4 tips for avoiding tired computer eyes

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4 tips for avoiding tired computer eyes

From adjusting your screen brightness settings to office lighting, here are four common suggestions for avoiding tired eyes at work.

We've had plenty of bad backs in our time sitting in office chairs, but we've never thought too much about what staring at a computer does to our eyes. 
 
We got thinking about this after seeing a warning from BenQ that staring at a screen can result in vision problems like seeing spots and finding it hard to focus, short sightedness or even headaches and migraine. Blue LED light has been "shown to be detrimental to the eye", according to their press release.
 
Now keep in mind, this is part of BenQ 's sales pitch - they sell computer monitors which have been designed to have less flicker and modes to reduce glare - including a "reading mode" to reduce blue light.
 
Still, it got us wondering, what can the rest of us do to protect your eyes if we don't have one of these special monitors? These tips are intended to get you started thinking about this, but we'd still recommend talking to a professional about this. Here are a few tips we found:
 
Get the right monitor height
 
Once you've set up your desk and chair correctly (a topic for a separate article), the broad agreement among ergonomists seems to be that you should position the monitor so the screen is directly in front of you, at arm's length, and so the top is level with or just below your eyes. We found an example of this tip in Swinburne University of Technology's guide Setting Up Your Workstation.
 
This is a lot easier with modern LCD screens - their thin which makes the arm's-length rule easier to achieve if you have a narrow desk, and the height is usually about right without you needing an extra stand.
 
But if you are stuck with a CRT (and there seems to be a surprising number of them still around in small businesses), you'll have to work harder to get it in the right position. You might need to pull the desk away from the wall to get the screen at the correct distance from your eyes. Using an old phone book or two to raise a small screen is a time-honoured tradition.
 
Adjust your laptop
 
Using a laptop at your desk (and not a separate screen and keyboard) means there's a tendency to hunch over the computer making the screen too close to your eyes. Monash University in its Computer User Guidelines suggests elevating the laptop to get the screen at the right height and distance (you can buy purpose-made stands) and using an external keyboard and mouse or trackpad. Or you can use a laptop with an external, correctly-positioned monitor.
 
Check the lighting, reflections
 
Natural and artificial lighting are also factors - varying light levels in your field of vision, and glare and reflections on the screen can both have an affect on your eyes. The University of Western Australia has a Computer workstation ergonomics page which recommends that if there are no sources of bright light in the workplace, service lighting of 300 lux is appropriate, otherwise 400-500 lux may be better. Most offices are apparently in the 300-500 lux range. We also found a suggestion about this in Monash University's Officewise - A guide to health & safety in the office - in that guide, Worksafe Victoria suggests around 240 lux is suitable for computer usage. You can buy a basic light meter for around $100.
 
To avoid reflections, try and avoid placing the monitor near a window, thuogh that's not always possible of course. Try to make sure you don't face the window and neither does the screen. Try and arrange monitors in an office so they are at right angles to fluorescent tubes and not directly beneath other types of lights.
 
You can also reduce minor glare and reflections by adjusting the angle of the screen, or possibly by using a screen with a less glossy surface. In some cases you might be possible to rearrange other objects in the office or adjust blinds or curtains to block the light that's causing the reflection.
 
The University of Western Australia suggests reducing the screen brightness (though this may make reflections more apparent), looking into the distance at regular intervals every 10 minutes or so and avoiding colour combinations that are hard on the eyes (red, green or yellow on white).
 
Consider getting a separate pair of glasses
 
Of course, if you wear spectacles or contact lenses, consult your optometrist. A computer monitor is typically probably too close for a distance prescription but too far away for a reading prescription, so you mjght need an extra pair of spectacles for computer use.
 
Interestingly, according to Jennifer Long of the School of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of New South Wales (What Every Ergonomics Needs to Know about Multiple Focus Spectacles), bifocal or general purpose progressive lenses are generally not recommended as they tend to result in the head being held at an uncomfortable angle. She notes that extended focus progressive lenses are suitable for computer use but not for driving, so whether you go for those or a specific 'computer glasses' prescription you will probably end up with two pairs of spectacles.

 

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