'Work from home' has increased our time spent on computers, mobile phones, tablets, and other digital devices. Meetings via video conferencing mediums are especially adding to this. Increased screen time impacts our health in several negative ways. In particular eye health, as we tend to stare at the screen to concentrate and hence blink less. This affects eye lubrication and causes dry irritated eyes, blurred vision, and poor eyesight. Dry eyes lead to prolonged gazing, which in turn reduces reading speed, which increases exposure time and creates a chronic cycle.
Screen time also adds to muscle fatigue, shoulder aches and pains, and deteriorates body posture as we tend to stay still to fit in the camera frame. Excessive screen time leads to reduced physical activity levels which increases the risk of diseases such as obesity, diabetes, sleep problems, mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, social isolation, loneliness, screen dependency disorders, and addiction.
A sedentary lifestyle, coupled with poor nutrition choices, leads to a spiralling down of our overall health. Poor physical and mental health reduces work productivity, which in turn increases stress levels. High-stress levels make us irritable and rude and drive a decline in our cognitive health.
Here are some tips on how to reduce screen time while working from home:
1. Know your screen usage.
First things first, track your screen time to know about your screen usage and accordingly monitor and control it. This can be done by using inbuilt screen time functions in smartphones and dedicated apps that block and disable the use of sites, such as social media websites, once the predetermined time limit is up.
2. Use video conferencing tools sparingly.
Use video conferencing tools such as Zoom, Skype, and Google meets only when necessary. Continue to use phone calls, emails, text messages, and chats for communication. Schedule and limit online meeting times in a day to organise your time between work-related communication and work-related tasks.
3. Reduce unnecessary screen time.
Replace digital sources with physical sources wherever possible. Decrease your unnecessary screen time by using pen and paper to make notes and lists, a whiteboard for brainstorming ideas, and read paperback books instead of eBooks for research.
4. Keep free time tech-free.
Keep personal time tech-free. Don’t take your meals while looking at the screen. A tech break at lunch not only refreshes but helps to prioritise and create perspective. Take up physical activities, such as gardening, walking, playing indoor and outdoor games, and hobbies like arts and crafts, baking and cooking, instead of spending your free time scrolling on social media, surfing the internet, online gaming, or watching videos.
5. Switch off unnecessary notifications.
Switch off social media and other unnecessary notifications while working. This will reduce constant distraction at work, increase focus and concentration levels, and therefore increase productivity.
6. Reduce eye strain.
Take care of your eye health by taking frequent breaks. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the 20-20-20 rule. This rule states that, every 20 minutes, shift your eyes to look at an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds. Looking into the distance allows the eyes to relax. If necessary, set a timer as a reminder. Use eye lubricating drops or artificial tears. Adjust screen brightness to match the level of your room's light. Increase screen contrast. Reduce screen glare by using a matt filter. Sit at an arm’s length from the screen and position the screen so that your eyes gaze slightly downward. Humidity must also be optimal, so adjust your AC or fan accordingly.
Even though, currently, we cannot completely escape working from home, we can learn to manage screen time better and foster our digital and physical wellbeing.