Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

22 Quick Changes You Can Make to Reverse the Effects of Staring at a Computer All Day Long

person sitting at desk

Despite how much I love my work, I often find myself feeling not so great after a long day. At first I blamed allergies, then an oncoming cold. But then when that cold never came, I finally admitted to myself that my problem was probably me—rather than something in the air.

Or, to be more exact, it was me staring at a computer for eight hours a day. Like most people out there, I suffer from computer vision syndrome. Long story short, it means all that screen time is leading to eye strain—which then, inevitably, leads to things like headaches, dry eyes, and neck pain. Sound familiar?

Did you know that the average working American spends around 43% of his or her waking hours in front of a screen? And when you pile on an uncomfortable chair, my cell phone screen, and the TV screen, it makes sense why I always end up with that not-so-great feeling.

This self-diagnosis made me realize that breaks really are so necessary, no matter how much I have to get done. But even knowing that, I decided to do some research and see what else I could do to relieve the pain of sitting in front of a screen, especially for the days when I can’t afford to take those frequent pauses.

And good news! There’s a ton of small things you and I can do today that’ll seriously change our work life (I’ve already tried them and approve).

Here are 22 tips you can try right now. Well, after you finish reading this:

  1. Turn your computer brightness down to around the same brightness as your workspace. This not only saves battery life but also limits your exposure to excessive light.
  2. Sit up straighter. And not just straighter, but correctly. Here’s your ultimate guide to good posture.
  3. Go for a short walk around the office every hour or so to stretch your muscles and rest your eyes.
  4. And, if you’re bad at remembering to do that, download an app that’ll remind you to take those breaks.
  5. Do this 30-second stretch to relieve desk hunch. And yes, desk hunch is exactly what it sounds like.
  6. Remember to blink. We are sometimes so focused that we let our eyes dry up in concentration, and studies show that computer users tend to blink less. So no, really, you are probably forgetting to do it.
  7. If your eyes are still dry, consider using eye drops throughout the day to rejuvenate your vision.
  8. Zoom in and enlarge your text. Small words tend to make you squint and hunch forward, both of which are bad for you.
  9. Use the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to stare at something that is about 20 feet away. This keeps the muscles in your eyes active so you can avoid that afternoon fuzziness.
  10. Try an app that adjusts your screen coloring in accordance to sunlight. This is especially great for late-night workers.
  11. Position your computer at arms length. This will prevent visual strain and neck as well as back pain.
  12. Try an anti-glare screen on your monitor.
  13. Or, if possible, avoid working near a window that causes a glare.
  14. If you can, turn off the overhead fluorescent lights and try using desk or floor lamps with more indirect light.
  15. And, if you’re looking between a document and a screen, set up the paper at the height of the screen.
  16. Clean your monitor frequently. The dustier it is, the harder your eyes have to work.
  17. Stay hydrated. Chances are your headache isn’t only from the computer, but also from not drinking enough water.
  18. Use a keyboard wrist rest to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
  19. Switch positions frequently. Move to a couch if there’s one in your office or try standing while working for a bit.
  20. Massage the area around your eyes. This will help relax the muscles and make you feel more comfortable.
  21. Or, try eye cupping: Rub your hands together to create heat, then gently cup your palms over your closed eyes and rest them there.
  22. The best solution? If you do any work away from the computer, try to space it out throughout the day. And yes, that includes meetings.