Blog - Make it easy on your eyes

A view out of a window overlooking a green landscapeIf you spend time working on a computer, the chances are that your eyes could be working harder than they need to. If this sounds like you, then read on…  I have some tips on how you can take care of your vision.

“But my eyesight’s fine…”

Until something happens which radically affects it, I think most of us tend to take our eyesight for granted. I see this from time to time when people who are experiencing some kind of problem – a worrying array of spots floating around in front of their eyes, blurry vision or eyes which just don’t want to focus when they leave work. It can be the sort of thing which makes them worried that they are about to lose their eyesight, but in fact, very often what they’re experiencing are ill effects due to poor or excessive lighting – light that is simply too dark or too harsh or bright – combined with long periods of staring at a computer screen.

And that’s the thing. While the amount of light you have on your screen is an important factor in taking care of your eyesight, research has shown that it is less important than the amount of time you actually spend looking at your screen.  And what makes that more worrying is of course that these days, so many of us are spending longer and longer looking at one.

Give your eyes a break with the 20:20:20 rule

If that sounds a tad depressing, the cheering news is that it is possible to control or minimise this impact on your vision, so long as you aware of what to do.

One easy tip to manage this is the 20:20:20 rule. Every 20 minutes look 20m away for 20 seconds. This brief glimpse away is all it takes to allow your eyes to relax and focus at a different length from that required for reading the computer.

Gaze out the window or create a different focal point

I find that people working in offices who sit next to windows (particularly those who are fortunate enough to sit where there’s lots of activity on the pavements outside), rarely experienced eye issues because glancing outside reasonably regularly gives s natural break for the eyes.

If looking out a window isn’t an option for you, create something to look at inside your office. Hang something of interest on your wall, put some plants in various places in your line of vision – anything that can catch your eye and take your focus away from the computer screen.

If you wear glasses, avoid bi-focals

If your sight is failing, it can be easiest to opt for bifocal or progressive glasses as they can be used in any situation during the day. Unfortunately however, if you are looking at a screen with them (and particularly with the advent of larger screens) you may well need to peer and use your neck more to get the correct focus.  This in itself then creates a different set of issues! If you can, stick to occupational glasses if you use a large screen.

Set the right light levels

Another important factor which helps with reducing eye strain is ensuring that the light levels are appropriate for the work you are doing.

When you’re using your computer, you need enough light going onto the screen whilst making sure there’s not a large contrast between the screen and areas beyond the screen. This is because when you’re working in high contrast light situations, your pupils narrow down to cut out the excess light, which results in your eyes being strained eyes through the constant act of re-focussing .

Use your blinds if you have them

If you’re working in an office which has floor to ceiling windows (a current trend in office building, especially noticeable here in Christchurch, where so many new offices are under construction) the problem of how to shut out the excess light can create a real challenge of people .  If you’re facing a window and there is a blind behind your screen, make sure you use of it – this will work to reduce this contrast and make it easier on your eyes.

Go for ‘user-friendly- LED lights

The use of LED lights has created another interesting workplace wellness dilemma. Although ’eco friendly’, an example I saw recently of LED down lights in a new office, was a frustrating one for the office users. The down lights created an intense light which bounced off their white desks with a very high (4 times the recommended light level) light reading on the computer screens. These could be angled to one side, but as they were down lights, this also resulted in there not being enough light in some work areas.

On talking to an electrician he told me that you can get different colours of LED lighting and that it was better go for a softer colour, not white – similar to the fluorescent lights which can be daylight or whiter colour.

Avoid individual down lights

As it happens, even though softer colours are available, individual down lights are not recommended for computer use as it is hard to position the screen directly beneath the light in order to get adequate light on the screen. You can, however, use a number of LED lights in a cluster which will provide a better quantity of light.

So, while the electrician I was speaking to was very well meaning, the morale of the story was never assume that a lighting designer or electrician knows everything about getting the right lighting for your needs when a new work space is being designed. Latest trends of what looks good can often have more of an influence, or the number of lights that would be needed or a certain floor space, but there is so much more to lighting beyond than meets the eye.

Again, increased technology use has changed the game with lighting, so it is now crucial to ensure we get the lighting right to preserve our eyesight.

So there you have them. Some straightforward tips to ensure that even when you are hard at work on the computer, you can at least make it easy on the eyes as you go. Your vision could depend on it.