Could digital eye strain be affecting your productivity at work?

We’re surrounded by digital devices. From our reliance on smartphones to read our emails and check our social apps, to the use of tablets to watch our favourite shows on the move. And then there are the simple organisational needs in our everyday lives, such as viewing interactive timetables when we arrive to catch the tube in the morning. It’s a digital world we’re living in and even if we wanted to, it would be near impossible to avoid all of this. In fact, we’re increasingly seeing traditional professions incorporating visual display units (VDUs) into their everyday practice to enhance efficiency and the customer experience. But exactly how does that affect you as employees?

Strained eyes

If you work with a VDU, you’re more likely to suffer from digital eye strain, also known as Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). This condition is exactly as it sounds — visual discomfort resulting from prolonged use of digital devices. Usually, this is only a temporary discomfort that follows after 2 or more hours of continuous use of a digital screen. This strain is caused by your eyes drying out due to a decrease in the amount you blink when you’re focusing on a screen for an extended period of time. The condition is more likely to affect those who are using 2 digital screens at the same time and/or switching focus between one and the other, without giving their eyes a break.

What symptoms should you look out for?

Due to the focus our eyes give to a VDU, which leads to a failure to blink enough, it isn’t surprising that our eyes start to struggle. Some of the ways you are likely to notice the strain on your eyes caused by digital devices include:

  • red, dry, itchy and/or irritated eyes
  • blurred or double vision
  • tired eyes
  • back, neck and/or shoulder pain
  • higher sensitivity to light conditions
  • eyes stinging or watering
  • difficulty focusing on objects when you stop looking at a screen
  • sore eyes and headaches

You may experience some or all of these symptoms to varying degrees.

What impact can CVS have on your performance at work?

So, what does all of this mean in terms of your productivity in the workplace? Well, for a start, offices usually contain bright light conditions so an increased sensitivity to bright light as a result of CVS can make it more difficult for you to concentrate on the task you’re completing. That can turn even the simplest of tasks into a challenge that takes longer than usual. And then there is the general discomfort that comes from headaches, tiredness, eye irritation and body aches, all of which can distract from your ability to perform at work whether you’re typing away at your computer or holding a meeting with colleagues.

How can you find relief from your symptoms?

As mentioned earlier, it isn’t really an option to avoid VDUs, so how can you manage your workload and your eye health at the same time? There are a number of strategies you can adopt while at work to support the management of this common eye condition.

Firstly, make a conscious effort in your daily work life to practice the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break from your computer, focusing on something else 20 feet away from you. This technique, created by optometrist Jeffrey Anshel, is a well-practised and highly-regarded strategy to aid the management of eye strain caused by digital devices.

You can also try adjusting the brightness levels on your computer to make it easier to view; this will help minimise glare which can irritate your eyes too. Good posture is another way to ease your symptoms. This can take some practice and requires setting up your chair, table and computer to the appropriate heights and then becoming aware of your body position, especially as the day rolls on and you find yourself tiring and more prone to slouching.

Can your employer help?

Although there a number of ways you can support your own management of digital computer strain, there are certain obligations your employers have to your eye health in the workplace too.

Employers have a legal obligation to providing employees who work with VDUs with regular eye examinations. This means that as well as providing advice for management of the condition yourself, an optometrist can provide you with a thorough examination of your eyes to pick up the need for vision correction and offer a tailored report to your employer addressing how to better support your eye health.

It is well worth enquiring whether your employer is signed up to a corporate eyecare scheme with a local optician. This include specialised appointments with VDU screenings, industry-specific testing and comprehensive eye examinations so that a deeper understanding of your visual needs and eye health can be gained.

To find out more about our VDU screenings, eye examinations or corporate eyecare packages, which can be offered at a discounted rate to local businesses, get in touch with our friendly and highly-trained team at Infocus Opticians, your opticians in Baker Street.

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