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Lighting tips to reduce eye strain when working from home

Good lighting probably wasn't your first priority when you first started working from home - especially if you, like thousands of others, were forced by the lockdown to make do with whatever free space you had going.

But did you know that lighting can affect your eye health, mental health, wellbeing and productivity levels? Lighting is just as important for ergonomists when designing office spaces as the desk equipment being used.

The problem is, our homes weren't designed by office ergonomists. Unlike office buildings, our homes aren't purpose-built to facilitate all day computer work. That means you can find yourself tucked into dark corners, forced to deal with glare from living room windows, or left squinting at papers because you can't find a spare table lamp anywhere. When it comes to homeworking, you have to improvise.

Here are some tips for redesigning the lighting in your home - including some great products we've sourced to help homeworkers since the start of the pandemic.

1. Choose a place to work with natural light

If you can help it, try not to squirrel yourself away in an under-stair alcove, attic or basement devoid of natural light. A lack of natural sunlight can have a profound impact on you physically and mentally, and can even lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). With SAD you might experience low mood, lack of interest in life, being less active than normal and sleeping more. While the exact cause of SAD isn't clear, it occurs most commonly in the winter months when there is less light in the day. Scientists hypothesise that a lack of sunlight affects a part of the brain known as the hippocampus, affecting:

  • production of the hormone melatonin (needed for sleep)
  • production of the hormone serotonin (mood stabiliser)
  • body's circadian rhythm (our internal clock).

2. Try a SAD lamp

If you have no choice but to set up in a windowless area, or you feel that you may be developing symptoms of SAD, try adding a daylight simulating SAD lamp to your set-up, recommended by the NHS to treat symptoms. We recommend the Buerer TL20 Daylight SAD Lamp, a compact. stylish-looking plug-in desk lamp that offers enlivening flicker-free illumination at an intensity of 10,000 lux. Use it for up to two hours per day to reap the benefits.

3. Sit adjacent to your window

While it's great to have plenty of natural light in your work area, now you've got to think about how that light is affecting your view of your computer screen. If you sit directly in front of the window, you might find yourself straining to focus on your monitor, which will appear relatively dark against the bright light.

Likewise, if you sit with your back to the window, the light may reflect on your screen and cause glare, obscuring some parts of your screen and causing you to strain your eyes. Sitting side-on to your window is the best option as this allows you to avoid both direct sunlight and glare.

4. Use blinds

The best kind of lighting for carrying out computer work all day is even and well-diffused. Consider hanging light gauze curtains in the window to filter the light without completely obscuring it. Slat blinds are also useful as you can direct the shade where you need it as the sun moves throughout the day.

5. Change the angle of your screen

If there's glare on your screen, you're more at risk of:

  • Eye strain
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Neck and shoulder pain

Glare can cause you to squint and strain your eyes and lean forwards in a way that puts strain on your neck, shoulders and back. To overcome glare, you need to use either monitor arms, or an adjustable laptop stand. This will give you the means to change the angle of your screen depending on where the light source is coming from.

6. Use a lamp to direct light where you need it

At home, you're less likely to have overhead lighting exactly where you need it. That's where desk lamps come in handy. We recommend using a UnoLamp Table to shine adjustable-intensity LED light right over your work. No more leaning over papers or straining your eyes. The long, flexible arm means you can move the direction of the light depending on the task you're carrying out.

Designing your lighting at home doesn't have to be complicated. Just remember your goal is to minimise glare and reflections while also getting sufficient natural light. If nothing else, move regularly throughout the day and get outside to bask in real sunlight on your lunch break.