For many faculty, staff, and students, working remotely means managing productivity and interactions in an entirely new way. Face-to-face meetings, group sessions, classroom trainings, hallway conversations, and other off-screen activities all need to move to digital platforms like Skype, Zoom, Outlook, and SMS. The result can be a significant increase in screen time—what we call Digital Immersion.
One issue you might face as you transition to digital immersion is screen fatigue. Beyond affecting productivity, screen fatigue can lead to increased eye strain, headache, and anxiety. Screen fatigue can set in after your third straight Skype meeting, your 90-minute class session, or your 12-message, 8 CC, super-urgent email exchange. It can also result from the inevitable starts-and-stops we experience as we struggle to learn new tools, build new habits, and convert workplace processes to an all-digital format.
From an accessibility and diversity standpoint, we need to acknowledge that people’s tolerance varies widely when it comes to long periods of computer use. In an immersive digital environment, consider that people may adapt differently to significant increases in screen time.
Here are some tips to help you maintain your productivity and avoid screen fatigue.
Let your documents do the talking
Like many accessibility features, screen reading is widely seen as a benefit for people who are blind or have low vision. But text-to-speech is available to anyone. Several common apps let you listen, rather than read so you can take your eyes off the screen. Many of these features are available straight out of the box, with options to manage the pitch and rate of speech, and select from a small group of synthesized voices.
Text-to-speech lets your documents do the talking. This can take some getting used to, and may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But if you need to read email, documents, or webpages and you just can’t look at the screen for one more moment, one (or more) of these might be the tool for you.