Early morning starts and late evenings spent in front of a computer and smart phone screen have become the norm for today’s busy office worker. All that time in front of a bright screen coupled with air conditioning, heating and bright room lighting can have a negative impact on employees’ eyes. In fact, extensive use of computers can lead to computer vision syndrome (CVS), where eyes become dry, tired and even strained.
While not causing any permanent damage, common symptoms of CVS (including eye fatigue, physical tiredness, eye twitching and red eyes) can cause a lot of discomfort and irritation in the short term. In addition, use of digital screens often limits the number of times people blink, therefore denying eyes the hydration they need to stay moist and healthy. Dry eye syndrome is a result of tear ducts no longer producing adequate natural tears that the eyes need to stay moisturised.
Employers have a duty of care to their staff. Below are some tips on what they and their HR teams can do to help employees avoid CVS and dry eye syndrome and keep their eyes in mint condition from the start of the day to the very end.
Employers need to ensure that employees have the right level of office lighting. I appreciate that it’s a fine line between good lighting that provides enough illumination and bright lighting that borders on glare. Office workers need comfortable lighting to enable them to see all kinds of documents, but theses must be ones that will not blind them. Also, the lighting should not be too dim as this will make employees feel sleepy and less productive.
Watch the brightness of computer screens
It’s a good idea for HR teams to check the brightness of computer screens. If it’s set to the highest setting, turn it down slightly and see if it makes any difference to how the eyes feel. An incredibly bright screen can be very harsh on the eyes so glare can be minimised by dusting the computer monitor and investing in an anti-reflection cover. Also, HR teams need to take note of the lighting around computers. It’s important to create equal brightness in the workspace so there’s no shadowy areas or glare from lamps.
It might seem like a small point, but if you notice an employee straining their eyes whilst at the computer then it might be worth suggesting that they increase the size of their text.
There are other tips you can offer employees:
When an employee is deeply focused on a task, they will tend to blink less, even if they don’t realise it. If they’re not blinking enough, their eyes are not receiving regular hydration and moisture from their tears. As a result, eyes will begin to feel dry and irritated. Remind employees to get into the habit of deliberately blinking more often. Tell them not to worry if they look odd suddenly bursting into 100 blinks a minute, their eyes will thank them for it.
I always follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away. In addition to the hydration benefits, this approach will help the muscles in the eyes to relax.
Take a break and check the seated position
I know it can be difficult for staff to take a moment to themselves in a busy office with reports to write and deadlines looming, but a 5-10-minute coffee break can work wonders. Advise staff to give themselves and their eyes a rest from the computer screen so they’re not too burnt out by the end of the day. Aside from that, simply just looking away from the computer screen for a minute or so every now and again can give eyes a much-needed break. When they do get back to their desk from their break, they must make sure that they’re not too close or too far from the screen. An employees’ overall workstation set-up plays a role in their eye health. So being too close or far will cause eye strain. I recommend positioning monitors at least 50cm from eyes with the centre of the screen about 10-15 degrees below the eyes. That way, the light won’t be so intense and the employee won’t be craning their neck.
Wear the right contact lenses
Encourage employees to speak to their optician who will advise the best contact lenses they should wear to tackle dry eyes. Typically, silicone hydrogel lenses are better suited for dry eyes. Dailies Total 1 is a daily disposable silicone hydrogel lens that offers a high level of hydration, clarity and comfort, as well as 16 hours of wearing time. This makes them perfect for long days in front of the computer screen and late nights finishing off reports. But of course, if they plan to make changes to their lenses, then it’s important to consult their eye care practitioner first so that they can check their overall eye health and recommend the best contact lenses.
And finally, don’t forget H20
As a last note, make sure you install sufficient water stations around the office. Employees need to drink plenty of water during the day to avoid dehydration, which, aside from making their eyes feel dry, will also make them feel drained overall.