How to Reduce Screen Time While You’re Working from Home
With the current global situation, everyone whose job allows it is working from home. While some people are already used to spending their working hours in front of a computer screen, working from home has even further increased our daily screen time.
We all know that excessive screen time can affect our health, but if your job demands it, it may be difficult to manage. With fewer opportunities for face to face communication with colleagues and the reliance on digital means to get the job done, it’s easy to neglect our well being.
Since staring at a computer screen for prolonged periods of time can have many adverse effects on your general health, it’s important to know what you can do to counter or at least mitigate them, and effectively reduce screen time when working from home.
Whether you are used to working remotely or are new to the concept, below are several tips and suggestions on how to reduce screen time while you’re working from home.
Use Alternatives to Video Chat When Possible
Granted, video chat brings you as close as you can get to in-person communication without actually being present in the same room. While it is an irreplaceable tool in some cases, such as meetings with several people, real-time presentations, and similar, there are times when the same results can be achieved by different means.
If you can get the job done via a traditional phone call, or by exchanging emails, you should opt for one of those options instead. Even updating shared documents can be a viable alternative in some cases. Although video chat is arguably the most convenient tool for business communication, it also requires intense focus and sitting in the same position for the duration of the meeting.
On the other hand, alternatives such as text communication and phone calls are less demanding in terms of focus and time spent sitting in front of the screen, making them less mentally exhausting.
The bottom line is: Video calls are convenient and sometimes irreplaceable for efficient communication when working from home, but this doesn’t mean you should always default to them. If you can accomplish the same goal with less screen time, opt for an alternative.
Ask Yourself: Do I Need Technology for This?
The reality is that we have become quite dependent on technology in our day-to-day lives. And now, with most people working from home, it has become more important than ever to limit our exposure to the digital world for the sake of our health. While it may be instinctive to use computers to complete virtually any task, try to consider whether you could do it without IT.
Take notes using pen and paper when possible, plan your work schedule on a whiteboard or an old-fashion planner notebook, try to get a printed copy of the documents you need to read. These are just some suggestions to help you reduce the time spent looking at a screen. They may not seem to make much of a difference, but those minutes or hours away from your computer will add up quickly.
That being said, we don’t really use technology just for work, do we?
Truth be told, most of us are accustomed to spending a good portion of our free time in front of our screens as well. Under normal circumstances, that wasn’t a big deal at all, however, if you are trying to reduce your screen time while working from home, switching from your virtual office to another app on your computer or phone defeats this purpose, doesn’t it?
Whether your favorite pass-time is watching a movie, playing video games, or browsing social media, consider replacing them with a tech-free activity. For example, get a hard copy or an audiobook of some literature you’ve never got around to reading, try to incorporate some exercise into your daily routine, and whatever happened to board game nights with family or flatmates?
Not only will taking some time away from technology benefit your health, but it can also boost your creativity and help you relax at the end of the day.
Remember to Occasionally Move Around and Shift Your Focus Away from The Screen
Sitting in a rigid position in front of your computer can cause significant fatigue, as well as have an adverse effect on your health. In order to counter these side-effects of working from home, make sure you take every opportunity to move around and get your blood flow going.
Stand up and stretch your legs when taking quick breaks. Even a short walk around the room to the window or the kitchen and back can serve the purpose and do you more good than remaining seated. It’s also a good idea to take the opportunity and roll your shoulders and neck, as they suffer the most during long sitting times, especially if you have poor posture.
We mentioned phone calls are often a viable alternative to digital means of communication. Well, if you are able to get the job done over the phone, why not get up and take a walk while talking, even if it’s a short conversation?
It’s also important to rest your eyes during long working hours. The general recommendation is to follow the 20-20-20 rule. This essentially means that you should shift your focus away from the screen every 20 minutes and look at an object 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
If you have a window looking out on a green area near you, even better, as the natural green color is known to have a soothing effect on the eyes. After some time, this can become a healthy habit, but until then, you can set a timer on your phone or computer as a reminder to give your eyes a short break from the screen.
Have Your Breaks Away from The Computer
Most people who work from home take lunch and coffee breaks at some point during their working hours. While it may be tempting or seem efficient to have a break sitting in front of your computer, you should try to avoid this. Instead, get up and change your surroundings.
If you have a yard or a balcony, why not take a break there? You can also use the opportunity to have a short talk and socialize with people in your home. Whatever you do, try to avoid using your phone and computer and reduce the time you spend looking at a screen. You will feel much better and probably be more productive once you get back to work if you allow yourself to shift the focus of your mind away from your job during your breaks.
The Perfect Time for Hobbies
Working from home has one major benefit: there is no time lost in getting ready and traveling to work. You can use this bonus free time to enjoy things you usually don’t get around to, however, since we are trying to reduce screen time, make sure they don’t involve a display or a monitor.
Fill the extra free hours with activities you love, whether it’s listening to music or playing an instrument, exercising, reading books (hard copy, of course), or take up a new hobby. Balancing your job with fun activities is crucial both for your health and productivity, as hobbies are a great way to take your mind off work and keep your eyes off the screen.
Tips for Making Your Screen Time Less Strenuous
While it has little to do with reducing screen time, making your display easier on the eyes can go a long way in reducing the resulting strain. Generally, you should adjust screen brightness to be similar to surrounding light sources. This way, you will be straining your eyes far less than working in a dark room with the brightness set to high, for example.
When it comes to contrast, try several setups, and see what suits you best. You should also consider where you are sitting in relation to your computer screen. The general recommendation is to be at least an arm’s length away from the display while looking at it slightly downwards.
Another easy way to instantly reduce eye strain is by using a filter to warm the color tones of your screen. If you do not have this option built-in (MacOS and Windows 10 users have access to night-time filters), you can download a blue light filter online for free. You will notice the difference immediately.
It may be some time before most people get back to working face to face in the office, while others may continue working from home for the foreseeable future. However it turns out, we will all probably keep getting the majority of our work done using computers.
Considering this, adopting healthy habits and trying to reduce screen time can have many benefits, both in terms of reducing eye strain and our general health in the long run.
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