Most people these days use a computer screen (VDU) at some point during their working day, many people for several hours at a time. It’s therefore not surprising that a good number of us complain of ‘eyestrain’ when using a VDU for a prolonged time.
The good news is that in the majority of cases eyestrain can be reduced or even eliminated by following a few simple steps
Take regular breaks. It has been shown that taking a brief rest of a couple of minutes once you have been looking at your screen for half an hour can reduce fatigue. During the rest make sure you are looking at something in the long distance to give your eyes a break from close focussing. Don’t, therefore, take your break by reading a magazine!
Lighting can also be key to reducing eye fatigue. Ideally all artificial lighting should be bright enough to enable you to work comfortably. To dim and you will struggle to see small print etc., too bright and glare from reflective surfaces will cause problems. If at all possible position your screen in such a way that any natural light is to the side of you. A large window behind you will cause reflections on your screen resulting in a reduction of contrast. A large window in front of you will cause the light to shine straight into your eyes.
Your screen should be 50-80cm away from you. Any paper documentation you need to refer to whist using your screen should be at as similar distance as possible to your screen. This will avoid you having to constantly change focus, helping to reduce fatigue.
It sounds obvious but it is surprising how many people don’t follow this step; if you have been prescribed glasses, wear them!
“I have done all this but I am still getting eyestrain. Is there anything else I can do?”
Once you have eliminated all the environmental factors the next step is to have an eye test. If you are a designated VDU user your employer is obliged to pay for the eye test for you under EC regulations. If it is shown that you need glasses for VDU use only they are also obliged to pay for a basic pair of glasses or subsidise a more advanced pair. In reality very few people need a spectacle correction for VDU use only as a VDU prescription is inherently very close to a reading prescription. It could therefore be argued that if you need glasses for reading you would have had to have bought them anyway. Some employers are more sympathetic than others on this point so it’s best to ask whoever is in charge of HR in your organization.
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