Skip to Content

Your Work Can Take a Toll on Your Eyes


Published May 26, 2020 • by AHIP

When most people think of workplace eye injuries, they likely picture an industrial setting, construction site or perhaps a lab. However, an office setting can also take its toll on eye health and vision—and computers and devices are to blame.

Right now, social distancing associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly increased the number of hours we spend on computers and digital devices. Not only are we using our devices for work, but we are also using them more often for online social chats, video gaming, reading books, and streaming movies. In recent weeks, we have been staring at our screens far longer than we used to – and even that was too much.

If you stare at a computer or digital device for more than a few hours a day, you are more susceptible to digital eyestrain and long-term vision problems.

Here in the U.S, the average person has eight networked devices, with that number growing to 13.6 by 2022. While devices such as computers, cell phones, tablets, and readers are convenient and efficient, they can take a toll on your eyes.

According to the Vision Council, 59 percent of Americans suffer from digital eyestrain. Eyestrain is marked by dry, tired eyes and blurry vision.

One cause for this is a lack of blinking. The average person normally blinks 15 times or more per minute. However, when you look at a device screen, you blink 50 percent less often. This can lead to less ocular lubrication and more irritation.

Additionally, blue light emission from devices can negatively impact your eyes over time. Blue light is the highest energy wavelength of visible light that can penetrate your eyes’ natural filters.

While different devices emit varying degrees of blue light, the negative effects are cumulative and can lead to retinal damage. Add in poor contrast between text and background image or color and/or flickering on the screen, and it’s little wonder that your eyes pay the price.

Poor Vision and Loss of Productivity

If you cannot see well, you cannot work well. In fact, eyestrain is the top complaint given by people whose primary job involves working on a computer. According to research from Transitions Optical, 79 percent of employees say they encounter at least one visual disturbance that bothers their eyes at work, and 53 percent take at least one break a day to rest their eyes.

Additionally, eyestrain can lead to headaches. In the workplace, one in four employees says they suffer from light- or glare-related headaches. Of all headaches, 5.4 percent are severe enough to cause productivity loss of 3.5 hours per week at work.

Additionally, the National Headache Foundation reports that 90 percent of employees say headaches affect their work performance. This results in a big financial hit, with headaches costing the nation $17 billion in absenteeism, lost productivity, and medical expenses.

Four Tips to Prevent Digital Eyestrain

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to lessen the impact of screen use on your eyes.

  1. Take frequent breaks from digital devices. These days, that may mean taking a walk, riding your bike, or enjoying some “family time.”
  2. Follow the 20/20/20 rule. While working, every 20 minutes, focus on something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This will give your eyes a chance to relax and reduce fatigue.
  3. Adjust screen settings. Make sure the brightness is neither too bright nor too gray. It should be subtle, not a light source. Additionally, adjust the color temperature of the screen, specifically the blue light. Aim for more in the orange or yellow realm.
  4. Computerize your glasses.If you wear eyeglasses, talk to your eye care professional about modifying them for device use. If you wear progressives, consider switching to single vision lenses for close reading. You can also ask for a blue light coating to ease strain from the blue light emission. And if you normally wear contacts, consider glasses instead, as your contacts can become dry and irritated with extended device use.

Most importantly, when the COVID-19 stay-at-home guidance in your community is relaxed, be sure to get your annual eye exam and ask your eye care provider if you need a new prescription for glasses or contact lenses.