5 Ways to look after your eyes at work

Eyesight is one of our most important senses at work, especially for roles that require long periods of time at a computer, like project managers.

This is why it’s imperative that we keep our eyes safe and protected — especially in our workplaces where we spend most of our time, even if those workplaces are a corner of the kitchen or your home office.

However, a survey by AAO.org reveals key gaps in the knowledge of eye health among American adults. A majority (81%) of those surveyed claim that they are knowledgeable about eye/vision health, but only one-third (37%) are aware that vision loss due to eye diseases don’t always come with observable symptoms.

This lack of awareness is alarming, considering that work can contribute to eye health – or lack of it. Have you ever felt your eyes get tired or dry at the end of a day?

Below are 5 ways to look after your eyes while working at home if you have to be in front of the screen for work, so you can support the health of your eyes for better productivity and well-being. And they will also work if you’re based in the office!

1. Adjust your lighting

Whether you work from home or in the office, lighting can play an important role in your level of comfort during screen time.

Although remote workers may have greater freedom in adjusting their homes’ interior lighting as they see fit, office employees can still control their light sources using desk lamps.

Consider adjusting the brightness of your screen (go to the screen settings options) to match your surroundings and help you avoid squinting.

Check the positioning of your overhead lights and try to avoid having them reflecting off the screen.

Many apps and operating systems come with dark mode which might help you see the screen better as it can improve contrast.

Elizabeth writing at desk
Elizabeth is a long-time glasses wearer.

2. Wear blue-light-filtering glasses

The blue light emitted by digital screens can boost your mood and alertness. However, prolonged exposure to blue light may strain your eyes.

You can better protect your eyes from these high-energy wavelengths by wearing specially-designed computer glasses from specialized eyewear companies.

You can even filter blue light in style as part of your normal prescription glasses. Popular designer brands offer their frames and technology in glasses, ensuring you look great and get protection. 

Oakley provides glasses that offer blue-light options that reduce glare and filter blue-violet light for those who normally don’t wear glasses, blending their unique design style with blue-light filters.

If you do normally wear glasses, blue light glasses have treated lenses to apply the filter.

Treated lenses do filter out blue wavelengths, but there seems to be no scientific evidence that they do masses of good for your eyes – most of the blue light we’re exposed to comes from the sun anyway.

However, they can look great and you might find they are exactly what you need. It’s always worth trying different options to protect your eyes at work, so ask your eye care provider what the options are for you.

3. Opt for varifocals

Some people who need corrective vision have to get more than one prescription to see at various distances.

In most cases, this would mean getting more than one pair of glasses, which can be a hassle, especially for workers. If they don’t change their glasses, users may still experience blurred vision at different distances and face other problems like headaches and eye strain.

Instead of struggling with vision, test out varifocals or progressive lenses. While bifocals can help by providing a reading and distance prescription, the sudden change between the prescription can be disorienting.

Varifocals enable users to see clearly over multiple distances while minimizing drastic changes, making it feel more comfortable. This feature benefits employees by allowing them to swap different visual perspectives without negative side effects, such as reading, talking to a coworker, or presenting a project.

I’ll warn you now: they do take some getting used to, and longer than I expected. However, I wouldn’t go back to single-vision lenses now I have varifocals. If you are used to contact lenses, talk to your optician, as you might not be able to get the contacts you need in a varifocal prescription.

4. Improve your posture

Apart from your vision itself, your working posture can also affect how well your eyes focus on the screen. As such, employees with desk-based jobs must pay attention to their sitting position to avoid digital eye strain, especially when working for extended periods.

One of the challenges of desk-based jobs is that a reaction to having too much work to do is that we just work more. If you’re anything like me, you’ll take fewer breaks and stay at your desk longer because it feels like that is the answer.

To avoid tilting your head uncomfortably or leaning too close to the screen, sit straight and ensure your head and neck are aligned with your torso. Adopt a comfortable viewing distance from the screen by adjusting the height of your desk and chair and placing the top of the screen slightly below horizontal eye level.

If you can’t see the screen without leaning forward, make the text bigger!

Do the Display Screen Equipment assessments and training provided by your employer.  

5. Maximize your vision care benefits

Beyond self-directed ways of protecting your eyes while working, it’s important to check with your employer regarding the vision care benefits they provide. 

Vision benefits platform XP Health found that despite 75% of employees recognizing that eyecare is important, over 40% of them don’t fully use their vision benefits because of difficulty understanding what’s covered.

Vision benefits typically include an annual comprehensive eye exam/test at the opticians to ensure ongoing eye health and identify potential vision problems, as well as discounts for the purchase of corrective eyewear (mainly if you have to get glasses for screen use, if your job requires you to use a screen).

As a minimum, your employer should be happy to give you time off work for a regular eye test. They should provide protective eyewear like safety glasses if your job requires it, for example if you’re working with certain tools.

Check the intranet or ask your manager so you know what benefits are included and make use of them!

If you do one thing…

Finally, don’t forget to take screen breaks. Whether you wear glasses or not, breaks are the single most important thing to help your eyes cope with the strain of having to look at digital devices all day.

Use the 20-20-20 rule:

Every 20 minutes, look away from the screen at something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds.

That might be hard to do if you work in a small office, but even getting up to make a cup of tea will give you the chance to rest your eyes and change the focal length they’ve been fixed at.

Your workplace can expose you to risks of eye damage more than you think, so it’s better to manage and prevent these risks before they escalate into eye strain—or worse, serious conditions like permanent vision loss.

Whether it’s updating a risk log, diving into a Gantt chart to work out why a task hasn’t moved as expected, or zooming into slides at 200% to make it easier to get the lines to look just right on your project update deck, we all spend way too long looking at screens.

Take a break, look after your eyes, and put eye health on your agenda.