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How to set up your home workspace to reduce the risk of eye fatigue

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Written by Leonie Bauer on 16 Feb 2021

If you’d been told before the COVID-19 pandemic struck that working from home would soon be the norm, you might have anticipated a net reduction in your stress levels. After all, getting away from the hectic office environment sounds like a great thing. No more distracting conversations, an end to arduous commuting, and the freedom to work in whatever way suits you the best.

But things aren’t quite that simple. There are certainly huge positives to working from home, including those just mentioned, yet it’s far from perfect. The classic office setup had been steadily honed over time to support productivity — and part of that involved finding ways to minimize worker fatigue. Working from a poor home office can prove exhausting.

With some adjustments, though, you can set up a home workspace that doesn’t just match a typical office but outright improves upon it, particularly in one key area: eye fatigue. The glare of fluorescent lights has given many office workers headaches, of course. Let’s go through some tips for creating a home office that’s signifi­cantly kinder to your eyes.

Arrange everything around a big display

When people suddenly had to start working from home, many of them settled for sitting at their kitchen tables and tapping away on their laptops. That’s a short-term solution, and not a good one — so if you’re still glaring at a laptop screen all day then it’s time to change that. The fact that you’re not using a desktop machine doesn’t mean you can’t have desktop-level comfort.

By building your home workspace around a big display, you can greatly reduce your level of eye fatigue. Instead of squinting to make out text on a 15.6” screen, you can sit at a comfortable distance from a 32” screen hooked up to your laptop. It’s perfectly viable for Apple machines too: you can easily expand your connection options with a Mac docking station.

A word of warning, though: staring at any screen for a long time will strain your eyes, so take sensible precautions. In addition to keeping the brightness level down and maintaining a good distance, you should consider eyewear: if you usually wear glasses while you work, blue light lenses can do a lot to help you preserve your vision.

Optimise your use of natural light

When it comes to eye comfort, natural light is always better than artificial. After all, it’s what we evolved to see with. And while it can be a struggle to get natural light if your office area doesn’t have a convenient window, there are steps you can take — and the more you’re willing to renovate, the more you can achieve.

One alternative to a big window is a sun tunnel: essentially a tube that carries natural light down from your roof into your room. This may be easier for you to install, but you can also adapt the concept in a cheaper makeshift way by running a tube from one room with a window to another without one. It’ll make it harder to keep doors closed, but it can be highly effective.

Again, though, you should know when to mitigate the light level. If you work odd hours (not uncommon these days), then don’t remember to taper the daylight as your workday proceeds. Ramp it up throughout your “morning”, then take it down throughout your “afternoon”. This will help protect your circadian rhythm so you can get better sleep.

Have somewhere to take decent breaks

You should already know about the importance of taking breaks to rest your eyes, but a good break will do more than simply allow you to look at a nearby wall. In addition to your workspace, then, you should have a break area where you can relax when necessary. Even if you just put down a few cushions in your office room, that will be a lot better than nothing.

In the end, if you can give your eyes chances to recover, use natural light to your benefit, and avoid using small displays that require you to squint, you should be able to significantly reduce your risk of eye fatigue. It’s certainly worth doing.

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