It’s common knowledge that overusing screens can put strain on our eyes and ultimately impact our vision. Now more than ever, many of us are reliant on smart devices and have to look at screens all day as part of our jobs. Optometrists are finding more tech-related eye strains in patients, demonstrating the threat that excessive screen time can pose to our long-term eye health.
Businesses need to take this into account and help staff to take precautions to ensure they protect their eyes. To help your staff to look after their health and maintain vision in the upcoming year, we have put together some tips, nutritional advice, and strategies that employers can use to help their staff see better in 2020.
Encourage employees to take regular breaks from screens
Using a computer for too long on a regular basis can cause computer vision syndrome (CVS), a condition that results in tired, dry, and strained eyes. To prevent this, employees are advised to blink regularly and look away from the screen routinely during the day when working on a computer.
Taking regular breaks is also imperative when sitting in front of a screen, where the 20-20-20 rule can come in handy. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break from your screen to look at something 20 feet away. This will give your eyes a chance to rest and is an effective way to reduce eye strain.
Provide equipment that is fit for purpose
Having a high-quality resolution and adequately bright screen can help to reduce the pressure on your eyes when focusing on a computer for extended periods of time. Working with a dull screen or glare forces eyes to strain more, so it is important to regularly check the screen brightness and resolutions of your equipment.
It’s a good idea to offer the option of anti-glare screens for your staff to reduce the everyday strain on their eyes. In addition, suitable lighting is required around desks for equal brightness since shadows and light glare can cause eye fatigue over time. Computer screens should rest at least 25 inches away from employees’ eyes.
Encourage staff to give up smoking
Smoking exposes your eyes to high levels of oxidative stress and has been linked to the risk of cataracts, glaucoma, diabetes, and dry eye syndrome. Quitting smoking at any stage of life can be beneficial, reducing the risk of developing eye threatening conditions. Encouraging staff to quit smoking and pointing them in the direction of relevant schemes is an excellent idea going into 2020.
Promote walks during lunch times
Exercising regularly is a recommended way to keep your eyes in check. Exercise lowers the pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure), helping to protect retinal ganglion cells. It’s advisable for staff to spend at least 20 minutes out of the office each day – you could promote this by forming groups of employees that go walking together during lunch.
Make sure your staff are getting enough sleep
For most people, sleeping is the one period during the day when their eyes are not required to focus. During sleep, the eyes are rehydrated with a supply of natural tears, a process which requires a minimum of five hours to replenish. If sleeping is an issue for any of your staff, exercising regularly can be helpful. Relaxing in bed without using a screen can also be beneficial, as well as hot baths, light yoga, or reading a book.
In cases where employees suffer from lack of sleep for an extended period of time, it may be worth recommending that they visit a GP. Of course, not only will improve the quality of sleep for your staff look after their eyes, it will also improve their alertness and productivity when in the office.
Eat a balanced diet
To maintain healthy eyes, eating foods rich in vitamins C and E, omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, and zinc are highly recommended. Kale, spinach, salmon, tuna, eggs, nuts, beans, oranges, and oysters can all help your employees to maintain their eye health through a balanced diet. Whilst biscuits and chocolate are often considered the standard office fare, introducing fruit bowls can help to encourage staff to eat healthier snacks.
Wear sunglasses with the correct protection
If your staff work outside or are regularly on the road, exposure to UV light can cause eye health problems. It’s important to ensure that all employees wear appropriate eye protection throughout the year. Fast fashion retailers do not always produce sunglasses with the correct materials to avoid harmful ultraviolet (UV) light. You should make outdoor workers aware that glasses with appropriate UVA and UVB protection are important.
Encourage regular eye checks
Even if your staff are doing all of these things to look after their eyes, it’s crucial that they take regular eye examinations to help spot sight loss or damage at an early stage. Optometrists can help detect conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration, so encouraging your staff to make regular visits to the optician is an important step in maintaining good eye health.
Simple measures such as posters around the office or sending regular reminders in the form of an internal newsletter can be an easy way to promote staff checks.
Alastair Lockwood is an eye health specialist and ophthalmologist at Feel Good Contacts and surgeon who is passionate about trying to stop people going blind from glaucoma – a leading cause of irreversible blindness. His research specialises into how to treat those patients who are unresponsive to conventional treatment, and is in the stages of developing new models for surgery to cure glaucoma.
His interest in research stems from undergraduate training at Cambridge University and clinical training at Oxford University. He completed an MRC funded PhD at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital.