It’s hard to avoid looking at a screen all day. Desktops, laptops, tablets, mobile devices—using them involves staring at a screen. Researchers are at work on technology that can adjust displays so you don’t need a corrective lens, but in the meantime most of us are struggling with less-than-ideal screens. And whether it’s a big screen or small screen, extended use of these devices can lead to computer vision syndrome, also known as eye strain.
While sore, watery, or dry eyes are all symptoms, eye strain can also cause headaches and neck, back, and shoulder pain. The long-term consequences aren’t severe, but there are some simple steps you can take to increase your workplace wellness and avoid any discomfort from eye strain effects.
Reconfigure your workspace
Many of us work too close to our computers, and simply correcting our posture can lead to huge improvements. Position your chair about arms length from your computer, and center the screen so it’s 4 to 8 inches below your eyes. This will put less strain on your neck when reading and typing.
That said, if you move your screen at arm’s length, you may need to adjust your display. In addition to increasing the size of text, it’s worth altering the brightness of your screen to match the surrounding space.
Get up and walk
Along with being good for your eyes, breaks are good for your entire body, as more and more research points to the negative effects of sitting for too long. But even if you don’t have time to get out of your chair, you can do what is referred to as the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes take your eyes off your computer and look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Now, if you’re one of those people that eats your lunch at your desk and only once you realize it’s already 2 P.M., then remembering to focus on things every 20 minutes can seem a bit of an impossible task. Try scheduling reminders into your calendar. While the pop-ups may be annoying, it’ll get you at least thinking about taking a break more often.
Exercise your eyes
No one wants to have coworkers walk by as you’re in the middle of an exercise break in your cubicle. Luckily, exercising your eyes is a little subtler. Blinking often—or at least when you remember to do it—can help produce tears to refresh your eyes. Massaging eyelids, as well as areas around your brow, temple, and cheeks can also relax the muscles and alleviate soreness.
It can be hard to remember to take care of yourself throughout the workday, but consistent changes over time can have huge benefits to your overall health and wellness. And though altering your routine to blink more or massage your eyes may seem inconsequential, it can help your ability to concentrate and increase productivity. Just remember to tell that to your boss if she catches you with your eyes shut.