Monday, October 12, 2009

Do Multiple Monitors Really Increase Productivity

Do Multiple Monitor Computers Really Increase Productivity?

Considering the purchase of a multiple monitor computer system? I am often asked, “What’s the greatest benefit of a multi-monitor computer system?” Since investing in my 8 screen system a little over 2 years ago, I can say with avid assurance that my productivity has grown tremendously. With the invention of the LCD monitor (replacing those bulky and somewhat hazardous CRT monitors), I’m not the only one fond of having 8 monitors on my desktop. In this article, I’m going to demonstrate how using a multiple monitor computer system will improve your productivity.

If you’re like me, you always have half a dozen projects to work on. The ability to start and stop a project without maximizing and minimizing windows, or getting lost in your workspace, is essential. Only six months after I bought my first dual screen system, I was so impressed by the increase in my own productivity that I purchased multi-monitor computers for over half of my office. Within the last 18 months, the systems have paid for themselves many times over because my employees and I are able to accomplish more. I can honestly say this is due to our ability to multi-task, afforded by our multi-monitors. Our everyday tasks such as web editing, writing, marketing, and finances have become less burdensome.

We’re certainly not the first to take advantage of this technology. In 2002, as these types of multi-screen systems were making their way into the skyline offices, an informal study was conducted at Northrop Grumman. Each of their developers was given at least dual monitors. According to Darrell Norton at, some developers were given more, “The junior developers had dual 17" monitors, two senior developers had a 21" and a 17" …two had a 21" and 2 17" monitors, and one had 3 17" monitors.” After a twelve month trial, the following results were noted:

Productivity in lines of code per day increased 10%

Defect levels decreased by 26%”

And based on the Likert scale (which uses a simple 1 to 5 rating system to measure qualitative benefits of multiple monitor systems), Mr. Norton was able to determine the following:

“On average, people would much rather have 2 smaller monitors than 1 larger monitor. Nobody answered that they preferred 1 monitor over 2 even a little bit.

Multiple monitors were most useful when the application had palettes or when 2 or 3 windows needed to be open, such as for programming/debugging.

The biggest complaint was desk space, since all of our monitors were CRTs (no LCDs).”

Each passing year these productivity numbers will increase. Why? Because as mentioned above, they were using old CRT monitors, meaning space was a limiting factor. Moreover, even programmers would have been hard pressed to find a CPU running faster than 1 GHz. That’s not much firing power for bulky applications. We’ve come a long way since then, and now it’d be difficult to find multiple monitors with less than quadruple the power of their machines. Even though the technology is growing exponentially, prices are actually staying about the same. If you factor in inflation over the past few years, they are slightly less.

Efficient multi-tasking remains possible because of technology’s ability to adapt to increased workloads. Understanding of these adaptations allows my business to enjoy both decreased waste and a higher volume of output. I might still be searching for a way to increase my company’s productivity, but I was fortunate enough to recognize the potential for better organization through increased multi-tasking functionality. This is possible because of multiple monitor computers.