There was a time when office work involved range of activities: opening envelopes and hand writing replies, going to the local bank to cash in cheques or even actually getting up to talk to colleagues. Today, with almost all office activities being conducted through a screen from banking to our social interactions we need to be vigilant about how we optimise our screens for health and productivity.
Studies show that eye strain and other issues with sight occur in 50 - 90 percent of computer workers. Evidently this is an area where we need to take a closer look and start to initiate change.
Ergonomics are well accepted in terms of our furniture and devices like mouses and keyboards. As such, when we think of ergonomics, this is what comes to mind.
However the definition of the word ergonomic, (according to the Oxford Dictionary) is simply ‘relating to or designed for efficiency and comfort in the working environment’. This means there is a lot we can do to make our workspaces ergonomic. And, yes, that includes creating a work set-up that is designed for the efficiency and comfort of your sight.
Our new Monitor Arm and Dual Monitor Arm make it easy for you to adjust the height and distance of your monitors along with your changing states of work throughout the day. Whether you’re standing sitting, cycling or otherwise you can easily adapt your monitors along with your position to ensure you are not practicing poor use that could cause problems for your eye health further down the line.
Get the right height
Most articles and tips online will suggest that the ideal height for your monitor is to have the top third of your screen at eye level. The most common recommended height is a 25° angle from eye level. But this is really the tipping point of what is healthy for your sight.
Think about the height we naturally hold a book or a newspaper - it’s always much lower than eye level. Studies have shown that we should be positioning our monitors much lower than we think. One study, entitled ‘Visual Ergonomics in the Office: Lighting and Placement’ by Denis R Ankum, Director of Human Factors Research for Nova Solutions, found that the healthiest angle at which to look at a screen is about 25° - 50° lower than your eye level when facing forward. Bearing in mind that at 50° below regular eye level, your screen is flat on the desk, this is much lower than is commonly practiced.
Meanwhile a study entitled ‘Effects of computer monitor sitting on muscular activity, user comfort and acceptability in office work’ by Kamal Kothiyal and Ane Marte Bjornerem at The University of New South Wales, specified a range between 35° and 45.° Still much lower than the usually advised 25.°
A lot of the time we don’t have much control over the height of our monitors. It largely comes down to the height of the stand provided with the product or the height of the desk provided. This is a huge oversight if we consider the range of heights of people in the US today. Of course we can always pile up books or use a stand to elevate our screen but what about making our monitors lower?
Don’t forget to blink
As reported on Office Ergo, a lot of eye strain is actually caused by eye dryness. As we spend hours wrapped up in our work we can go into a state of complete absorption - studies have shown we are less likely to blink when we are looking at a monitor for a long period of time.
Beyond making a concerted effort to blink more often, or simply using eye drops, a lower monitor level is also a good antidote. As stated in Office Ergo when you have the monitor at a lower level your eyelids cover more of your eye allowing more lubrication and more regular blinking. This can make a huge difference to your eye health.
There’s no such thing as too far
Most online sources advise you keep your monitor around around 25” from your body, or more commonly, a very scientific ‘arm’s length.’ However studies have shown the the ideal length is actually closer to 40.” In fact they found there is no negative impact of having your screen even further.
As Denis R Ankrum the director of Human Factors Research for Nova Solutions explains that, although your eye can adapt its focus to different distances, it maintains a healthier and more enduring focus from further away. This is because when we view things close up, our eyes turn inward towards our nose. When you hold something very close to your face you’ll notice you see a double image, this effect is a greater strain on our eyes so the further away the better.
In his study entitled ‘Viewing Distance at Workstations’ he states:
‘The reality is that there is no limit, based on visual fatigue considerations, to maximum viewing distance at computer workstations. From what we know about visual strain, farther viewing distances are better, at least up to the RPV. For example, if the RPV is 35 inches, an eye-to-screen distance of 25 inches is preferred to 20 inches. Thirty-five inches is better than 25 inches. Viewing distances beyond 35 inches (the RPV in this case) should neither increase nor decrease eyestrain.’
Relax your focus
Many of us now take the precaution of taking regular breaks from sitting or from standing to stretch out our limbs and release tension but we rarely consider to give our eyes a rest. Just like the rest of your body, your eyes need a stretch from time to time. It’s healthy for our eyes to focus on different distances as they would do anywhere other than when looking at a screen or a book.
You could try following the 20/20 rule: every twenty minutes, look twenty feet away for 20 seconds. Or if this is to regimented for you, simply take the time to look varyingly between something close to you and then something far away from you for 15 seconds each.
Pay attention to your lighting
One of the biggest contributors toward eye strain is bad lighting. If you have bright lights or an uncovered window that allows in strong natural light it can cause a huge strain on your eyes. The best approach is to maintain low level lighting throughout the day and to try to keep the brightness of your screen the same as your surroundings. Be especially careful to watch out for backlighting - that is strong light coming from a source in the background and therefore making what’s in front of you appear dimmer - the contrast between the two can be very damaging.
Most screens these days have adjustable brightness and colour and even have different modes for the type of work such as for reading, writing or even photo editing. Try to find the ‘menu’ function on your monitor and adjust from there.
One great tool is the app Flux which comes with the tagline ‘software to make your life better.’ It tailors the lighting on your computer to match the natural change in lighting throughout the day. For those of us who are at our computers well into the evening you may also see an improvement to the quality of your sleep. However, this is best used for a home office set-up or a space where you can tailor the surrounding lighting because as mentioned above, having two kinds of light can be just as damaging as continuous bad light.
The same goes for glare, if you have white walls and reflective surfaces you can have multiple sources of bright light in your field of vision, again causing your eyes to strain between different levels of light intake. If you notice this is a problem in your work or home office, try painting walls a darker colour for less reflection.
Eat more carrots
Believe it or not, maintaining good eye health also requires certain things from your diet.
It’s true that carrots are great for eyesight. They have carotene which helps the retina to function smoothly. Meanwhile fruit and vitamin C in particular as well as leafy greans carry antioxidants that can help to reduce the risk of cataracts. Whilst oily fish such as salmon contains a fatty acid which is actually also found in your retina. Some studies show that low levels of this particular fat are linked to dry eyes.
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