Reducing your screen time at work

With a growing reliance on tech, the omnipresence of the smartphone and 2020’s shift to remote working it can be easily argued that our eyes are taking an increasing daily battering. A typical office worker in 2018 was thought to spend on average 6.5 hours looking at their computer screen, so we can only imagine how time spent in front of a computer has rocketed since the lockdown.

Symptoms of digital eye strain include tired, dry or red eyes, headaches, eye twitches and blurred vision. But, short of retraining as a landscape gardener for many of us the screens are not going anywhere. 

Here are a few easy suggestions that may give your eyes a bit of a breather while still getting the job done in a business environment.

Taking the opportunity to write your first drafts of creative copy by hand can be a great way to cut your screen time. Though some may question the time efficiency, when it comes to typing up your work, you’re effectively already proofing a second draft. 

From a personal point of view, I find that writing by hand encourages a much freer flow of ideas and what has been termed the “heart / hand connection”. It’s also still my go-to when studying or needing to commit information to memory.

At its most anodyne, 2020 could be termed “The Year of the Zoom”. Never feel afraid to suggest a phone call over video conferencing. Not only are you freeing up your colleagues from panic over their presentability, more often than not a short phone will swiftly resolve the question at hand. 

Move away from your screen, get up and stretch your legs, maybe even get a little sunlight and “walk and talk” if the situation allows. Who knew a phone call would become so freeing?

When trying to mitigate screen time at work, know thine enemy. Many smartphones now offer screen time reports and a quick Google will show you how to check your screen time on a Mac or by using the Family Safety settings feature on Microsoft Windows 10. 

Next, get your battle plan in action. This can most effectively be done through structuring your time. Take a proper lunch break and shut the laptop. Easier said than done, admittedly, when so much of our downtime activity is now also online. A newspaper or book, or simply a bit of mindful eating is a good way to start.

Structure is particularly important when working from home.  I try my hardest to respect my work-life boundaries and avoid checking emails or doing stealthy bits of research outside of working hours. Manage expectations and set a polite “out of office” to let people know when you’re mostly likely to respond to their emails. 

Keep your weekend routine different to that of your working week. It’s also the easiest time to indulge in activities that don’t involve a screen. Keeping a notebook handy can be useful for quickly jotting down any work-related thoughts that do cross your mind.

One last, easy tip to finish: the 20-20-20 rule. For every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This should help reduce eye strain from looking at screens for too long. This interesting recent study from Aetna International asks the question, “Is technology keeping workers healthy or making them ill?”  It provides more food for thought about reducing screen time at work.

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