It’s true; the paradigm has shifted when it comes to office work. Many of us are still working from home thanks to the pandemic. Many companies have simply opted to make office work optional for the foreseeable future, which means we are seeing an unparalleled amount of people that work out of their home office compared to just a year and a half ago.
You do you! Working from home can be great. However, we’ve seen a distressing increase in the number of vision problems since March 2020, all of which we can guess has to do with the changes in the way we’re working.
At-Home Work Means Way More Screen Time
It sounds counter-intuitive; you would think without oversight from a manager or supervisor you’d be spending less time at your desk. After all, you have the freedom to work exactly how you want to work when you’re in your own home.
However, think about the myriad of distractions that commonly occur when you’re in the office. Talking to a coworker, going to the water cooler, using the restroom, taking a lunch break, or a short walk; are all little moments away from your screen that adds up throughout the day.
Many at-home workers are finding themselves, even in their leisure time, staring at their computer or phone screen. This amount of screen time adds up and can be exponentially greater than the screen time you accrue in the office. Is the picture starting to become clearer?
Cramped Space Puts a Strain on Your Eyes
Say what you want about the cubicle. However, one thing it has going for it is that it’s generally an ergonomic setup. Office space has access to the sort of setup that many of us don’t have access to at home, like full-size desks, monitor stands, and comfortable computer chairs.
When you’re at home it’s tempting to make do with what you have. For many of us, that’s an ill-fitting chair on a low-standing desk with our eyes trained on a tiny laptop screen. These kinds of improvised office spaces put a strain on not just our bodies but our eyes.
As the length of our screen time increases and the quality of that time decreases, we see what we call “computer vision syndrome” emerge. Patients with this vision problem report frequent, persistent headaches, blurred vision, and a general inability to focus.
Why is that? When we focus for too long on a small (or even a large screen, in many cases) we find that our eye muscles have less to do. You’re no longer using your eyes as they were designed; to scan the horizon, focusing on points in the background, midground, and foreground. Instead, they are stuck staring in the midground at a point in front of you that is as large as your laptop or monitor. Your eye muscles, like any muscle in your body, weaken with disuse, hence the predicament we find many patients in who report computer vision syndrome.
What You Can Do
First and foremost, if you have any change in your vision, even if it’s something that you would consider minor, see us immediately for a consultation. Even small changes to your vision can be symptoms of larger problems.
What you can do to lessen the eye strain from at-home work is to emulate your office as much as possible. Here are a few of our suggestions:
- Forego the 64oz water thermos and get a smaller water bottle so you force yourself to take frequent trips to fill it
- Install a phone or computer app that reminds you to take frequent, intentional breaks away from your screens
- Try to schedule meetings with coworkers in-person; you can always do socially distanced walking meetings to get a breath of fresh air
- Invest in a good quality office set up that allows you to stay at a comfortable distance from your computer screen
Working from home is great freedom. All we ask is that you don’t put inadvertent stress on your eyes in the process. If you have any concerns about your vision, please give us a call.