My husband has what I once assumed was a really intense home office setup. Two large monitors are supported by aluminum arms that position one screen directly in front of the user and the other to the right. At first, I was flabbergasted by the effort and expense: Does anyone actually need two huge, adjustable monitors for email, Google Docs, and video games?
As it turns out: Yes, they do. Multiple monitors actually make a positive difference when it comes to productivity.
I started to suspect this was true over the course of the past year, when I switched from working at various media companies and transitioned to freelance writing at home. It turns out there’s research to support my newfound discovery: For most office labor, employees benefit from multiple monitors, so if you — or even better, your employer — have a little extra cash and want to beef up productivity in a painless way, opening your wallet for an extra monitor or two is well worth it.
“If you have a lot of papers you’re working with on a project, would you rather work on a big conference table or an airline tray table?” says John Stasko, a professor of interactive computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology who has researched the effects of using multiple monitors. “I don’t know many people who’d trade their multi-mon setup and go back to a single monitor.”
“Would you rather work on a big conference table or an airline tray table?”
(“Multi-mon,” I’ve learned recently, is a phrase used by experts to refer to a “multiple-monitor” setup.)
This is what many respondents told me when I asked my extended Twitter network about their preferred monitor setups. “I find it reeeeeally odd now when I work remotely with my laptop and have to condense all my thoughts and tabs and apps back to one,” writes Becca Caddy, a technology journalist. “If I had the room, I’d even consider three.”