A Simple Solution to Increased Productivity: Multiple Monitors

Chris EdwardsBy Chris Edwards
Manager, IT Services

One of the simplest and least expensive methods of increasing an information worker’s productivity is to provide them with more screen space in which to work. This seems like it would be obvious: if you have more workspace, you can do more work.

A study from the University of Utah, first published in 2003 and then updated in 2008, shows that an increase in virtual desk space increases productivity. But the productivity increases taper off after a total screen size of approximately 26 to 30 inches on the diagonal, or 2560 x 1440.

At the time that study was first reported, multiple monitors were uncommon and generally considered expensive. This is no longer true. Almost any computer can be fitted with a USB video card to allow another monitor at a cost of around $50, plus the cost of the second monitor you choose. It’s easy to find lower-end or refurbished models for under $100.

I would recommend you try to keep all the monitors about the same size, shape and height from the desktop. Horizontal or vertical alignment seems to help the eye keep more focused on the information.

Technically, you can provide this screen space with one single, larger monitor. Multiple monitors provide added bonuses, however, in the way they treat applications.

If you’ve been using the latest versions of Windows on multiple monitors, for example, you know how easy it is to drag a window into another screen and have it maximize, making things like comparing documents or referring to references easy. Windows does have a method of performing this action in a similar way on a single monitor, but it is not as intuitive or quick.

If your employees use laptops, a second screen can immensely improve productivity easily. Most laptops already provide the needed connection; you just need the additional monitor and a cable.

Additional monitors are even a viable option for workers who are often on the move. Portable USB monitors, powered via the cable directly from the laptop, can be found in 17-inch screen sizes for approximately $150 on Amazon, and can be easily transported for your workers who travel. They can be set up and broken down very easily.

As noted above, productivity gains do fall off after a certain amount of additional space. It becomes a case of too many things to pay attention to, or the specific tasks do not benefit from the additional room.

You should tailor the setup for the particular task at hand. If your worker needs to review multiple documents at the same time, perhaps two or more additional monitors will allow them to view all the documents simultaneously without printing them out and laying them across their desk. The degree of productivity improvement is highly dependent on the sort of tasks required of your staff.

If your organization hasn’t moved to multiple monitors for its information workers, it can be a great low-cost option to explore in the new year. It’s a good bet they’ll find it to be a very positive benefit to their workflow.

If you need to consult with an information technology expert about increasing worker productivity, please call Chris Edwards at (317) 613-7855 or email cedwards@sponselcpagroup.com.

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