When you work in an office and there are deadlines to meet it can be hard to tear yourself away from your computer. Staying late and desk lunches are just two ways we try to cram all our tasks into one day, and with eye strain from computers a leading cause of dry eyes, it’s no surprise that many of us are affected by this condition.
Avoiding dry eyes in the office is difficult for contact lens wearers. Your lenses can restrict the amount of oxygen that passes over your eyes, especially if they are made from less breathable materials. Wearing lenses for longer than recommended by your optician and not resting your eyes during the day can also contribute to eye strain and discomfort.
If you’re experiencing dry eyes at work, these handy tips will help you enjoy healthy, hydrated vision.
Which things in the office can cause dry eye discomfort?
Air conditioning and heating
Whether you’ve got the heating on full blast or you like to keep it cool, air-conditioned environments can contribute towards dry eyes. Air-con reduces the level of moisture in the air to avoid causing damp, but your eyes need a certain amount of moisture to replenish their natural tear supply. These tears are essential for keeping your eyes hydrated and comfortable throughout the day.
Office lights also play a part in dry eye discomfort. Dim lighting can make reading trickier, whether you’re looking at important documents or using your computer screen, and might mean you strain your eyes to read.
As with many public spaces, many offices tend to use fluorescent lighting, which causes reflection on computer screens. Glare caused by this reflection is a key contributor to eye strain and dry eyes, so it’s important that the lighting conditions of your office cause as little reflection as possible.
Computers are so essential to modern office work that it’s hard to avoid the impact that they can have on your eyes. When you use a computer you’ll tend to blink less, causing your eyes to miss out on the moisture that is provided when we blink.
No doubt when you were younger one of your parents told you to sit back from the TV or you’ll get square eyes. While your eyes should stay round no matter how near you are, sitting too close to a computer has been found to cause a significant amount of eye strain, so the set-up of your workstation is important in maintaining healthy eyes.
How to avoid dry eyes when you work in an office
Minimise the possibility of glare
Most modern computers have LCD screens and are less reflective than older models. However, if you do find that you’re experiencing glare from your monitor, you should find out from your employer if you can get a different screen or ask for an anti-glare filter.
Your office should be well-lit, balancing both artificial and natural light. When it’s bright outside you shouldn’t need as much interior light, but as it gets dark you should make sure you’re not working in a dark or dull setting. If you’re wearing glasses, they should have an anti-reflective coating to minimise the amount of reflection that you get from both your screen and glasses and reduce the amount of strain you put on your eyes.
Adjust your workstation
As you’re likely to spend a large part of your day at your desk, make sure it is set up in a way that reduces the impact on your eyes. Keep your computer brightness so that the screen is no brighter or dimmer than your surroundings. If you’re spending a lot of time reading, make sure that the text size is big enough that you don’t struggle to make out the words or to concentrate.
Your computer’s positioning is also important in working comfortably and safely. It should be kept at eye level or below, so you don’t have to look up. The screen should also be somewhere between 20-24 inches away from your eyes so that you maintain a good distance as you work. Ensuring that you have good posture also helps to maintain this distance and that your eyes are not put under any extra stress, so a comfy, ergonomic chair is a must.
Remember to take regular breaks
This one shouldn’t be too hard to remember, but it’s important to get away from your screen regularly, even if it’s just for a short time. Many eye care specialists recommend that you observe the 20-20-20 rule and look away from your computer every 20 minutes to focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This should help your eyes to feel more natural and normal as they readjust to something that isn’t a screen. Getting up and moving around for 5 minutes every so often is also good way to refresh so you can keep productive and energetic.
When you do take a break spend it well, whether it’s just for 5 minutes or for lunch. That means no screens and maybe some fresh air if you have time. Head outside and take a walk, trying to resist the pull of your smartphone so that your eyes can relax a bit.
More on dry eyes and how to prevent them:
Use eye drops
Contact lens wearers who work in office environments often find that eye drops provide soothing relief from dry eye symptoms. Our optician recommends everclear Eye drops, which are compatible with soft and silicone contact lenses. These drops are made with a preservative-free formula and natural ingredients that leave your eyes feeling refreshed and ready for the rest of the day. You could also apply a hot or cold compress to your closed eyes for some respite. If you’re suffering from blepharitis, we also stock wipes that are perfect for soothing the symptoms and will help your eyes to feel healthy again.
Finally, don’t forget to drink plenty of water; not just what’s in your tea or coffee. Drinking water helps to maintain a healthy level of natural tears, whereas caffeine is known to cause dryness. A healthy diet full of fish, fruit and leafy greens is also a good way to fight off dry eyes in the long run. If you’re experiencing discomfort and feel like nothing’s working to stop it, speak to your optician and they can help find a solution.