Fit for Work, the Government’s occupational health and return to work programme, has highlighted the value of the 20:20:20 rule — taking a 20-second break every 20 minutes in order to focus on an object at least 20 metres away — for busy office staff working in front of a computer screen.

Fit for Work points out that while the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states clearly that there is no evidence that working on display screen equipment (DSE) such as computers, tablets and smartphones can cause permanent damage to eyes, staring at a computer screen can cause dry irritated eyes, blurred vision and headaches.

Therefore, taking regular breaks is widely recommended and the 20:20:20 rule is one that is widely recommended by experts.

The rule suggests taking a 20-second break every 20 minutes in order to focus on an object at least 20 metres away. According to Fit for Work, this process rests the eyes and stops them getting overtired.

However, ensuring workers have a supportive chair and the screen at the right height in a well-lit environment will also make computer-based work more comfortable.

Fit for Work is available to employers who would like more information on looking after the health of employees in the workplace. Employers can ring the advice line on 0800 032 6235 (0800 019 2211 for those in Scotland and 0800 032 6233 for those speaking Welsh).

Employers can refer employees who have been off work for four weeks or more to Fit for Work to help them in their return to work.

Additional online advice and guidance about work-related health issues can be accessed at www.fitforwork.org.

Last reviewed 20 September 2016