Office ergonomics and healthy vision
If you work in an office, you’re at your desk for 35-40 hours each week, mostly looking at a computer screen to answer emails, working on documents, and even using your space to attend virtual meetings. How we set up our workspace can set up our bodies for success as well, including our eyes. Office ergonomics is something we should all pay attention to as the majority of office jobs continue to become more and more synonymous with computer work. Keep reading to learn why this is important.
What exactly is ergonomics?
Ergonomics, and specifically office ergonomics, is the study of the kind of work you do, the environment in which you work, the tools you use to do your job and if your workspace is set up in a way that fits what you do in order to optimize your health and performance.
How are office ergonomics related to vision?
Our visual system is not meant to be in a near-viewing posture for extended periods of time as it puts stress on our eyes. While computer use tended to be sparse in the workplace only a couple of decades ago, it is no longer uncommon to have an employee use at least one computer during a typical workday, while also using a laptop while commuting or for personal use at home.
The reality is that many people now spend a majority of their waking hours focused on tiny fonts on the computer and other digital devices. When you focus on a digital screen, you tend to blink much less than usual which can cause eye strain and fatigue, dry, red and gritty eyes, blurriness and even a temporary change in the ability to see colours. You may have even heard of the terms digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome.
What’s more, in order to compensate for not being able to read a screen properly, people tend to lean forward and slouch which can cause headaches and shoulder, neck and back pain. Poor posture and the improper setup of the desk, chair, computer and keyboard can also cause issues like tendinitis.
If you do find yourself constantly leaning forward to see your screen, it’s a good idea to get your vision checked in order to make sure that you are not compensating for an uncorrected vision problem.
Other factors that can cause eye discomfort in the workspace are poor lighting, screen glare, and dry air.
It’s beneficial for both employees and employers to optimize the workspace because it leads to increased efficiency (if you can read well, you can complete tasks quickly without squinting, etc.) and less absenteeism (due to neck or back pain, for example).
How to set up your workspace for your eyes
- Put your screen an arm’s length away and make the font larger so you can easily read; the top of the screen should be at or slightly below eye level
- Adjust your chair so that your feet are flat on the floor (or use a footrest) and your thighs are parallel to the floor
- Your mouse and keyboard should be on the same surface and within easy reach; keep your hands at, or slightly below, the level of your elbows
- Make sure there isn’t too much glare from your screen; consider adding a matte filter in front.
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, stare at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds
- If your work environment is particularly dry, consider a desktop humidifier or artificial tears to lubricate your eyes
- Make sure the lighting in your workspace is brighter than your computer’s lighting. If you constantly switch back and forth from screen to paper documents, consider getting additional task lighting (like a lamp) for your paperwork. This will allow your eyes to adjust quicker and easier
- Keep your screen perpendicular to any windows
One recent fad is the use of large exercise (or yoga) balls as chairs. This can be good for intermittent use, as it helps to strengthen the core (as long as good posture is maintained). However, since they are typically one-size-fits-all, it may be difficult to find a size that works for you, allowing you to maintain good posture. Furthermore, it is difficult for the body to sustain that position for eight or more hours and it will naturally start to slump.
Optimizing your workspace means better overall health, good eye health, and increased work productivity. It’s no secret that wearing contact lenses makes your eyes dryer, especially when looking at a computer. If you’re tired of wearing glasses or contacts, come in for a free no-obligation consultation to see if laser vision correction is right for you.