These simple strategies will help you reduce your screen time at work

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Moya Crockett
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Office workers spend a shocking amount of time staring at screens, according to new research. Here are three ways to cut down. 

In new Pixar animation Incredibles 2, the villain is a terrifying, anonymous figure known as the Screenslaver, who controls people by hypnotising them through screens. For what is ostensibly a children’s movie, it’s a chilling indictment of modern life: we are all, the film suggests, enslaved by our screens.

If that sounds a bit far-fetched, consider the fact that new research suggests that the average office worker spends almost 1,700 hours a year in front of a computer screen – the equivalent of more than 70 days, or 2.3 months.

“Computers are a relatively new concept – for millions now, staring at a screen all day is the norm,” said Katie McGeechan from ACUVUE, which commissioned the research.

“However if you look back just a few decades, far fewer of us would have spent the day looking into the same glowing rectangle, and when you add mobile phones into the mix, we’re putting our eyes through a lot every day.”

ACUVUE is a contact lens company, so they have a vested interest in highlighting the ways that screen time can affect our eyes. But it’s true that looking at screens for prolonged periods of time can cause eye strain and exacerbate existing eye problems.

It’s also believed by some scientists to affect the structure of the brain, and has even been linked to lower cardiovascular health outcomes and reduced life expectancy.

Of course, many of us have no choice but to use a computer at work, even if we’d rather not. But there are simple ways you can reduce your screen time. Read on… 

1. Work on paper when you can 

Get your stationery out 

The nature of modern work means that much of it has to be done on a computer. But depending on your industry, there’s probably lots you could be doing with a simple pen and notepad.

If you’re planning a project or presentation, switch off your computer screen and map out your ideas on paper first. If you have to give feedback on someone else’s work or research, print out what you need and make notes in old-school red biro.

Not only will these tactics reduce your screen time, you may also find that they help you focus more and retain information better

2. Take a proper lunch break (and don’t look at your phone) 

Look at her, enjoying herself, not looking at her phone 

If your job requires you to look at a screen from the second you sit down at your desk in the morning until the moment you leave, it’s even more important that you give your eyes – and your brain – a break midway through the day.

Leave the office and find a patch of grass to lounge on or a café to sit in, and resist the urge to scroll through social media on your phone. (That is, after all, just another, smaller screen.) Bring a book! (If you need new reading recommendations, check out the tips from the Zoe Ball Book Club, supported by Stylist.) 

Alternatively, go for a walk around your office neighbourhood while listening to a podcast or relaxing playlist. Just don’t be tempted to start looking up facts about a podcaster or musician on your phone. IT’S STILL A SCREEN. 

3. Limit your screen time outside of the office 

Cooking with friends > watching Netflix alone? 

After a stressful day at work, an evening in front of Netflix is sometimes all we can manage. But wherever possible, try to avoid going straight home from the office and collapsing in front of your TV or laptop. (It might feel like restful screen time, but it will still put strain on your eyes.) Cook a meal you’ve never made before, have a bath while listening to the radio, go for a walk, catch up with friends, hit the gym – whatever you need to do to keep away from a screen.

Equally, set limits as to how much time you’ll spend on your smartphone once you leave the office. You definitely don’t need to spend an hour a day catching up on Instagram – and if you don’t absolutely have to check your work emails late at night, don’t. Not only does it increase your screen time, it’s also likely to raise your stress levels. No thank you.

Moment is a great app that lets you know how much time you’ve spent on your phone each day: the results are likely to shock you into putting your phone down.

Images: Getty Images / Tirachard Kumtanom / Pexels / Pixabay 


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Moya Crockett

Moya is a freelance journalist and writer from London, and a former editor at Stylist.