What Are The Dangers Of Too Much Screen Time?

Leeds Trinity University student Fizza Masood joins WorkWorkWork.works on placement and investigates the dangers of too much screen time.                 

Over the last 10 years we all have been taken aback by the rapid and far reaching progress technology has made into our lives. It has reached to the point where employees are finding themselves surrounded by screens at work, so it was not very surprising to see a report in Independent clearly stating that the average office worker is spending almost 1,700 hours a year looking at a computer screen.

Daily screen time

On an annualised basis this may not seem a lot, but it equates to office workers spending an average of six and a half hours a day working in front of a screen.

Given what we know about the dangers of screen use it is not difficult to predict the health and safety consequences that may arise for these people.

Career consequences

If office workers are spending the majority of their day looking at a screen, but those who are suffering from the negative impact of that high level of screen time then there is bound to be an impact on that individuals ability to work and progress their career.

Businesses suffer as well

Business managers are only too aware that employees with on-going health issues are likely to be less productive than their colleagues who do not have to manage a health condition to work around.

How will it affect employees?

Working for longer hours on screen will lead to employees suffering from vision issues such as computer vision syndrome. This occurs when a person starts experiencing strained eyes, dry eyes, blurred vision, and headaches. They can also face chronic neck and back pain, that is caused due to poor posture when using screen for longer hours.

An IT technician has revealed suffering from long terms effects due to prolonged exposure to digital screen every day. “I often have to use dry eye drops as I spend most working days starting at a laptop screen, and once my working day is over, I tend to spend time on my smartphone consequently being diagnosed with blepharitis”, says technician.

It is no surprise that effects of long-term exposure are not limited to blepharitis, but employees are likely to experience sleeping problems as studies shows strong correlation between sleeping issues and increased screen usage.  This happens as blue light from digital screens destroys melatonin (sleep-promoting hormone), lowering chances of employees having a restful sleep.

Progress at work will be disturbed as a result, as employee’s information processing will not be efficient because spending a large amount of time using screens will result in impaired cognitive function and thus lowering overall productivity levels.

What are the possible solutions?

There are 2 easy solution that can be adapted by firms to decrease outlined risk posed by the increase exposure and improve wellbeing of employees at work. The solutions are as follows:  

  • Increase Breaks in between working hours

The human eye requires regular breaks especially from blue light to function efficiently. The University of Toledo carried out a study that highlighted long exposure to excessive blue light may cause blindness!

When the macula’s light-sensitive cells are hit by the blue light, it can result in a specific molecule to twist, which can lead to a beginning of a chain reaction that can damage cells.

Still there is a weak connection between blindness and blue light. Because of this, experts conclude headaches, blurred vision, and eye strain as the usual negative side effects.

Andy Romero-Birkbeck Founder and Director of We Are Well Being suggested that to avoid blurred vision, eyes strain and improve productivity at work, the employees must adapt pomodoro technique which is a time management method that encompasses of breaking down work into 25-minute portions separated by five-minute breaks. “work solidly on a specific task for 40 minutes and then take a break or shift your focus, as change is as good as a rest which will significantly improve productivity” says Andy.

It will be difficult for employers to allow long hour breaks during working hours however 5 to 10-minute break every two hour of intense screen work will help energise an employee, which will improve concentration and employees will achieve higher productivity levels. Via following this, employees will be able to avoid eye dryness, eye strain or tiredness as well.

  • Encourage employees to wear a pair of blue light filtering glasses

“To further reduce the harmful effects of prolonged usage of screen, the employers must provide their employees blue light blocking glasses as it is fairly inexpensive or buy them blue light filtering screens to not only prevent harmful effects, but it will boost their productivity level which will be beneficial for both employees and employer in the long run”, says Andy.

The study conducted by Swanwick`s demonstrates that employees who wore Swanwick’s Night Swannies blue light blocking glasses in the evening before bed  showed improvements in both quality and quantity of their sleep and they were very effective and active at work the next day.

This shows that wearing theses glasses will improve employee’s wellbeing along with their productivity at workplace through delivering them good sleep which will result in improved task performance, increased engagement and overall will contribute towards business growth. 

The results of trials conducted by Swanwick shows that the participants “slept 6% longer, improved the quality of their sleep by 11%, improved their task performance by 9%”. “Increased their work engagement by 8.25%, increased their helping behaviour by 18% and decreased their negative work behaviour by 12%.” Professor Guarana explains that “Wearing blue-light filtering glasses creates a form of physiologic darkness, thus improving both sleep quantity and quality.”

Conclusion

Strangely, not a lot of research has been carried out into the effectiveness of blue light blocking glass even though some experiments have been conducted but they were not done on a big scale. Thus, results cannot be generalised. It would be beneficial for employees to practice good screen habits during and outside working hours along with taking other measures such as frequent breaks.

Also, there was a clear corelation between blue light and poor sleep and therefore until more research is conducted with regards to blue light blocking glasses, it would be advantageous for the employees to avoid using digital screens at least an hour before going to bed to improve their sleep patterns. This will allow them to feel more energetic during working hours which will contribute to improve their overall well being and productivity levels.