Contributions from Rachel Jao, Ergonomist, and Megan Otto
Whether you’re working from home or back in the office, prolonged time spent in front of the computer can lead to a variety of visual discomforts, including eye strain, headaches, dry or burning eyes, double vision, light sensitivity, and blurred vision – among other issues.
Visual discomfort can be caused by wide range of typical day-to-day actions we perform at work, such as:
- Viewing images or text that is too small (laptops often cause this)
- Looking at unclear or flickering images (a broken screen or too high or low of contrast)
- Experiencing glare or reflections on your computer screen
- Working with a screen background that is too bright
- Sitting too far away from or too close to a computer screen
- Forgetting to take breaks
Below are six tips to help alleviate or avoid visual discomfort from a computer screen:
1. Ensure your glasses are meant for computer use
Did you know that there are glasses meant specifically for computer use? Often, regular eyewear is not updated, or the wrong type of glasses are used. For example, some reading glasses and single-lens prescriptions are often meant for “near” zone use. Distance glasses are meant for “far zone” use. Meanwhile, computer glasses are meant for “intermediate” zone use.
Trifocals and progressive lenses are not the most comfortable eyewear for computer use, as there are three different sections on the glasses and only a small portion is used for computer work. Even if you don’t wear corrective lenses (glasses or contacts), we recommend seeing an optometrist every year or two to discuss whether glasses may be helpful for you!
2. If you wear glasses, check your posture!
Did you know that awkward or incorrect posture often is a result of poor eyewear and monitor setup? If you often find yourself tilting your neck forward or backwards, slouching, leaning forward or leaning to the side while working on your computer at your desk, your monitor may not be set up properly to account for the glare from your glasses.
People wearing bifocals should position their monitor height so that the top of the monitor is hitting the middle or slightly below the middle of the glasses or eyes.
People wearing trifocals or progressive glasses should position their monitor heights so that the top of the monitor is hitting the middle of the glasses or eyes. The middle portion of the trifocals is for computer use, while the bottom third is often for reading. The computer monitor can be tilted up by 15-20 degrees to allow for better viewing of the screen using the bottom part of the glasses.
For those who do not wear any sort of eyewear, the screen should be viewed at a slight downward gaze, without tilting your head up or down.
3. Reorganize your desk setup
Do you have a window in your home workspace or near your desk at the office? If so, it might be time to update the feng shui of your space!
First, make sure your computer monitor’s face is perpendicular to any windows in the room. Also, ensure there is not a window behind the monitor or behind you when you are sitting at your desk as both will increase the glare and reflection on your screen.
To reduce the glare from the windows in your work area, move your workstation so that the windows are to the left or right of the monitor. Blinds and curtains can also be used to block the glare from the sun and a room light can be utilized instead. Be sure to opt for natural light bulbs and place any desk lamps to the side of the monitor.
4. Measure up
Reach out your arm – can you touch your computer screen without leaning forward?
The computer monitors you work at should be about an arm’s length away (or 18-30 inches) from your eyes. However, this is dependent on your visual acuity needs. You should be able to view your screen without having to lean forward (your back should lean against the backrest of your chair) and without experiencing discomfort from your eyes being too near to the screen to focus.
5. Adjust your screen’s brightness
Did you know that the brightness of your monitor should match the brightness of the room? If the screen is brighter than its surroundings, your eyes have to work harder to see and focus. Manually adjust your screen’s brightness throughout the day, or try F.lux, a free app that can be downloaded that will automatically adjust the computer screen’s brightness according to the ambient light in your room!
6. Take breaks and drink water often
For every two hours that you spend working at your computer, you should take a substantial break – at least 15 minutes – to give your eyes (and brain) a break! Think of this as a no-screen period of time. That’s right, this isn’t time to scroll on Instagram on your phone or play a game on your iPad. Take these 15 minutes to get outside, grab a snack or drink some water. Water is key to providing your eyes with hydration and avoiding dryness. Win, win!
If you think you could benefit from an individual workplace ergonomics consultation, or if you would like to partner with us to provide assessments for your entire company, connect with a member from our PRN Worksite Health team today via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 586-0800 ext. 10.