This month is Workplace Eye Wellness Month, which is a valuable opportunity for raising the profile of the issues our sight faces through the course of our work. You’re not imagining it when your eyes are tired at the end of the day at the office; you’re not imagining it that if your work is largely screen-based you seem to be surrounded by a disproportionate number of spectacle wearers and you’re not imagining it that your eye health at work is important.
Given we spend a large proportion of our waking hours at work; it is imperative we give some thought to how to ensure we preserve the wellness of our eyes in the workplace.
When we think of workplace eye health risks your thoughts likely turn to those working in warehouses, workshops, building sites, or in environments where wearing protective eye gear would be prudent. And, yes, it is true that workplace eye injuries can be caused by working with metal, or wood, or caused by UV radiation burns, cleaning products and chemical spills.
However, whilst we may think of the biggest risk to eye health coming from professions that require physical labour, the reality is the biggest workplace concern for eye health is Computer Vision Syndrome. A staggering 64-90% of people using screens at work experience the symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome such as blurred or double vision, discomfort, headaches, eye strain and dry eyes.
What Causes Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)
It’s thought that one of the primary reasons for CVS is not the screen itself, but the nature of how we look at it. Using a screen for a prolonged time typically leads to a reduced frequency of blinking. Blinking is essential to your eye health.
Looking After Your Eyes at Work
There are some simple strategies you can adopt to look after your vision in the workplace if you are frequently working with screens:
- Check the Location of Your Screen: Especially since the prevalence of laptops over desktops, you should take care to position your screen appropriately. It should be at a right-angle to any direct light source, and anti-glare screens are worthwhile.
- Blink, Blink, and Blink Again: So simple, yet so powerful is the humble blink. Blinking lubricates and moistens your eyes and keeps them in tip top condition. If you feel you’re suffering from dry eyes then you can always buy some ‘artificial tears’ from your local pharmacy.
- Remember 20-20-20: If you spend a great deal of your day sat working in front of a screen then start a new eye wellness habit. For every 20 minutes you’re looking at your screen you should focus for 20 seconds on an object at least 20 feet away. Think of it as ‘resetting’ your eyes.
- Keep Hydrated: It’s easy to lose track of time sat working at the computer, and this combined with air-conditioning in summer and heating in winter, means you need to give thought to your hydration for your eye health. Drink plenty of water, and sip throughout the day.
- Take Breaks: In the UK, we have no legal requirement on employers for you to take breaks from your screen, but your eyes need them. Try to break up the screen time by looking away from the screen whilst on the phone, a trip to the printer, or by talking with colleagues. These short burst eye-breaks are incredibly valuable.
- Attend Eye Check-Ups: Many employers now will help towards the cost of eye examinations and glasses for their staff who are screen-based. Even if this isn’t the case, keeping on top of regular check-ups is essential for your long-term eye health. In fact, employers have a legal requirement to provide an eye test if you are “an employee who habitually uses DSE (Display Screen Equipment) as a significant part of your normal day to day work”.
Workplace Eye Wellness Month – Prioritise Your Sight
With just a few small changes, you can help your vision and eye health in the workplace. Use Personal Protective Equipment if you’re doing a manual job, and follow the steps above if screens feature heavily in your workplace day.