Varifocal glasses and computer work – a cautionary tale

I recently got my first pair of varifocal glasses (which of course makes me feel old!). The process was not without its hiccups and it has taken a while to adapt to them…

However, I very quickly realised that I couldn’t use them when working at my computer. The focus of the visual field was too small to allow comfortable viewing , and I found myself leaning forward in the seat, rubbing my eyes, cleaning my glasses all to try to see the screen more clearly. So, following another trip back to the optician, I now have 2 pairs of glasses – one for everyday living, and one for working at the computer.

I’ve also been in offices where I’ve seen staff tilting their head back to view the screen through the lower part of their lenses, or holding their head downwards to look through the top part of the lens. Neither will be comfortable for long periods, and these staff are likely to benefit from a dedicated pair of glasses for computer work.

A sensible, standard question to ask of your staff (over the age of mid 40’s) who are experiencing visual problems when working with computers is whether they are wearing varifocal or bifocal glasses. It may be that they need glasses specifically for computer work.

If staff need to wear varifocals while at the computer due to other aspects of their work (e.g. reception staff or banking staff who also need to see beyond the computer screen), they are likely to need to place the computer screen lower on the desk (and possibly closer to them) to allow them to view it with a comfortable neck angle. So the ‘normal’ advice of having the top of the screen approximately level with your eye height when sitting (assuming the screen size is up to approximately 21”) should be modified to a lower screen height for varifocal wearers.

Of course, screens with integral height adjustment are really beneficial, particularly at hot desks, so that each colleague can set the screen to a comfortable height.

So there’s lots to think about when getting a pair of varifocals, not just which frames to choose…. (oh, and remembering to change to the everyday ones when leaving your desk!)