Protecting Your Eyes: 3 Tips For Working Women
The modern workplace can be hard on the eyes, and not just because open office plans and hot desking aren’t the most attractive aesthetic choices. No, spending a lot of time staring at a computer screen can cause eyestrain and fatigue and even damage your vision permanently. Luckily, developing better work habits can make a big difference in how your eyes feel.
If you wear contacts instead of glasses to deal with your vision problems, you may find that they get especially dry from looking at a computer all day. This wouldn’t be a big deal, but when our eyes get dry, we tend to rub them a lot, and that can quickly cause a contact-related eye infection. Most of these infections involve the common, but dangerous bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, but no matter what the cause, there are a few steps you can take to reduce the odds of infection.
First, it’s important to make sure your hands are very clean – and that means all day, not just when inserting or removing your lenses. By keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer at your desk and being extra observant about hand washing, you can protect your eyes (and make it less likely you’ll pick up that cold that’s been going around the office).
Your workday eye makeup routine could also make your more vulnerable to eye infections. For example, old mascara can clump and dry out, but those tubes can also harbor infections. Never share your eye makeup and replace mascara, eye pencils, and anything else that goes near your eyes regularly so that you don’t spread bacteria to your contact.
Dry Eye Drama
Most office employees experience at least some degree of dry eye, which can cause stinging, light sensitivity, and redness, among other symptoms. This tends to happen because, when we look at a screen, we don’t blink as often as we would when reading a book or having a conversation. But while dry eye itself isn’t necessarily a problem, it can make you more vulnerable to scratching your cornea and infections, and may indirectly impact your focus.
In addition to computer use, there are several factors that can make you more vulnerable to dry eye. For example, if you’ve had LASIK to correct vision problems, you may be more prone to dry eye, though the same is true of contact use. In either case, regular application of artificial tears can relieve discomfort and protect your eyes when working at a computer.
Light It Right
Finally, most offices are guilty of making vision problems worse by installing fluorescent lighting. Bright, overhead lighting can increase eyestrain and can make it more difficult for your eyes to switch between reading a screen and reading paper documents. Luckily, you can make a few simple changes to your workstation to reduce visual discomfort.
If there are fluorescent lights over your desk, start by placing your computer parallel to them, rather than directly under them and angling your screen away from windows and lights. This will help minimize glare off the screen and make it easier to look at the screen. If you have a private office, you might also turn off overhead lights and use a filter on your screen to make the lighting more eye-friendly.
It’s also important to take regular breaks from your screen, as hard as that may seem in the modern workplace – but luckily you don’t have to take a long break. Instead, use the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, spend 20 seconds looking at something at least 20 feet away. This is just enough time for your eyes to reset and relax, and then you can get back to work.
The office is hardly a vision-friendly space, and computers are the worst offenders, but if you adjust the lighting, keep an appropriate distance, and are sure to protect your eyes with eye drops and proper hygiene, you can minimize the damage. Though we can hope employers and office designers will catch on to the importance of employee eye health soon, for now, you need to take your vision into your own hands.