What the eyes can’t see…

By Mónica Vega, Project Manager.

Making use of the name of our blog, Depende del contexto (Depending on the context), I would like to bring attention to some important and healthy customs in our professional context, since I totally agree the maxim mens sana in corpore sano. Even taking the risk that my posts be tagged as “grandma’s home remedies” or similar, I would like to focus on some habits and behaviours that have a direct effect on our ability to do a good job.

To decide which was going to be my first post was not easy since in a few minutes I had written a long list with plenty of subjects (isn’t it funny how we love making lists?). Therefore, I went back to the starting point: where do we begin? How do we access the text we are going to translate? We do it using our sight, so is there a better subject to write about than our eyes? So, let’s pay a little bit of attention to our eyes, they are essential, but also so damaged.

Have you ever thought about the skills related to sight that are involved in our daily work (as translators, editors or project managers? Let’s have a look at some of them:

1.) As translators, and above all as editors, there are some cases where we need to be able to read very fast and consciously thousands and thousands of words, and to detect mistakes at first sight.

Of course, this skill can become a really nightmare since it does not include an ON/OFF button; therefore, a warning alarm is triggered at every typo or punctuation error that passes before our eyes when we skim a sign or a leaflet (even if we do it very quickly). In this task, eyes are indefatigable and they are always on duty. Once they get used to do this, there will not be a point of return.

2.) Another skill that we appreciate in our eyes is that they be agile when changing the focus amongst different windows. I work in Word… ALT+TAB… I look for an entry in Wordreference… ALT+TAB… I check my inbox… ALT+TAB… I come back and continue in Word… ALT+TAB… I check whether someone commented my picture on facebook… We need to be agile with the keypad, but we also need that our eyes adapt themselves quickly to different fonts, backgrounds, sizes, etc.

3.) Endurance. How many hours do we spend in front of the screen? They are not always the same, but sometimes we spend too many hours. In those cases, we assume that our eyes will be strong enough and help us to translate, edit or manage the flood of words we are working with.

Eyes are a key element in our daily work, through them we get close to words, and also we start the mental processes that make our job possible. But… do we take care of them accordingly?

Eye disorders caused by spending too many hours in front of the computer are very well-known since, to a greater or lesser extent, all of us have suffered from one or some of them: eye fatigue, eye dryness, blurred vision, headaches, eye pressure, etc.

We can prevent or relieve them if we are aware of how important our eyes are and we follow some guidelines as the ones I will explain in this post.

Location of the monitor

We cannot choose the place for our monitor from an aesthetical point of view; this should be placed opposite us with no need to bend the neck or the back to look at the screen. The recommended distance between the display and our eyes is 50-60 cm (or the equivalent to our arm extension, but never less than 40 cm). The top of the screen should be at or slightly below our eye level (of course, sit up straight!).

Proper lighting

Although we should ideally work in a bright attic with natural light during almost the whole day, reality can be different so we would need to use artificial light when there is not enough. It is important to adjust the light intensity according to the room and the type of work. Excessive light is as harmful as the lack of it. Under those circumstances where natural and artificial light combined are not enough, we can use a reading lamp (although limited use is recommended in order not to alter the light balance between the room and the workplace).

One of the main causes of eye fatigue while working with computers are reflections. For this reason, we should avoid working with windows or spotlights just behind us. In addition, we should work surrounded by opaque surfaces to prevent reflections in the screen. Light must enter our workplace perpendicularly.

Display settings

Why do you harm yourself with small fonts? You should set up your display in order to work with well-defined characters, proper contrast and a correct size. Zoom in! We can zoom in the document and use a display size where we can properly see the words and give our eyes a little rest.

Despite being tempted to change the text colour and use the “whole” colour palette, your eyes will appreciate that you restrain your innovative impulse and work in a classical B&W (or even better, black letters over a light grey background).

Set up bright and contrast according to the environment and use a high refresh rate (70-75 Hz) when possible.

Best practices at computer work 

1. Make a rest after 1 hour. There are many good reasons to stop, stand up and do something else from time to time. This is a good practice not only for eyes health. If you are not able to establish this routine, you can use an application to be more disciplined. For a detailed list of applications to help you, you can go here (in Spanish).

2. Blink frequently. When staring at the screen, we tend to blink even four times less than usual, thus our tears evaporate and we experiment eye dryness (another cause of eye fatigue). Have you ever looked at yourself working? See that unemotional face, those fixed eyes… you look like a waxwork! Scary! And what is worse, it reduces our capability to weep with Spielberg’s films. Is it really worth?

3. Look at a far point. Eye fatigue is caused because we force our eye muscles to work at the same distance and intensity for a long time. Look out of the window regularly and nose around your neighbourhood. If it is not possible, then you have a good excuse to hang a nice poster or picture (relaxing or not, that is up to you) to a distance that lets you put this habit into practice while relieving mental stress.

Food

When talking about nutrition, we can write pages and pages. I could write a whole post but in this case, I would just like to mention that what you eat has a direct effect on your eyes health. We can avoid future eye problems if we eat foods which are rich in vitamin A (carrot, spinach, tomato, advocate, yolk); vitamin E (walnuts, pistachio, almonds, broccoli, spinach, kiwi, apple, grape, mango, melon, banana); vitamin C (pepper, strawberry, cauliflower, green leaf vegetables) and vitamin B2 (brewer’s yeast, lettuce, wheat germen).

Exercises for relaxing eyes 

1.) Rub your hands and place them over your closed eyes, breathing deeply with abdominal breathing during some minutes. You can concentrate on breathing or you may recall a pleasant situation that helps you relieve stress.

2.) Close your eyes and direct your eyeball upwards, hold it for 10 seconds; then, repeat downwards and sidewards.

3.) Close your eyes and roll your eyeballs clockwise and counterclockwise.

4.) Press gently over and under eyebrows and eyelids with a soft massage.

I hope you will be more aware (blink) of how important your health is and you will take care of your eyes after reading this post. (Blink and continue reading) Double check some of your habits which may not be very healthy to become more effective and productive at work.

See you in my next post… Meanwhile, take care! (My turn, I blink.)