If you work at a computer all day, you’re no stranger to eye strain. The stress is cumulative, and about the only way to “cure” it is to take a break from the screen. Here are a few ways to save your eyes while still getting your work done.
Take a Break Every Two Hours
Force yourself to take a break at least once every two hours. When you do, you need to spend time looking out into the distance, preferably outside and preferably at natural scenery. Why? Because the focusing muscles of your eye contract when you look at something close-up.
Looking at something far away, and focusing on it, allows your muscles to relax. Spend at least 2 minutes staring off into the distance. Blink repeatedly to get your tear ducts going.
Sit Back From Your Computer
Sit at least an arm’s length away from your computer. This helps further reduce strain on your eyes. If you notice yourself leaning into your monitor, stop. Place an object in front of you that you will have to knock over if you lean in too far.
Alternatively, buy an app like Lumo Posture Coach to help you straighten up. This will also help you stay away from your monitor.
Talk To Your Employer
If you suffer eye strain every day, but your work prevents you from taking regular breaks, talk to your employer. This can get to be a dicey issue, as many employers only look at “the numbers” and assume that all that’s needed is a productivity goal.
If you’ve been injured, and your employer seems unresponsive, consult with specialists that can help you understand your rights – especially when it comes to repetitive stress injuries.
Your employer should be willing to work with you to help you incorporate breaks into your workday without sacrificing productivity. It’s true that there may be an adjustment period, and that you may temporarily reduce your output. However, the improved eyesight and reduced stress will eventually help you get more done without the eye strain, headaches, and blurred vision you might be experiencing now.
Applications, like Coffee Break (Mac) and Workrave (Windows, Linux/GNU) are great apps that help you monitor your computer usage and take breaks periodically. Workrave helps you recover and prevent repetitive eye strain injuries by suggesting breaks and exercises. It also restricts your daily use (by setting an upper daily limit).
You can customize the frequency and duration of your breaks and enable or disable the options to skip or postpone pauses, which essentially forces you to break.
The Mac version, Coffee Break, lets you schedule your day. The app takes over your computer somewhat by forcing you to stop working. The app makes the computer non-responsive until you take a break.
EyeLeo is another app for Windows, specifically designed to prevent eye strain. By reminding you to take breaks periodically, every hour, you stay away from the computer long enough to give your eyes a much-needed break.
Owen Whiteman is a senior health and safety executive. He likes to share his insights with an online audience and has written for a number of different websites.