Over the past two years, more Americans have worked from home than perhaps at any other time in recent history. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as many as 1 in 3 U.S. adults were working remotely, and many still are. Several industry giants, including Facebook, have also expanded their work-from-home policies to allow more employees to participate virtually.
While working from home certainly has its benefits, such as increased flexibility and autonomy, there are also some downsides. Remote work means we are spending more time on our devices than ever. In-person meetings have been changed to virtual meetings, paperwork is completed online instead of in person, and the traditional “water cooler talk” has been relegated to messaging platforms such as Slack.
Since personal computers are a relatively new addition to our lifestyles, we are just now beginning to see the negative consequences of spending too much time staring at a screen. Excessive computer and cellphone usage has been linked to a number of physical and psychological health symptoms, such as poor posture, poor cardiovascular health, muscle and joint aches, brain fog, anxiety, depression, fatigue and more.
If you want to avoid screen burnout and the associated complications, here are ten helpful tips:
- Schedule breaks. Build breaks into your schedule and allow time for rest and recovery from video calls. You can use the breaks to stretch, close your eyes, take deep breaths or simply let your brain be unfocused for a few minutes.
- Be kind to your eyes. Experts recommend taking a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes and using blue-light-filter glasses while on your computer.
- Invest in blue light glasses. These specialized glasses filter out much of the blue light from our device screens, which can lead to fatigue and other symptoms.
- Prioritize posture. Hunching over to use your computer for multiple hours every day can lead to a number of back and neck issues. Invest in an ergonomic chair or a standing desk that can allow you to straighten your spine as you work.
- Avoid screens before bed. Experts recommend avoiding the blue light from screens for one to two hours before bedtime. This will help ensure you get a restful night’s sleep.
- Schedule in-person meetings. We are still in the middle of a pandemic, so the first priority is your health. But if it feels safe to take a few in-person meetings, perhaps outdoors, you will reduce your screen time.
- Use artificial tears. If you find your eyes are getting dried out after looking at a screen for hours on end, try using eye drops to keep your eyes lubricated.
- Use soft lighting. While your computer screen may emit a harsh light, you can balance it out with soft, warm-toned lights in your office space.
- Stay active. A sedentary lifestyle can cause or exacerbate a number of health problems. If you work primarily on your computer, remember to incorporate exercise into your day, even if it’s just a ten-minute walk.
- Use voice-to-text. Using a voice-to-text program allows you to send emails and messages, or even write documents, without staring at a screen. Just make sure to spell check afterwards!