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  • Heidi Blackie

How Ergonomics Can Combat Eye Strain

Updated: Mar 22, 2022

Have you ever had burning, dryness, eye strain, blurred vision, headaches or neck pain after working at your computer? You may be suffering from Computer Vision Syndrome.

With all the use of screens these days, the toll on our eyes is immense! Not only do we blink less, but other factors such as poor indoor air quality, forced air - either heat or AC, low humidity and suboptimal lighting can affect the health of our eyes. In addition to discomfort, it can lead to lower productivity and can affect mental health. A study looking at blink rates found that when relaxed, we blink an average 18x/minute, while viewing a computer screen blink rates decreased to 3.6x/minute. Participants also had incomplete blinks where the top and bottom lids didn’t meet. Blink rate also decreases with font size, decreased contrast and increased cognitive demands of the task.

Why is blinking important? Blinking lubricates, cleanses and nourishes the eye including bringing oxygen to the cornea.

What can we do to take care of our eyes while working?

A good ergonomic set up is important - lighting not too bright or dim (some being from natural light is preferred) on the monitor and in your workspace. Avoid direct lighting above you and use task lighting at your desk. Your monitor should be at arm’s distance from you while sitting back in your chair. Monitor height should be set so your eyes are at the top 1/3 of the screen to maintain a neutral neck position - assuming you aren’t wearing progressive lenses.

Just as you move your arms and legs, it is important to exercise your eyes as well. Keeping your head still, move your eyes right/left, up/down and in circles, 3x/each. Every 20 minutes look 20 feet away from you for 20 seconds. It is also helpful to close your eyes to help lubricate them. Studies found that taking three 30 second breaks plus a 3 minute exercise/stretch break every hour reduced discomfort and increased productivity by 15%. Set a timer to alert you to take a break.

Hydration inside and out is important. A small desk humidifier and/or air filter can also help improve the ambient air.

If you have any questions about how our ergonomics assessments can help you feel better at work, please reach out.

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