Our eyes become fatigued when we spend too much time in front of our computer without configuring our work environment accordingly. I recently focused on this problem, pun intended, when I suffered extensive computer withdrawal while recovering from an eye operation.

Here’s how you can protect your eyes in our world that is dominated by long periods of working and playing at monitors of all shapes and sizes.

Blink more

Most of us blink less often when working at the computer. Reduced blinking frequency can dry out your eyes. Ventilation or air conditioning can also dry out your eyes.

Frequent blinking moisturizes and refreshes your eyes. Deflecting the air out of the ventilation slot of the air conditioner can also help.

Take a break

If you work at the computer for long periods of time, your eyes need a break. Leave your workstation or switch off your smartphone regularly.

“I recommend that everyone take at least a five-minute break from their monitors every hour,” said Dr. Natalia Figueiredo, Vitreoretinal Fellow at Calgary Retina Consultants. “When we focus on close objects, our eye muscles work at maximum contraction. Therefore, they need time to relax by focusing on more distant objects that are at least six meters away.”

Improve the lighting

Excessive fluorescent lighting and sunlight streaming in from a window can cause glare. Placing your monitors directly in front of a window or a white wall can cause problems as well. These lighting problems strain your eyes by increasing the effort of your eyes to see text and images on your monitors.

Reduce indoor and outdoor lighting by closing your blinds and unscrewing some of your fluorescent tubes. If you need targeted light for reading or writing, use an adjustable desk lamp.

Check your prescription

If you wear glasses or contacts, the strain on the eyes can be caused by a poor fit or an outdated prescription.

Visit your optometrist to check your eyes against the prescription of your glasses to see if a change will help you see better and reduce your eye strain.

Adjust your monitor settings

The default settings of your monitor are usually optimized for best viewing. Nonetheless, you may want to experiment with your brightness, contrast and sharpness settings to achieve a comfortable combination of levels for you.

My BenQ EW2780 monitors also offer the following additional settings: flicker-free technology, low blue light, brightness intelligence plus, colour weakness, e-paper mode, and eye reminder. Such choices are more than enough to meet my needs and could help you minimize your eye strain as well.

You can adjust the screen brightness on your iPhone or iPad by opening the Control Center on the home screen. Then move the brightness slider up or down. On Android smartphones, you swipe down from the top of the screen to reveal the Notification Shade.

Adjust your text size

Sometimes text on a monitor is too small to be readable without squinting or straining the eyes.

Enlarging the text size for easier reading can lead to more comfort and less eye strain. You may want to experiment with these size settings:

  1. Windows > Settings > Display > Scale and layout. The default value is 225 per cent.
  2. Microsoft Office tools offer a Zoom slider at the bottom right of the window. The default value is 100 per cent.
  3. On a Mac, Command + or – increases or decreases the text size in applications.
  4. Web browsers use CTRL on Windows or Command on a Mac followed by + or – to cycle through six settings that increase or decrease text size along with the graphics on web pages. The default value is Medium.
  5. In the Chrome web browser, you can resize text and graphics using Settings > Appearance > Page zoom. The default value is 100 per cent.

Use a document holder

If you use printed material on your desk while working at your computer, you need to adjust your eyes and rotate your neck and head frequently.

To avoid the associated strain, place the printed material on a document holder. Place the holder between the keyboard and the monitors or to the side of one monitor.

Improve your ergonomics

A poorly designed sitting position in front of your computer can cause many problems, including eye strain.

Position your monitor directly in front of you, about an arm’s length away. Position the height of your chair so that the top of the monitors is at eye level.

For more details, read this Mayo Clinic Eyestrain article.

What ideas can you contribute to help IT professionals who spend too much time in front of their computers reduce their eye strain? Let us know in the comments below.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
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Yogi Schulz
Yogi Schulz has over 40 years of Information Technology experience in various industries. Yogi works extensively in the petroleum industry to select and implement financial, production revenue accounting, land & contracts, and geotechnical systems. He manages projects that arise from changes in business requirements, from the need to leverage technology opportunities and from mergers. His specialties include IT strategy, web strategy, and systems project management.