Man on laptop in home office

Focus on a Distant Point

news - April 2020


Focus on a Distant Point


Tips for reducing eye strain when logging increased screen-time.


By Bill Hensley


Man on laptop in home office
 

MOST OF US WILL PROBABLY ADMIT to spending too much time in front of screens—the desktop, the laptop, the tablet, the phone, not to mention the television. In this COVID-19 environment of social distancing and working from home, this is truer than ever. Meetings we used to hold in-person in the office are now via Zoom, WebEx, Skype, Join.me, or another video conference tool. It is great to be able to see each other as we talk; all the benefits of video conferencing are more appreciated than ever. I even find that my friends and I are using this more and more for social connecting as well.

But the by-product of this increased screen time is the eye strain that goes with it. If you’ve mentioned this to your eye doctor, she may have cited the 20-20-20 rule to you: Every 20 minutes spent using a screen should be interrupted by looking away at something that is 20 feet from you for 20 seconds. The key element is the looking away from the screen. Trouble remembering the 20 minute interval? There’s an app to help remind you because… well, there is an app for everything. With so many of us working from home it’s a good time to take a look at that “home office” and how we can tune it to lower eye strain.

location, location, location

Whether it’s a dedicated room in the house or a shared dining room table repurposed as a workstation-for-two, think sightlines when placing or moving the desk or work table. Home office feng shui guidance is to keep that office as far from the bedroom as possible and to avoid positioning the desk so your back is to the door. But for many of us, this new work-from-home routine means compromise; that shared home office just might be the second bedroom.

 
 

So, with compromise being the order of the day, let’s focus on sightlines. Position the desk to face the window and create constant temptation to look out it. Next, look out the window routinely, and focus on something as distant as possible. This will be easier for some of us than others; I’m lucky in that my second-bedroom/home-office is above the garage with a great sightline to the forested hill beyond the homes across the street. The compromise in my home office is that when seated at the desk my back is to the door. While not advisable for a corporate setting, it seemed a minor tradeoff at home.

The abundant green of the hill has the secondary benefit as the color of balance, appealing to us and calming us on an intrinsic level. Don’t have a forest? Bring the forest inside. A strategically placed houseplant or two can introduce focal points of organic shapes and relaxing green hue. It might not be the 20+ feet advised in the 20-20-20 rule, but it will give you another reason to look away from the bright light of the monitor, which is the goal.

Walk around

A variant on the 20-20-20 rule is to get up and do a short walk-around every 20 minutes or so, with stretching your legs being an important additional benefit. Make your desk location conducive to walking to the window and make a habit of doing so during any phone call that doesn’t require you to be looking at a screen. Let your eyes wander so your thoughts and conversation can focus.