By April 21, 2021

5 Ways To Combat Screen Fatigue

screen fatigueIt has officially been a year since the first national lockdown due to the coronavirus. Nearly 50% of us were asked to do our bit and work from home in a bid to reduce the spread of COVID-19; this included a large percentage of programmers and software developers.

365 days later, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The vaccine program is going full steam ahead in many countries, a roadmap to “post COVID” plans has been laid out in many locations, and the taste of freedom is in the air.

Despite this, working from home has become the “new normal” for so many of us. Although the lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease and the “Stay at Home” order has been removed, the majority of the workforce is not expected to return to the workplace until June 2021 at the earliest, if at all.

Throughout the entirety of the pandemic, health and well-being has been at the forefront of considerations for all employers. However, an ongoing issue that has been highlighted in particular by more people working from home during the pandemic is screen fatigue. Screen fatigue is an ailment that plagues many of those who use a screen for prolonged periods of time every day, such as software developers,

Fortunately, there are some easy, but important, ways you can reduce screen fatigue and thus take care of your health and increase your productivity at the same time. Let’s begin by taking a closer look at what screen fatigue really is.

What Is Screen Fatigue?

Despite spending the majority of time in an office environment sitting in front of a screen, our days would be broken up by meetings and “water cooler moments,” adding some light relief from screen exposure. These intervals away from our screens would allow our eyes a period of rest and recovery before returning back to often harsh, fluorescent screen lighting.

Nonetheless, due to being asked to work from home, meetings and other office interactions have since moved online and become virtual elements. This means that we are spending more time sitting in front of our screens. Consequently, this has increased the likelihood of those tied to their screens for work being impacted by screen fatigue.

38% of us have expressed worsened eyesight and experienced symptoms of screen fatigue since first being asked to work from home in April 2020. For many programmers and developers, whether they would usually work in-house for bespoke software development companies or as freelancers, this is a condition that many have faced.

Signs of screen fatigue include dry or sore eyes, increased sensitivity to light, and neck and back ache, as well as headaches and difficulty concentrating. Of course, these seem like predictable side effects of sitting at a computer screen for eight hours a day, but they should not be dismissed lightly or go untreated.

Screen fatigue can be detrimental to the health and well-being of programmers. It is important to practice some self-care and take great consideration of your health, especially when lone-working at home.

Keep in mind these ways of how to help reduce screen fatigue, combat the symptoms if you suffer from it, and learn how to form a healthier relationship with your screen time.

Schedule Regular Breaks Into Your Working Day

screen fatigueProgrammers and software developers alike have been vital in the operation of keeping people connected during this time of social distance. The increase in work due to the rapid escalation of digital transformations across multiple industries has made it easy to become engrossed in a project and lose track of time altogether.

Creating an outline or routine for your working day is invaluable and will also keep you on track for meeting deadlines and releasing live projects. However, it is important to take regular breaks throughout the day to give you intervals away from your screen.

Set aside 5 to 10 minutes every hour or so in which you can do an activity that does not involve looking at a screen. It may seem like you need to be glued to your desk, especially when working from home, but this is not the case. Get up, have a walk around the house, make a cup of tea, or do the washing up. Just perform any simple, undemanding task that will allow light relief from the harsh light of your screen.

Keep Active

It is important to get some daily exercise anyway, but taking a walk at lunchtime or fitting a home workout into your schedule will give your eyes a well-needed rest from your screen. The main cause of screen fatigue is spending an extensive period of time staring at a screen. Exercising will not only help you keep fit and healthy in general but will also aid in combating screen fatigue as well as make you feel more energized, boosting your mood.

Programmers are notorious for not incorporating exercise into their daily routines at the best of times. Now more than ever, with the added strain of spending longer periods in front of screen leading to screen fatigue, something as simple as walking a few laps around the garden or planning a short home workout will make a world of difference.

Screen fatigue not only affects the performance of eyesight, but it also has a massive impact on physical well-being as well. Frequent headaches and neck or back pains coincide with the condition, leaving sufferers in an uncomfortable predicament by the end of the working day. Exercise is an excellent way of combating these symptoms and will help to alleviate and offer respite from the effects of screen fatigue.

Everyone views exercise differently, but it shouldn’t be a chore. Have fun with it; if exercising starts to feel laborious, you’ll be less likely to undertake it. Even finding some simple, light exercises that help reduce the effects of screen fatigue will make a whole world of difference. Discover what works for you and run with it, literally.

Let in the Light

By now, you have most definitely set up your “WFH” office in one specific place whether that be your kitchen, dining room, or shed at the bottom of the garden.

However, please take into consideration how well lit your designated working space is. Poorly lit rooms can contribute to the effects of screen fatigue, as dull lighting can heavily impact eye strain.

90% of screen users have expressed suffering from symptoms of screen fatigue, with environmental conditions greatly impacting their severity. Ensure you have curtains open to let in natural light and invest in extra lighting, such as lamps. If needed, move your working space to a better lit location. These simple remedies will increase and improve lighting in your work space.

Studies have also shown that we work better in naturally lit environments, as we feel more energized and at one with nature. I’m not saying move your desk into the middle of your garden for a better working experience, but make sure your workspace is properly lit. You’d be surprised what a difference good lighting makes.

Reduce Other Aspects of Screen Time

All programmers rely heavily on various versions of screens to complete daily activities. From smartphones and watches to laptops, screen usage takes up a lot of our time. On average, programmers spend 33% of their day sitting in front of some form of screen for both professional and personal use.

Decreasing screen time outside of work hours will drastically reduce the likelihood of suffering from screen fatigue. If you find yourself interacting too much with your smartphone or tablet, think about setting time restrictions on overused apps to give yourself a break from screens altogether.

Long exposure to the florescent light of screens can also hinder your sleep pattern. Although screen fatigue can make your eyes feel tired, blue light emitted by screens can mimic sunlight and disrupt the production of melatonin, which helps us sleep.

Put your device to one side at least a half-hour before you want to sleep; don’t be tempted by one last episode on Netflix. Sleep is important. Setting aside your device will allow you to unwind and relax properly before getting some shuteye. Perhaps try another activity such as meditation or reading before bed time, and end the day on a mindful note.

Go Old School and Make a Phone Call

We have all been on some form of virtual call over the past year; I know I’ve lost count of how many I’ve made whether to friends and family or to clients and colleagues. It’s almost as if we’ve forgotten what mobile phones were actually intended for—we use them for everything else, bar actually making phone calls.

Programmers can often find themselves taking many video calls a day, internally with the team or to catch up with clients about specific projects.

screen fatigueIt may not seem like it, but even video calls can increase the severity of screen fatigue; they can prolong the time spent sitting in front of a computer screen. Even though it may not feel like we are interacting with the screen as such, virtual calls can sometimes go on for long periods of time and become very energy-consuming aspects of the new normal.

We patiently sit and listen to colleagues but also take care to make sure we don’t talk over one another or try to decipher what a teammate with a poor Wi-Fi connection is trying to say. Although minuscule, these aspects can be very tiring on both our eyes and bodies, contributing further to screen fatigue.

Small changes such as turning off your camera and looking away from your screen during a virtual call or meeting, will give your eyes a well-needed rest from blue light exposure and allow them to focus on a change of scenery.

The next time you receive an invite for a virtual meeting, take a step back and request a meeting via phone call instead. Not only will it give you a break from your screen, it’ll give your Wi-Fi connection a well-needed rest as well. Make phone calls cool again.

Don’t Let Screen Fatigue Get the Best of You

It doesn’t look like many of us will be returning to the office anytime soon, meaning we can avoid the tiresome commute and overpriced coffee chain sandwiches for a little while longer.

However, being mindful of your health and happiness at home is very important, especially when it includes excessive amounts of time spent in front of a screen. Making small changes to your normal working habits, including exercise and better lighting conditions, will vastly improve the effects screen fatigue may have already had on you or further reduce the chances of suffering from the condition in the future.

Don’t let screen fatigue get the better of you. Taking on board the five aforementioned recommendations will offer relief in both professional and personal aspects of your health and well-being.

About the author

Gemma Harvey

Gemma Harvey is the Digital Marketing Executive for Clever Software Group, a bespoke software development company based in Ringwood, UK. Her love for design and technology have shaped her career path, leading Gemma to work across various industries, from bespoke corporate events to the charity sector.