wrist pads to accessorize keyboards and adjustable desks where your position can be changed from sitting to standing are all proven aides in keeping a good distance from your screen, and may help in remembering the 20-20-20 rule. 

7) Increase your font size to decrease eye strain. Working from a small laptop may leave you hunched over and squinting to make out words. Maximizing letter size allows for good posture, less facial muscle strains, which can lead to tension headaches and other side effects.

8) Improve your lighting. A consistent and well-lit area is best because spaces that are too dark or too bright can be known to possibly worsen eye strain, trigger headaches and even lower productivity. If you’re stationed in a bright spot, consider repositioning your displays or investing in sunshades for your windows (such as curtains, or blinds) to ensure you are not facing direct sun glare, which may impede your view of your screen. Alternatively, if you’re working in a dark place with no natural light, adding an extra lamp to brighten up the space to a more consistent setting may be the answer to better posture and lowering stress on your eyes to see comfortably. You may also consider a therapy lamp, as they can add extra brightness and may also have the ability to reduce the effects of seasonal affective disorder.

9) Go outside. If you can, take at least two 15-minute breaks during the day to either go for a walk or simply sit outside. The natural sunlight boosts mood and therefore reduces stress. Going outside is linked to reducing myopia symptoms. The change of distances exercises the eye muscles and stimulates them to blink. While outside, don’t forget to always wear eye protection. Read our article on why polarized lenses are key to keeping your eyes safe.

The type of work you do and your workspace from home both affect your eyes, potentially influencing and irritating other underlying health issues. Learn more about managing your self-care and reducing screen related eye strain while working from home, and make an appointment with us at an FYidoctors location near you to discuss your eye care needs.