Office of Emergency Management | Environment, Health & Safety | Ergonomics |

Preventing Visual Discomfort

Computer work areas can present complex visual needs due to lighting, reflections, glare, and prolonged use of the eyes. Below are guidelines to help reduce visual discomfort:

  • Keep lighting levels as even as possible.
    • To determine problem areas, shield bright sources from your view with your hand or a file.
    • If you feel relief, eliminate the bright source.
  • To improve lighting:
    • Use indirect lighting sources and task lights.
    • Use low-glare bulbs or cover bright bulbs with filters.
    • Adjust light levels by turning off light banks or using adjustable light switches.
    • Avoid sitting so that overhead lights are within your visual field.
    • Wear a visor to shield your eyes from bright overhead lights.
    • Reduce light from windows with shades or room partitions.
    • Sit at right angles and at least 3 feet from windows.
    • Avoid glossy, reflective wall paint or reflective light-colored work surfaces.
  • Reduce glare.
    • If you can see your own reflection or the reflection of windows and lights in your monitor screen, you have a glare problem.
    • Use a monitor visor to reduce glare from overhead lighting sources.
    • Consider using a good quality anti-glare screen.
      • Use a circular polarized filter if you sit near a window.
    • Adjust the monitor tilt to avoid reflections from windows and ceiling fixtures.
    • Adjust screen/character background.
    • Use dark characters on a light background.
      • White characters on a blue background can provide positive contrast while limiting glare often seen on a white background.
  • Select a high quality monitor. Size is not the only consideration.
    • Select a monitor large enough for the work you complete.
      • The size of the text should be three times the size of the smallest text you can read.
      • If you work with spreadsheets, you will need a larger screen to view your work.
    • If you don’t need a color monitor, consider a monochrome monitor with higher screen resolution.
    • Adjust contrast level to maximize character definition.
    • Select a color monitor with dot pitch less than.28mm.
    • Use refresh rates above the standard 60 Hz default setting to reduce flicker.
      • A minimum of 70 hertz is recommended.
    • Select a screen with good screen resolution (more pixels).
      • 800 x 600 is recommended.
      • Make sure you don’t compromise resolution for a lower refresh rate.
      • Both are important.
    • Adjust the screen brightness to match the general brightness of the room.
  • Set up your monitor to reduce eye and neck strain.
    • Position the center of the screen 10-20 degrees below your straight-ahead gaze.
      • You should be able to look at your screen without tilting your head.
    • The closer an object, the harder your eyes work to focus.
      • Place the screen as far away as possible, provided you can read it easily. Adjust font size if necessary.
    • Keep the screen and source documents at about the same distance away from you to avoid constant re-focusing while working.
  • Use good work habits.
    • Eyestrain can result from dry eyes.
      • Blinking helps lubricate your eyes.
      • Post a “Blink” post-it note on your monitor to remind you to blink while working.
    • Follow the “20-20-20 rule”.
      • Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds to rest your eyes.

(Source: UCLA)

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