2 Monitors vs 3 Monitors: Which Is Best For Productivity?
Big business started implementing workstations with multiple monitors long ago. Well before a time when the same setup became affordable to those of us who work from a home office. And they did so with good reason!
The efficiencies of working from more than one screen have been documented time and again.
Not least from the University of Utah study that showed using 2 x 20” monitors improved productivity by 40% vs using a single 18” screen, and that there was even a gain in productivity to be had by using multiple monitors vs a single monitor even when the total area of the displays were equal.
How do more monitors increase productivity?
What is it about multi-monitor setups that provide a boost in productivity to workers?
- One of the most obvious benefits is the fact that you are able to view more than one window or browser tab at any one time. The need to minimise windows is replaced with a quick glance to the side. This not only helps save time but also allows concentration to be maintained for longer.
- Knock on beneficial effects of being able to concentrate better helped both the individual worker and the wider team.
- Multiple monitors were proven to help reduce the frequency of errors. This in turn caused an increase in happiness and satisfaction amongst workers.
Two or three monitors then?
Multiple monitors is a good thing. Got it.
That fact aside we wanted to explore whether there is a sweet spot between the number of monitors in a desktop set-up and the productivity output.
If I buy a third monitor for work is it worth the investment? And can I expect for it to pay for itself in a reasonable amount of time?
A study funded by Fujitsu Siemens computers found that by incorporating 3 monitors into your workplace you can expect to be an incredible 35.5% more productive than when using a single screen. This was 10% higher than the score attained by participants operating a dual screen setup.
Even if you value your time as $10 per hour it won’t take too long before the 10% improvement in efficiencies begin to mount up and the time saved by investing in an additional monitor will begin to pay off.
For home workers here are a couple of tasks where a triple monitor setup is especially advantageous.
2 or 3 monitors for video editing?
If you’re already a content producer you know just how much of a challenge it can be to maintain a flow state whilst navigating between the tabs that are essential.
With three monitors you gain the freedom of devoting one monitor to each of the preview screen, the timeline and any effects you work with.
Having monitors that can switch up between landscape and portrait will also allow better performance at tasks that benefit from different aspects.
2 or 3 monitors for day trading?
Some of the factors influencing the argument for a second monitor can also be applied to a triple monitor setup. Time saved by not having to minimise windows for example is directly related to the complexity of work tasks being undertaken.
In the world of day trading, traders attest that the ability to react quickly to changes in the market.
Having that split second advantage to react quicker than your competitors can make all the difference between a profit and a loss. Especially if you find yourself opening and closing positions several times each day.
Often the foresight into a pattern forming can only be seen by studying the charts, and that’s why the rule of the more monitors the better seems to apply here.
What are the downsides of using three screens?
Risks to wellbeing
A triple monitor setup with screens set to landscape mode can present an ergonomic challenge.
Viewing multiple screens requires more frequent neck rotations which in turn can result in discomfort to the shoulders and back. The solution? Position yourself further away from the monitors so that you can look at all screens easily and reduce the severity of the angle of rotation. Alternatively use a monitor mount to fine tune how the screens are assembled.
Moreover a triple monitor setup can quickly become a source of stress if it tempts you to addressing too many tasks at any one time.
This used to be an entirely legitimate reason for being unable to establish a triple monitor set-up.
A look into old online listings show even 17” monitors used to cost upwards of $600 in the year 2000.
Nowadays however some of the best monitors for building a multi-screen setup can be purchased for as little as $200. The 28” BenQ EL2870U for example is only around $300 and with a 4K resolution and thousands of positive reviews has proven itself to be a fan favourite for inclusion in triple monitor setups.
It is of course entirely possible to snap several windows within a single monitor, thus giving the appearance of having multiple monitors. The downside here is that the monitor must be large enough in the first place to allow text to be legible without straining your eyes.