With people across the world staying at home more over the past 12 months many of our work, social interactions, and shopping activities have moved online. It is unsurprising, therefore, that reports show that over the past year the average screen-time has increased from 300 to 600 minutes per day.
Knowing that too much time on screen can have an adverse effect on aspects of our health, the team at Stiltz Home Elevators look at the most common issues and the ways we can counteract the side effects so we can stay fit and well in an online world.
It is common sense that staring at a computer or phone screen all day will start to impact the eyes, and eye-strain reportedly effects 50 per cent of computer users. The main symptoms of eye-strain are dry-eye and irritation, headaches, and blurred vision.
Luckily there are some simple tricks to help protect the eyes whilst using screens. It is important to give the eyes a break during long work days, using the 20/20/20 rule. For every 20 minutes of screen time, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. The more often you look away from your screen the better. To help make things easier on the eyes make sure your work space has the right lighting, with no glare on the screen, and with a slightly dimmer working environment than you would have in an office. Reducing the blue light into your eye is also a good idea which can be done by adjusting the colour temperature of your screen or by wearing specialist glasses for the purpose.
Look after your back
Perhaps one of the joys of working from home is the break from the daily commute. However, the down side to this is that we now miss out on the walking or other exercise which the journey to work may have provided. For many people working at home has also reduced the movement around the office for meetings and walking to get lunch. All this sitting down can have an impact on the body’s fitness and in particular the back, neck and upper limbs.
It is important to get up every hour and stretch arms and shoulders to reduce tension that builds up. Rather than having lunch at the desk, consider going for a walk around the block, or doing a short yoga routine to reset the muscles and mind before getting stuck back in to the working day.
Sharpen the memory
It has been observed by many over the last year how staying at home more has affected people’s short-term memories and ability to retain information. Research shows that this is to do with the way the memory works. When making a new memory the brain takes in all the sensations available; sights, sounds, smells, as well as the information. If the brain sees a new situation this triggers the need to tag it and will hook into the information more easily. If, however you are sitting in the same room that you have been in for months, with the same screen in front of you, the brain doesn’t recognise the need to create a new memory.
A simple way to improve memory is to take ‘walking meetings’ on the phone, where a new range of stimulus will help the brain make new connections.
The art of conversation
Whilst working and socialising on screen means we are having human interactions, often the quality of those interactions can feel less fulfilling, which can lead to people feeling remote but not quite knowing why. Experts say that this could be to do with the different way people communicate over a video call than in person. Online calls tend to be more formal, more to the point and less relaxed than face to face conversation. People do not tend to ‘small talk’ online so much. These trivial conversations are really important for lots of reasons however, and if we are neglecting the art of small talk, we are denying ourselves a mental health break, practicing using our verbal skills and a chance to talk about how we really feel.
To counter this, when talking to colleagues, friends and family online try to purposely build in some incidental news, and see where the conversation ends up.
One of the biggest issues of spending so much time at home and on screens is the impact on sleep patterns. Sleep is vital for brain power, memory function and concentration. The body’s circadian rhythm is set by the blue morning light at the start of the day producing melatonin, so that sleep comes easily at bedtime. By not leaving the house first thing for the morning commute, and then being exposed to blue light from screens all day, sleep patterns become disrupted and a good quality night’s sleep is harder to establish.
The best way to maintain a good sleep routine is to make sure bedtime and the morning alarm are at the same time each day, to aim to get plenty of morning light as early in the day as possible, and to avoid screens as much as possible in the evenings, especially the hour before bed.