Nothing in cube-farm corporate America seems quite so decadent as having two monitors on your desk. Who is this important person who needs to work on two screens at the same time? Must be some kind of bigshot, eh?
Not so, posits the New York Times, which cites research that — on certain text-editing tasks — users were 44 percent faster using two 20-inch monitors instead of a single 18-inch screen. While there are no hard data points in the piece regarding other applications, it’s not tough to see how users in all manner of industries and all types of tasks could benefit from having the extra LCD real estate. Anyone who has to flip back and forth between multiple windows in order to access information rather than keeping it all on the screen simultaneously should be able to get a productivity boost from having an extra display.
The Times’ Farhad Manjoo put multi-monitor work to the test in his own workspace and notes that — no matter what configuration he put them in, and even if he just went to one large monitor instead of two smaller ones — he found his productivity improved significantly. The big benefit? Always being able to have your primary task visible and not covered up by off-topic windows like web pages and IM sessions. Says Fanjoo, “A huge desktop didn’t remove all distractions, but it blunted their force. Now I could keep my e-mail and the Web open on one screen while my Microsoft Word document ran on another. This kept me on task. Even if I did go off to the Web, my document was always visible, beckoning me to come back to work.”
I’ve experienced similar results myself, though usually I use two or three separate computers side by side instead of just a bunch of monitors. Maybe I should rethink that strategy. Hmmm.
For a total maximum investment of about $500, Manjoo says he’s convinced that the multi-monitor setup is more than worth the investment. Now let’s see what your boss thinks about the idea…