Working from home
Protecting your eyes while working from home
Roshni Patel, BSc (Hons) MCOptom, Professional Services Manager at Lenstore, shares three top tips on how you can protect yourself against eye strain and fatigue whilst working from home.
The outbreak of the coronavirus has seen millions of people across the world leave their offices and set up a working space from their own home. As a result of working remotely, many businesses are able to continue functioning, however, with employees having to set up their home working space, it is crucial that they are taking the necessary precautions to prevent eye strain and fatigue during this period.
Positioning your technology devices
sIn an office, you’re likely to have a good quality desk and chair that make it easy to position your devices at a healthy distance from your eyes. It’s just as important to ensure you do the same at home. A few things to pay attention to include:
- Lighting and glare – It’s key to position your computer screen in a way that reduces any glare from overhead lights or the sun. For example, if you are positioned with a window behind you, there’s a possibility there will be glare at certain times of the day. If a position where the glare from outside can’t be reduced, you may wish to install a curtain or blind;
- Distance from screen – When looking at your computer screen, the best position is to have your eyes looking slightly down. The centre of the screen should be between 15 and 20 degrees below eye level (about 10 – 13 cm) and 50 to 71 cm from your eyes. This should be about an arm’s length, in an upright sitting position – not leaning towards or away from the screen;
- Blue light software – Blue light isn’t inherently bad for you. It can help encourage wakefulness and energy. However, staring at blue light continuously for long periods of time may cause digital eye strain. It’s possible to get software on your computer which filters the blue light output (included on some devices such as “Night Shift” or “Night Mode”);
- Blue light lenses – Similar to the software mentioned above, you can get lenses for your spectacles which reduce the amount of blue light reaching your eyes;
- Screen brightness – Reducing the brightness of your screen can help reduce eyestrain. The brightness should be as low as is still comfortable to read to minimise straining. You can download free browser extensions like this one to add a soothing orange overlay to decrease eye strain, fatigue and to appease your brain’s day and night cycle;
- Text size and contrast – If text is hard to read, it can cause you to strain your eyes. By increasing the size of text and ensuring contrast is high (black text on a white screen is ideal), you can reduce strain and fatigue. Common ways of making these adjustments can be found here.
Combating dry eye symptoms
Dry eyes can cause your eyes to feel heavy and disrupt the quality of your vision which can lead to symptoms of eye fatigue. As well as ensuring a healthy work space for your vision, there are methods to help reduce dry eye whilst working from home:
- Blink regularly – Whilst we blink naturally, we tend to blink less while looking at a screen – usually three to eight times a minute, compared with 10 to 20 times normally. By consciously blinking regularly, you ensure your eyes don’t become dry and irritated;
- Take breaks – Taking a break is one of the best ways to protect your vision against eye fatigue and strain. It’s recommended to follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes of screen time, take a 20 second break to look at something 20 feet (or more) away. Even a short break can be very effective at combating dry eye and digital eye strain;
- Eye drops – Using over-the-counter or prescription eye drops to lubricate your eyes can help reduce dryness. These usually serve as “artificial tears” and assist with keeping your eyes lubricated and can also supplement key components of the tear film, helping maintain normal function;
- Drinking lots of water and keeping hydrated – Dehydration can cause your eyes to become dry. By drinking two litres of water throughout the day you can help keep yourself and your eyes hydrated.
Looking after eye hygiene
Eye hygiene is an important consideration at all times, but especially while coronavirus is in effect. You should wash your hands regularly, and it is recommended that you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, scrubbing the backs, thumbs, and fingertips as well as your palms. This will help prevent infections both generally and in your eyes.
For those who wear contact lenses or spectacles, there are other considerations. Follow the guidelines below to prevent any irritation in your eye and protect your vision:
- Keep glasses clean – it can be easy to forget to clean your glasses, but they can pick up dirt and bacteria. The best way to clean your glasses is to use lens spray for the lenses and a disinfectant wipe for the frame. If you do not have lens spray or wipes, rinse them under warm water and use a small amount of washing up liquid to create a lather on the lens. This should then be rinsed off with warm water, and dried with a soft cotton cloth;
- Use only solutions recommended by your optician on your lenses – if you have reusable contact lenses, never use water to clean them. Water can carry bacteria which would then be transferred to your eye. Instead, the solution recommended by your eye doctor or optician should be applied whenever you clean your lenses;
- Throw away disposable lenses – If you use disposable contact lenses, these should be thrown away after their recommended use – not reused.
- Clean your case – Contact lens cases are essential for keeping your lenses clean, but they need to be cleaned as well. Remove any solution contained within them, rinse with new solution (do not wash with water), and air dry before using again.
In addition to the above, it is important to be aware it is still perfectly safe to wear contact lenses in the current circumstances.
While working from home is the chosen solution by many businesses during this period of social distancing, it is important everyone is taking the necessary steps to prevent eye strain and maintain good eye health.
Roshni Patel, BSC (Hons) MCOptom Professional Services Manager at Lenstore comments: “Applying the advice suggested can reduce eye strain and dry eyes, as well as ensuring good hygiene for those who wear contact lenses or glasses. Taking regular breaks and the time to set up your work space with your eye health in mind is essential during this period.”
A guide to home working
This hub has been put together by SHP, Barbour EHS and The Healthy Work Company to provide research, case studies, videos and resources to enable you to lead this transition in a way which safeguards the wellbeing of your teams and maximises the opportunity to embrace new ways of working for the future.