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The pandemic caused by the new SARS-CoV-2coronavirus has completely changed our daily lives in many ways. Although many things will go back to normal when the state of emergency is over, many others are here to stay, at least for many months to come. One of them is undoubtedly teleworking. Thousands of people have been forced to accept remote working during the lockdown and most of them will remain in this situation even if it ends. This new way of working from home, which has not yet been established in our country, prompts us to analyse the relationship between teleworking and visual health.

High-quality and properly adjusted screens

The majority of teleworkers will use the computers provided by their company to carry out their work from home. However, sometimes teleworkers will turn to the computers they have at home for occasional use, which increases the likelihood that they are not optimally configured. In any case, make sure that the screen you use for work is of good quality and properly adjusted.

What does this actually mean? It means using a flicker-free screen that shows clear images and does not get pixelated.

In addition, brightness and contrast should be adjusted to avoid glare and the retina from being hit by too much light. On the other hand, there should be an appropriate contrast to see letters and shapes clearly, without blurring or double edges, but it  should not be excessive to avoid eye strain.

For example, an all-white background on which pure black letters have to be read will cause more eye strain than if the contrast is slightly lower. Moreover, very strong and saturated colours are spectacular and represent great advantages for some professionals (graphic designers, photographers…), but they are an overload for our eyes.

Finally, use an appropriate resolution for comfortable reading, without the need to zoom in or strain your eyes. Keep in mind that, from the age of 40, reading the fine print can be quite challenging due to presbyopia, though in any case it is advisable not to read small prints.

Keep a distance between you and the screen

Ergonomics experts emphasise the importance of keeping a proper distance between you and the computer, of holding arms and legs at right angles to avoid tendinitis or musculoskeletal disorders, of choosing a good chair to avoid back pain…

Eye care specialists agree that the computer screen should be at least 60 centimetres away from you and that it should be slightly below our gaze. Likewise, the viewing distance of wireless devices, such as a phone or tablet, should be approximately 35 centimetres.

Controlling light in the workspace

Human vision is designed to work in open spaces. Doing so indoors for too many hours prevents our complex visual system from seeing properly at short and medium distances, which in turn results in increased eye strain.

In fact, research has shown that myopia has increased alarmingly worldwide, especially among children and teens, as a result of spending too much time indoors and not enjoying the natural light outdoors, which is a beneficial environment for human health and visual quality in particular. Ophthalmologists clearly speak of “a true myopia epidemic”, meaning that the trend is worsening for the future.

Thus, the ideal office we set up at home should have a window or natural light source that allows us to work in good lighting conditions, as well as to ventilate the room properly. The computer should be placed near a window, but without the screen facing it to avoid reflection, glare and uncomfortable brightness. It is best if the screen is installed perpendicular to the window.

As day light falls, lamps and gooseneck lamps should also be located at right angles to improve the lighting conditions in the room.

It is therefore advisable not to smoke in this room, as smoke increases eye dryness and irritation. Finally, move away from the screen every 20-30 minutes and look at the horizon for a few seconds, so that our eyes also work at medium and short distances.

Go outside so teleworking does not damage your eyesight

The association between myopia, vision at different distances and natural light exposure leads to the following advice: go outdoors and spend time in the fresh air every day.

One of the risks of teleworking is that you extend your working day much longer than recommended and never unwind. This hyperconnectivity is not only harmful to visual health, but to physical and mental health in general. Specifically, with regard to our eye health, going outside is necessary to facilitate the natural lubrication of the eyes, to focus at medium and short distances and to allow our eyes to work in better lighting conditions.

However, especially when the sun shines brightly, it is necessary to wear sunglasses to protect our eyes from harmful solar radiation. In this regard, the eye fatigue or dryness that can be caused by spending a long time working at home cannot be compensated  for by going outside without proper eye protection.

If you are a contact lens wearer

Usually, contact lens wearers should be careful not to wear their contact lenses for too many hours each day. If they are going to work from home, it is better to choose glasses, especially if they regularly have dry eyes at the end of the day or are going to spend long hours in front of the computer. Moreover, wearing contact lenses and being in front of the computer worsen dry eyes, so it is all about eliminating the factors that block our tear ducts and dry out our eyes.

However, people using distance glasses need to adjust them for closer vision. In particular, this advice applies to far sighted people and those with astigmatism. Not wearing corrective glasses causes headaches and symptoms of eye strain, which can limit teleworking.

Keep your eyes lubricated

Staring for too long, without blinking, increases dry eyes, as the frequency of blinking (eye gesture to soften the cornea through an even distribution of tears) decreases by up to 80%. Thus, people who spend a lot of time in front of a computer at home should ensure adequate tear production to keep the eye surface properly lubricated, as staring at the screen causes dry eyes, which is a leading factor for eye discomfort, eye strain, irritation and a foreign body or gritty sensation.

Eye drops applied every three or four hours, thermal mists, ventilation and humidifiers (especially in very dry, heated or air-conditioned environments) will be great allies in preventing and relieving dry eyes, although developing a habit of blinking is also important to ease the eye’s natural lubrication mechanism. It would not hurt to take a break and stop looking at the computer every couple of hours.