Computer Vision Syndrome: in the Blink of an Eye

By: Akhil Shahani

It is no secret that healthy workers make a happy and productive workforce. Forget the hazards of hostile work conditions in places such as furnaces or chemical laboratories; even the innocuous office of today poses its own threat. Computers have, no doubt, made our lives easier, but regular usage is strongly associated with certain unpleasant consequences. Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is a term used to describe the ill effects that arise out of excessive or improper computer usage. As a responsible employer, it is your obligation to ensure that your staff suffers from it as little as possible.

Computer Vision Syndrome impacts people in different ways by creating visual, ocular or physical discomfort or a combination of these. The effects of Computer Vision Syndrome can be minimized by taking certain measures, some of which involve a modification of people's work habits, whereas others relate to changes in the physical layout of the workplace. Let's start with the latter.

It's in the air. Lots of CVS victims complain of itchy and dry eyes. Adjusting the humidity levels in the office and directing air flows in a way that neither hot nor cold air blows right onto people's faces, can bring some relief.

See things in the right light. Who hasn't experienced the discomfort of tired and blurry eyes at the end of a long workday? Improper lighting and too many reflections off different surfaces combine to create eye strain. Throw in a computer screen, and wham! you're already feeling the mother of all headaches coming on. Make sure that your office lighting is designed right - that means using less bright or indirect sources, reducing glare by ensuring windows are covered or even employing colors that are less reflective. Interestingly, you can use an illuminated keyboard which helps reduce eyestrain during night time computer usage.

Take a screen test. Computer monitors are a great source of unnecessary reflections - you want to look at your files, not the window grille, for heaven's sake! Have all screens fitted with an anti glare cover, and encourage the use of attachable document holders. If you want a more sophisticated solution, check out a range of products from imate, especially designed to counter CVS. And let users know that a high brightness setting and display of more than 6 colors at a go is not going to help their case. Of course, none of this is any good if the monitors aren't kept clean and dust free. A gentle rap on the knuckles should sort out offenders nice and proper!

Learn the body language. The workstation must be designed to suit the human body, and not the other way round. The biggest pain in the neck in the office is no longer an inquisitive colleague; it's the not-so-friendly desktop computer! Computer screens must be placed approximately 4 to 8 inches below eye level, so that the top line of text is 15 degrees below the line of vision. Chairs must be ergonomically designed, and adjustable according to individual body contours. Make sure there is adequate space to stretch one's legs and the table is large enough to accommodate wrists and elbows....

Besides all this, you can remind your office workers to modify their habits to minimize the strain resulting from Computer Vision Syndrome. Place notices urging people to drink plenty of water, do gentle exercises, take regular breaks and blink!

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