By Dr. Muffazal Lakdawala
Over the years, desk jobs have transformed from filling out paperwork to working tirelessly on laptops or desktops to meet deadlines, achieve targets and much more. Letters have become emails, physical meetings have become Skype meetings and departmental groups have turned to WhatsApp groups. The evolution of the workspace owes it all to digitization over the last few decades.
Excessive Screen Time affects health
However, the boon that has helped us work more efficiently also has its negative side. While we work 8-9 hour shifts on a daily basis, we are constantly staring at a screen, be it a laptop or a mobile. Excessive screen time leads to a host of adverse effects on health based on multiple research reports. However, screen time can be difficult to manage when it's a built-in feature of your job.
While you are not only affecting your eyesight because of the constant peering at a screen, you are also succumbing to obesity over a period of time in various forms.
Overexposure to screens leads to disruptive sleep patterns. According to a study done by University of Gothenburg, the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin is suppressed by the blue light from screens which prevents us from having a good night's sleep. Lack of proper sleep leads to weight gain or obesity in some cases.
We all experience stress in our work lives. Chronic stress results in the production of the stress hormone, commonly known as cortisol. It causes a redistribution of fat cells to the abdominal area which ultimately leads to an increase in appetite and a preference towards foods with high caloric value but little or no nutritional value or junk food as it is commonly referred to. This is called stress eating. Stress eating will eventually lead to weight gain or obesity.
Sitting in front of a screen for a prolonged period of time is also known to have adverse effects on your health. It affects your posture which results in back, neck and joint pains. It is also known that sitting in front of a screen for a long time increases the risk of heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes. Heart diseases and Type 2 Diabetes are also linked heavily to obesity or weight gain.
How to reduce screen time every day
While it might be difficult to limit screen time in a hectic work life, there are still ways to reduce it and help you work efficiently without any adverse effects on your health.
- Limit your mobile screen time to breaks-While we know our phones can be a distraction which hampers our efficiency, we need to make sure to check it only during breaks (lunch time, tea/coffee breaks in the evening etc.)
- Socialize at lunch-Socialize more with your colleagues/team members. Get to know them better instead of spending time scrolling through your social media feed.
- Get up and walk-If your job requires you to work in front of a screen for long hours, make sure you take a short 2 to 5 minute break where you can stretch, walk around in office and come back to your seat. You can even try a short breathing exercise to calm your senses.
- Limit screen time outside work-We as Indians tend to work and overwork to meet strict deadlines. Manage your time in office to work efficiently so that you don't have to work at home. Also, encourage your employees to spend time with family instead of having them reply to emails late at night or early in the morning. A good work environment will lead to better productivity and happier, healthier employees.
- Make time for face-to-face meetings: Go back to the old way and schedule meetings where you discuss face-to-face instead of Skype meetings, if possible.
- Eat healthy-If you are sitting in front of your screen for a long time, make sure you are eating healthy instead of bingeing. Go for healthy options like fruits, meals with no sugar etc.
There are also apps on your phone that help you limit your screen time and give you a detailed analysis of how much time you spend on your phone. Use that as an effective method of reducing screen time.
Take small steps to reduce your dependency on screens at your workplace and you will be able to replicate the same even at home, leading you to a path of a healthy lifestyle.
The author is Founder & Chief Surgeon-Digestive Health Institute. Views expressed are the author's own.