The Post-COVID Eye Strain Pandemic

Eye TestDigital eye strain, known as Computer Vision Syndrome, or CVS, has been experienced by millions around the world in wake of the pandemic.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic loosening its iron grip on the world, its effect on everyday life remains ever-present. Not only has the way we look at sickness changed, but also the way we go about our daily lives as many of us are still reeling from life under lockdown.

Over the years, our working lives have been uprooted by the stay-at-home measures implemented to fight the spread of COVID-19. Offices became bedrooms, meetings became Zoom or Google Meet calls and breaks became fleeting moments in our kitchens with coffee from a Keurig.

While this online shift has presented its advantages in the workplace, such as a work-when-possible mentality, employees being kept home without proper equipment or wellness resources gave rise to a series of ergonomic-related ailments, both new and established.

Though working from home comes in all shapes and sizes, it usually involves spending the day in front of a computer. Similarly to a traditional office, working from home poses a risk to our eyesight as we are subjected to extended periods of screen time.

Computer Vision Syndrome

CVS is a series of eye- and vision-related problems caused by prolonged time in front of computers, cell phones, tablets, and other electronic devices. The more time we spend online, the worse our symptoms may be.

Common symptoms associated with eye strain and CVS are headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck and shoulder pain caused by the various distances and angles employees view their screens from.

The average American employee spends approximately 7 hours of their day on a computer, whether they’re working in an office or at home. And, with a global pandemic ravaging the world these past few years, the activities we participate in for pleasure during our down time have shifted to streaming on our computers and taking to social media on our phones.

Those who spend 2 or more continuous hours on an electronic device are at the greatest risk for developing CVS. With digitization increasingly daily, this accounts for a major part of the world’s population.

What’s Causing This?

Ever since the shift to homebound work, the working world has found that many jobs can simply be done online. Remote work presents its own advantages and many companies are opting for a hybrid of remote and on-site workspaces.

In an effort to adapt to a new way of working, we have taken to using various chatting and messaging platforms, such as the aforementioned Zoom and Google Meet. With back-to-back meetings and multiple programs open at once, employees find their screen time skyrocketing and often have the overwhelming urge to spread themselves too thin.

Viewing a computer screen is not like reading a book. Oftentimes the letters on a digital screen are not as sharply defined, the contrast of the letters to the background is reduced to a lower level, and reflections and glares on the screen make our eyes work harder to view it.

While screens are far less damaging to our eyes than the sun, it’s important to remember the short wavelength, high-energy blue light they produce.

Blue light waves are only slightly longer and less powerful than UV waves. The longer the wave, the less energy it emits. Health experts have even warned about the harmful effects of UV rays, which are too small for the human eye to see but can cause damage to the skin and eyes.

These high energy blue light waves are just nearly as powerful.

According to the American Optometric Association, short term exposure to blue light isn’t seriously damaging to the eyes and can typically be mitigated by routinely looking away from your screen and practicing eye break techniques.

However, studies suggest that long term exposure to blue light from electronic screens can damage retinal cells and lead to issues such as age-related macular degeneration.

More and more people are turning to the help of blue light glasses in order to combat headaches and other symptoms of CVS.

How can we rectify this? How can companies make at-home workspaces safe for their employees?

The Effects of a New Work Culture

Work culture varies around the world. From country to country and company to company, one worker might not share the same perception of their work life as another.

However, in a newly operating post-pandemic world, the physical well being of employees everywhere should be called into question.

Beyond providing short term solutions, such as the 20-20-20 rule and proper posture when sitting at your computer, companies should be looking to the future to find effective ways to reduce their employees’ screen time.

As businesses reopen their office spaces to employees or continue to follow a work-from-home model, it’s important to shift to an employee-centric approach to working. Listening to and understanding the needs of each employee can go a long way.

As we scramble to find our footing in a post-pandemic society, preventing issues like CVS from developing at all should be at the forefront of every company’s focus. We must actively protect the wellbeing of employees as they continue to work diligently and keep our world turning.

Eye Protection Safety Course in the Workplace

Eye Protection Safety Course in the Workplace

This blog and related-information has been kindly provided by Linda Miller (OTD, CCPE, Canadian Certified Professional Ergonomist and Registered Occupational Therapist) with EWI Works and does not imply any views and opinions of SET Safety. SET Safety and/ or the author is not responsible for the accuracy or validity of this information. SET Safety and/or the author does not accept liability for the reliability, accuracy or completeness of the information presented. This article does not substitute legal, jurisdictional or professional advice. The reader bears all responsibility to seek professional guidance or advice on any information noted in this blog or related to the content of this blog.

The contents of this article is provided as information-only and does not substitute workplace training, competency, legislative or industrial requirements. SET Safety and/ or the author is not responsible for the accuracy or validity of this information. SET Safety and/or the author does not accept liability for the reliability, accuracy or completeness of the information presented. This article does not substitute legal, jurisdictional or professional advice. The reader bears all responsibility to seek professional guidance or advice on any information noted in this blog or related to the content of this blog.

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