I recently found myself working on a laptop with an 11.5” screen for a week.  I know lots of people who do that every day.  But at my office, I have two 21” monitors that I have grown to love.  I’ll even go to the office instead of working at home just to have the convenience of all that extra screen space.

Various research studies have shown that adding a monitor can increase productivity by 20-30%.  The metrics vary, but what could be better than having email, a report in Word, and data in Excel all open and visible at the same time?  Or, does that just create more distractions?  

Do multiple monitors really make you more efficient at work?  Let’s take a look.

Benefits of Multiple Monitors

In our office, everyone uses at least two monitors.  Our technical staff uses more.  So what’s so great about multiple monitors?  Here are a few ways they save time:

  • Multiple applications can be open at the same time, providing more "real estate" to complete work without toggling back and forth between multiple screens.  This saves time and irritation and improves accuracy.
  • Email can be open all the time, so you can respond quickly.
  • Documents can be compared side-by-side, which can result in fewer errors.  
  • A wide spreadsheet can be stretched across both screens to see all the columns.
  • To use multiple applications to complete tasks on a regular basis, consider the following:
    • Monitor 1 can be used to keep Outlook, accounting software, and an Excel spreadsheet or Word doc open as needed.
    • Monitor 2 can be used for any programs that use Internet access, such as online line-of-business apps, web searches, etc. 

Regardless of your business, multiple monitors may provide the technology boost you need to get more done in less time more accurately.

An Alternate View

But, there is another side.  If you keep your email open constantly and are notified when new emails arrive, you can easily be drawn away from the work at hand.  Or, you can be drawn to other shiny objects on that other screen. 

Farhad Manjoo, writing in The New York Times, described what happened when he went back to one screen.  That made me reconsider the idea that multiple monitors automatically improve efficiency.  That is, until I started maximizing and minimizing the article so that I could write this blog post.

At my office, I’d have this post open on one screen and the reference article open on the other.  I would just look back and forth to work between the two documents.  As I’m writing now, the article is minimized, soon to be maximized for reference, then back down it will go.

Still, Manjoo raises an important point – more screens provide more space for more potential distractions.  That lack of focus can obviously reduce productivity.   

He writes that research by Gloria Mark at UC Irvine, “based on observations and digital tracking of office workers, has found that our workplaces are bombarded with distractions.  Studies show that office workers are interrupted every four to 11 minutes by external distractions including phone calls, email and people who stop by your desk to chat about the weekend.

Then there are self-motivated distractions, when, for no apparent reason, you quit working on your project and do something else — for instance, jump into the rabbit hole of the web.

All such disruptions are costly. It can take workers as much as 25 minutes to regain focus after being interrupted. And constant interruptions create a stressful workplace.”

I’m a fan of my dual monitors and will continue to use them.  The continuing challenge is to focus on using the multiple monitors to make me more efficient at work, not as a way to create distractions. 

If you need help with your business IT, contact CRU Solutions