We live in a world of constant connectivity, where screen time is more popular than time with other human beings. In fact, the only face time some people get on a daily basis is FaceTime with a capital “F” and “T.”
We can easily see how this affects our personal lives, but what about our work lives? If you own or manage a business, you probably regard technology as one of your greatest assets. That’s probably true, but it can also be one of your greatest risk factors.
Too much screen time has a negative impact on workers’ health, focus, and output. If you can find ways to limit it, this could prove highly beneficial for your company.
The Risks of Excessive Screen Time
The human eye is a magnificent organ that has incredible capabilities and rich features. It can perceive as many as 7 million different colors, and has the capability to differentiate between various textures, shapes, shades, and tones.
But it’s also true that the human eye needs regular breaks from certain types of light and other environmental factors in order to continue functioning at an effective level. In particular, it needs rest from blue light: the type of light that’s given off by computers, phones, tablets, and TVs.
A research study out of the University of Toledo suggests that exposure to excessive blue light may accelerate blindness. “The macula, which is in the back of the eye, helps process images before they’re converted into electrical signals that are sent to the brain,” Swagel Wootton Eye Institute explains.
“As we age, the macula can develop yellow deposits called drusen. A little bit of drusen isn’t likely to alter vision, but too many drusen can cause the macula to malfunction and result in macular degeneration, which eventually causes vision defects.”
When blue light hits the macula’s light-sensitive cells, it can cause a specific molecule to twist. This starts a chain reaction that can eventually damage cells.
Swagel Wootton cautions that the connection between blue light and blindness is weak at best, institute experts grant that too much screen time can lead to negative side effects such as headaches, blurred vision, and eye strain.
In addition to the physical side effects, employees who spend all day in front of a screen are more likely to experience sleep problems, show a steep drop-off in productivity throughout the day, and feel less connected to the people around them.
From an employer’s perspective, excessive screen time may lead to a lack of engagement and output, which make it detrimental to business growth. Implementation of screen breaks in the office could benefit both workers and employer.
The Benefits of Taking Screen Breaks
It may not be possible for all employees to take prolonged breaks from screens, but you should try to find a way to mandate even brief pauses. The productivity-boost is almost always worth it.
Just ask students of professor Mary Gomes, Ph.D., who uses a media/screen fast as part of her undergraduate psychology curriculum. “I was able to stay on top of my assignments and get all my work done in a more efficient manner and with a lot more focus,” one student writes.
“Being able to see firsthand how my mind was affected by this fast was an eye-opening experience. I could feel how focused my mind was while doing my assignments and how the scattered feeling that I usually feel was completely gone.”
It’s not hard to fathom how a screen fast or break could have similar effects in the workplace. If nothing else, you should encourage and even require employees to take a 10-minute respite from their computer screens every two hours.
It’s easy to regard such a move as lost productivity, but it will actually enhance focus and promote greater efficiency when people return to work. You should at least try it and see what you think.
Set Your Employees Up for Success
You can’t control what your employees do in their free time, but you have some say over their habits and interactions while they’re on the clock. Do your staff and firm a favor and become more conscientious about screen time.
By implementing simple breaks, you can improve your employees’ physical and mental health, boost your company’s productivity, and create a culture of focus and intentionality.