Reading on screen fatigue

We’ve had some feedback asking for more detail on how to overcome reading on screen fatigue and put those headaches at bay. If you are desk-bound, take a look at my top tips.

Working environments

However, most of the physical and health problems associated with on screen reading often come from expecting too much from yourself – we are not infallible and sometimes adjusting our own practice and working environments can make a huge difference. Take a look at the display screen use guidance issued by the Health and Safety Executive, or if you are in a medium-large organisation (including colleges and universities), you will have an on-site health and safety officer who will help you assess your current working environment and suggest improvements.

The right device for reading

If you have to read a lot of long documents, then a desktop computer is not ideal. You are positioned in an odd way, reading off a vertical screen. You should look at other devices which are more suited to extended reading, for example tablets (Kindle Fire, Galaxy Tab, iPad) or e-ink readers (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader). Some research also suggests that using your desktop computer for different activities (e.g. reading and inputting) can increase your ‘cognitive load’ and it may be better to use one device for reading and another for reporting back/inputting so that you are not trying to multi-task too much on your computer screen.

Check our device guide for the pros and cons of different device types.

Matt’s top tips for desk days

OK, so we all do it… those days where you spend the entire day sat at your desk staring at that rectangular glare that seems to get brighter and more intense as the hours tick on.

We’ve already advised you to take screen breaks. It might sound obvious, but this means actually moving away from the screen and not looking at anything with an electrical plug attached to it for at least five minutes every hour. When you work at a computer, your eyes are fixed in one position for extended periods of time. Think about the last time you blinked whilst reading this! It’s amazing our eye balls don’t look like the parched sands of the Sahara. Dried out and tired eyes lead to headaches, and so does dehydration.

In addition to screen breaks, make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids whilst at work. Drinking plenty seems to me to be the simplest preventative measure against screen fatigue. I regret the days when I’ve forgotten to bring in my bottles of water, as come 2pm, I get sluggish and that headache brews – unlike the cup of tea I should have made myself earlier.

Finally, ensure that you’re working in a suitably lit environment. Don’t have the glare of the sun directly behind your monitor as you’re exposing your eyes to too many sources of light (different intensities and colours of light). Use blinds to block direct sunlight, use table lamps to illuminate your workspace, and learn how to set the brightness of your monitor to suit both the environment you work in and to make it comfortable on your eyes.

Matt