Screen fatigue anyone???

A few months ago, I started to experience severe migraines, eye strain, and nausea. Sometimes, I'd be on Zoom teaching my studio class and feel like I was going to fall over. I knew this problem was from the increase in computer usage I had acquired from more time at home and the growing number of Zoom activities to stay connected with my coworkers, family, and friends.

And I know, for many of my colleagues in a traditional firm setting, screen time was already heavy. But now client meetings, team meetings, presentations, client interviews, etc. is all virtual.

At the end of last year, I took a short vacation and made a point to commit myself to regular time away from the screen throughout the day. So far, things have been much better, I frequently stand up from my desk and stand and look out the window, or I'll go out on my patio. I have also been intentional about taking lunch away from screens. No TV, no computer, no phone, but just allowing my eyes to rest.

Bryan Robinson, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus at the University of Noth Carolina at Charlotte, had long written and researched themes around work/life balance, workaholism, and workplace issues. In a recent article, Professor Robinson advocates for what he calls the 20-20-20 Rule.

"The rule says that for every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, you take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away, which relaxes the eye muscles for 20 seconds and gives your brain a much-needed respite," Robinson writes.

My schedule does not permit a strict following of this rule, but it provides a clear framework for me to shoot for. Have you experienced any effects of increased screen usage? Share in the comments.

Jan 21, 21 2:01 pm

Actually I have more breaks at home from staring at a screen because my kids (1 and 3) simply don't allow me to work long stretches during this lockdown..."every disadvantage has its advantage" –Johan Cruyff

Jan 21, 21 4:46 pm  · 
6  · 

"take the model, pass the model" - Pep Guardiola

Jan 22, 21 3:20 pm  · 

Occasional blackouts from all the drinking definitely gets my eyes off the screen.  The chipped teeth and bumped head are a small price to pay.

On a serious note... I definitely experience work /desk/ environment fatigue.  I sometimes cringe a bit when I walk back into my little home office if I've managed to escape it for a few minutes.  I don't know how much of all that is purely screen-related.  But the fact that I'm looking at my screen 90% of the time certainly can't but worsen things.  

Jan 21, 21 5:47 pm  · 
4  · 

Working from home means my already screen-heavy workday is now 95% screen. It's mostly lead to a reduction in screen time outside of work. I used to come home and dick around on social media or scroll news websites for the evening. Lately I've started to feel almost annoyed by my non-work machine. Aside from the occasional whiskey & youtube evening (aka when my wife has dinner with her parents), I now feel uncomfortable leaving my work screen to fire up my personal one.

I realized pretty early on that I despise Zoom meetings, even with friends. There was that period I think we all went through, last spring, where everyone you hadn't talked to in 5 years suddenly wanted to have a Zoom happy hour because we were all stuck at home. I mostly found them exhausting. Not sure why, I'm certainly an extrovert, but for whatever reason I figured out that I love face-to-face, in real life interaction, and text-based interaction(forums, chat rooms, social media), but everything in between - video chat, phone calls, etc - just drains me. 

To fill the time, I've been reading a lot more books & magazines (I subscribed to some magazines I used to read online just to get my eyes off the screen), but I've also been trying to do more active tasks. I'm sketching more, I took up the piano again. We're gearing up for a small home renovation. I've been taking more time to cook dinners. It's meant fewer interactions, but it's brought a greater enjoyment to the ones I have had. I'm enjoying my mostly-analogue personal life.

Jan 21, 21 5:59 pm  · 
4  · 
Non Sequitur

I really don't like the friends hangout zoom stuff either. It seems there are only 2 topics: What you will be doing when this is over and to talk about zoom meetings. Both are a bore. With that said, I did have a 1 on 1 zoom with a good buddy of mine who lives in LA. We both chatted as we watched the same hockey game. Good times.

Jan 21, 21 8:15 pm  · 

We only do zoom with people when it makes sense, otherwise it's phone. We do play board games online a lot with a video chat on the side, but it's mostly about the game.

Jan 22, 21 1:01 pm  · 

My optometrist recommends the 20-20-20 thing too, but I can't remember if he says 20-20-20 or 30-30-30. Either way the concept is the same. I can't say I follow it regularly, but I do try to remind myself to do it as I feel my eyes getting tired toward the end of a long day. I haven't noticed any real changes, but I'm also not doing it correctly because by the time I remember to do it, they're already tired. 

I don't think it would hurt to go get an eye exam, even if you've never needed glasses or contacts. Similar to you, my wife was dealing with more eye fatigue and headaches this last year. She's been teaching via zoom all day rather than in her classroom too. She was thinking about trying those blue light blocking glasses. She asked her optometrist if he recommended any in particular. Instead he adjusted her prescription (gave her new contacts at that lower prescription) and that's taken care of most of her issues (her eyes still get tired at the end of the day, as would anyone's, but it's not causing her any headaches anymore).

Jan 21, 21 6:09 pm  · 
3  · 

I probably need to do the eye exam. I haven't been to the optometrist in just over a year, so I think my exam is due by now.

Jan 22, 21 10:30 am  · 
Non Sequitur

I don't think I experience much, if any, eye strain.  I do keep my monitor brightness levels pretty low and, as I've mentioned in another discussion a while back, I organize my desk in the most non-ergo non-efficient way possible.   I also do not review drawings on a screen unless they are simple shop drawings.

For example: my monitors are purposefully so low that the top of the screen is below my eye level, my mice(I have 2 different ones) and keyboard are askew from each other in a way, and I organize anything I would need to reach (phone, sketchbook, pens) in non central places.  All this forces me to move my head away from the screen enough that my eyes don't get stuck on a screen for too long.  It also helps that I don't get tied down to long production tasks often.

Unrelated to the above, my glasses prescription keeps getting worse.  

Also unrelated to the above, anyone ever google the word "Askew".Try it.

Jan 21, 21 8:13 pm  · 
2  · 

I know a couple people that make it a point to get up and take a 2 minute walk around the office every hour on the hour. Not only helps eye strain but also gives you a chance to stretch, grab a drink, and take a mental break. As for my own experience, after I got glasses I immediately noticed my posture improve because I wasn't hunched of as much to see the screen, and my eyes thank me for it. There's also a Night Light setting that filters out blue light. It looks odd for the first couple minutes but after you turn it off you'll be amazed how much harder you have to strain to see anything. And then there are always the people that invert their color setting in Revit, similar to AutoCAD. Some colleagues swear by it but I find that makes it harder to gauge line weights and predict what drawings will actually look like printed. Though in the end, none of this makes up for staring at screens for 40+ hours a week. The only solutions I know of are going back to hand drafting or retiring.

Jan 21, 21 8:15 pm  · 
3  · 

Nice. I always felt that the inverted color setting in Revit was weird, but in AutoCAD, it feels right.

Jan 22, 21 10:27 am  · 

This may have been fixed in later versions, but I ran into a huge issue inverting colors in Revit, where black & white lines didn't always invert correctly and it was nearly impossible to work.

Jan 22, 21 11:37 am  · 

Or invert everything, from your monitor settings...also will invert outlook and word etc...bliss, especially when working late...will take some time to get used to though.

Jan 22, 21 1:13 pm  · 
1  · 

Unfortunately more 'universal' settings like those tend to be more bother than it's worth when we constantly go back and forth between proposals and projects. If I'm only doing CDs for months at a time it's fine, but flipping between PS, AI, ID, SU, Revit, CAD, etc gets very annoying.

Jan 22, 21 1:33 pm  · 

screen fatigue? more like life fatigue...

Oct 26, 22 11:18 am  · 
1  · 

I definitely have screen fatigue, it causes me terrible migraines,  I get nausea and dizziness. It's hard. Once it starts, I need to take a lot of medicine and go to a dark room because my eyes can't stand any kind of light for hours. My doctor told me to avoid working on the computer, but with our profession, there are not a lot of options, especially for people that are at the beginning of the architecture career. 

Anyway, what I do to try to avoid the crisis that might help you:  make pauses every 2h and go walk around or talk to someone for like 15/20 minutes, at lunch time go out and walk a little bit, exercise at least 2x a week, avoid caffeine, sleep at least 7h at night, have at least one healthy meal a day, avoid screens at weekends, most of all have fun and think positive. Stress is a big migraine trigger, so the more chill and happy you are, the better. 

There are some glasses that filter blue light, many people say that helps, it didn't help me much because my migraine triggers are brightness and stress, but it might be worth the try for you.  

I hope I could help you somehow. 

Nov 8, 22 2:09 am  · 

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