Looking for an early Christmas present from your boss? Ask them for an extra monitor.
I’ve read a lot over the years about how a bigger monitor, or multiple monitors, can increase your productivity and it seems that research I’ve been reading recently still agrees with that sentiment.
We’re multi-tasking more and more, running office programs, email, web browser, graphics software and social media clients all at the same time thanks to the processing power of PCs and Mac that now make this possible. Add into that the fact that we’re supposed to be connected 24/7 and this adds to the pressure of having to constantly monitor everything that’s happening around us.
On smaller monitors, swapping between windows is not necessarily an intuitive (or productive) task. How often have you Alt (or CMD) tabbed from your word processor to your email program only to accidentally land on your browser and fall into the time-suck that is Facebook or Twitter? Not that you look at those at work, right?!
Larger monitor space means better windows management (Up to 90% according to some studies). On a larger monitor you are able to position windows in a more intuitive way, see more content and therefore have less need to scroll or swap windows.
I personally find that using a dual monitor set up increases my productivity by at least 80-90% as I can have, for example, a coding window open on one window and a live web preview open on the other. This means I don’t have to tab between two different set-ups losing time as I do so or get distracted by tabbing to the wrong program.
If you’re in need of some scientific data to persuade your boss
There’s a rather long-winded study by Dell that you can use to justify your request for an extra monitor. There’s also an article by Robert Ball that gives three reasons why a large monitor setup works.
But, as we move into the realms of monitors getting super-huge – or the ability to use TV screens as our monitors – and as the cost of manufacturing them comes down, is bigger necessarily better?
The bigger the monitor, the longer it can take for you to move your mouse across it. We’ve seen the same thing happen with mobile phones, screens were big then got smaller then got massive to the point where you need enormous hands to use them (iPhone 6+ and Nexus 6 anyone?)
Would I recommend a dual monitor set up? If you don’t have one then categorically YES! Especially if you’re likely to be needing to look at more than two different windows in quick succession (and no, Tumblr doesn’t count).
Would I recommend a larger monitor over a dual monitor? Having used both, I’d go for two monitors over one large one. They have more flexibility and enable work/windows to be separated easily.
There are some studies that recommend using a larger monitor over a dual monitor set up (the website Sandglaz has some links to research regarding this) however, most of this is seems to be to do with neck movements which I think, if you have the pixels set up so you can see them correctly and the monitors in a suitable place, you shouldn’t need to move your head that much – certainly not so much that you’d get whiplash!
Of course, there are studies which state that people get on better with single monitor set up (for example this study from 2012) but these are all taken from a time when 17″ monitors were still the norm and it was odd to have even and LCD screen.
Also, the question is, is it the multiple monitors or is it the number of pixels that helps? A LifeHacker article from 2010 reckons it’s more to do with pixels that it is to do with monitor real estate although these days now I don’t think it matters that much thanks to High-Def screens.
How to manage Multiple monitors
So, you have two monitors now but you’re struggling using the inbuilt windows tools to manage where the task bars are – and why do you have to have the same wallpaper on both screens? Display Fusion helps you mess around with each monitor’s settings in an individual way. I’ve used the free version for quite some time on my Windows XP (how out of date!!) machine and I’m really happy with the results so I’d recommend you’d look into it – note, Not a sponsor!
Also look at:
- Multiple monitors boost productivity by 35.5% (2009)
- ViewSonic Making The Case For Why Dual Monitors Increase Workplace Productivity (2012)
- Ergotron – Figure out the ROI on a second monitor
- Jeff Atwood – Coding Horror – The Large Display Paradox (2007)
Over to You
It’s interesting that the majority of the articles I found regarding multiple monitors and monitor sizes are from over 4 years ago.
So, what do you think? Do you get on better with a larger monitor? Or do two monitors suit you better? Let us know in the comments.