Are multiple monitors actually improving productivity? – Pros and Cons

07.06.2018

Whether or not to get a multi-monitor setup is a surprisingly polarizing issue. While one side propagates two or even more monitors as being the only sensible way to work, there is a growing opposition that has been increasingly vocal as screens grow in size; they argue that there is a point where “more monitor space” stops meaning “better.” So which one is it?

We’ve summarized the most important arguments on dual monitor setups.

Here are the top 3 pros and the 3 cons of the multi-monitor lifestyle:

Advantages of working with two monitors instead of just one

1. More space = more information

First of all, the usage of two or more monitors at the same time started at a time where each single monitor was pretty small. So space was a rare resource. Having two monitors essentially doubled it – that is the most basic argument that still has some value. Even though nowadays there are huge single screens, having one more of them is something that will always be appealing for certain kinds of tasks. Programmers and content writers or journalists in particular are some of those fields of work.

2. Two screens are a godsend for multitasking

People who multitask will love double monitors. They just make everything so easy. As I’m writing this text, I have one of my monitors displaying a study done by the university of Utah on the productivity of double monitors. Multiple studies, including that one show that a single 17-inch monitor is the least productive way to work and adding another one can add anywhere between 10 and 20 percent to how much work you’re getting done. Imagine me having to write and read those numbers on just one screen. Take the study results with a grain of salt, however – the university of Utah was sponsored by monitor manufacturer NEC.

3. Less juggling of tabs saves time

Whether the study is biased or not, if you’re a “tab juggler” multiple monitors will be great for you. Do you listen to Spotify while you work and sometimes need to change the song? That’s a tab switch. Do you read email while working? Switch to another tab. Twitter? New tab.

Having another monitor means less tab juggling which can save you a lot of time. If you’re doing hundreds of tab switches every day, those seconds add up into minutes, hours and days throughout the year.

Disadvantages of having multiple monitors for work

1. Less focus

Now we’ve talked a lot about multitasking and switching between different sources of information. And while that is good for certain tasks, it might hamper others. Imagine that you’re reading a 100-page pdf file. You want to focus on it, get engulfed and forget about time. In short, you need to harness a deep concentration. For tasks like these, dual monitors are not just unnecessary; they can be a productivity killer. Having something else to focus on means that you inevitably will focus on something else.

2. More interruptions

Now you might be thinking – “eh, I don’t need deep focus at work that much.” And you might be right. But you have to also consider all the interruptions that come with a multi-monitor setup. Research cited by theNew York Timesshows that interruptions pull you out of what you’re doing for as long as 25 minutes. That’s how long it takes to really get back into what you were doing before you got interrupted. More monitors facilitate more interruptions.

Think about it this way – if you get a new email and use a single monitor, you might see a pop-up. Yes it is distracting, but it disappears in five seconds. If you have your email open on a single monitor, there is the constant temptation to stop what you’re doing and read it.

3. Multi-monitors are a more demanding set-up

Last but not least, multi-monitors are certainly the more demanding set-up. They work well at your home where you’ve taken your time to really think about it. But if you’re travelling, working in a co-working space or just like to pop into Starbucks for a couple of hours, a single screen is by far the most convenient option. More monitors means you have to have the space on your desk for them, the right brightness settings, the right ratio of monitors and much more.

Let’s not forget that every additional monitor comes at a price – literally. Monitors are not cheap pieces of technology these days, especially if you want ones of high-quality. There is a point to be made about investing in one really good monitor rather than buying three crappy ones.

 

Do you use more than one monitor? Let us know what you find most productive in the comment section below!

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