How Much Do Bigger Monitors Increase Productivity?

Designed to provide functionality for both work and pleasure, the first ultrawide monitors were marketed as the solution to simplifying multi-tasking. 

Initially an expensive luxury item when first released in 2012, it’s now possible to bring one of these ultrawide units (as large as 49 inches!) into your home office setup without breaking the bank or having to grovel to the boss.

But aside from looking the part, do these extra large screens genuinely offer anything in the quest to improve our ability to work?  

Multiple productivity studies have come to the conclusion that if you want to work to the best of your ability then bringing a large monitor (27″ or larger) into your workstation is crucial. In fact, just by working on a large monitor you can save up to 90% of time otherwise devoted to minimising and maximising windows on a small screen. 

This is a statistic that all of us can use to our advantage as multi-tasking seems to be par for the course in most job roles nowadays.

If instead of having one ultrawide monitor however you would prefer to build a set-up with multiple screens, you might be interested to learn whether 2 or 3 screens is actually best for productivity. 

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Why do big monitors improve our performance?

Unsurprisingly the benefits a big monitor brings to a desktop are related to their size, scale and ergonomics.  It’s strikingly simple really. 

The larger the dimensions of the screen the less time needs to be devoted to switching between different tabs or open programmes.

With enough digital real estate, the Windows 10 snap feature can be used to its fullest extent to keep up to 6 windows (!) open and in view at any one time. 

In a snowball style effect the time saved from not having to ‘Alt+Tab’ every minute can then be spent intaking more information, and thus completing tasks faster than would be possible on a small monitor. 

In fact, up to a 52% increase in performance was noted between workers using a widescreen monitor when compared to using a single small monitor.

Being able to be efficient with time and complete more tasks quicker creates a positive user experience as  less stress is experienced during the course of a working day. The ability to stay on top of work tasks also creates a sense of satisfaction and happiness.  

Moreover, as well as being said to improve mental wellbeing the benefits of large monitors extends into the physical realm too. 

You see a large screen greatly reduces the amount of neck craning that is needed to take in details on a smaller screen. This reduces neck and shoulder strain.

Image by Howard Bouchevereau on Unsplash

Are bigger monitors better for your eyes?

If I’m being honest, I always thought the threat of suffering eye strain after staring at a screen all day was something parents fabricated to persuade their children to switch off and head outdoors.

Wrong! Eye strain is a very real thing.  

Digital eye strain (DES), otherwise known as computer vision syndrome, is experienced by 50% of computer users and can cause temporary symptoms that include headaches, blurred vision, dry eye and pain in the neck and back.

It’s usually caused by extended periods of looking at digital screens (monitors, tablets, smartphones etc), and can have a pretty significant economic impact upon a business when experienced by workers. 

Whilst DES isn’t triggered solely by small monitors (and equally isn’t prevented from occurring by working on a large monitor), working on a big screen will prevent eye fatigue that is a leading cause of DES. 

To prevent eye strain and maximise productivity our large monitor of choice is the BenQ EX3501R and for good reason, several good reasons actually. 

Firstly and impossible to ignore is the price point. At 35″ and an ultrawide configuration the budget cost of this unit is something to behold.  Granted it’s a model first released in 2017 so is no longer a unit with a cutting edge specification. 

A low blue light feature, with 4 preset blue light modes, allows the control of the spectrum of light which causes . We explored how light affects us in a previous article and learned that it’s a crucial factor in allowing us to work to our fullest potential.  

Moreover, the EX3501R features flicker free technology. This eliminates the screen flicker that plagues conventional LCDs around 200 times per second. Whilst we can’t see the flicker with our naked eye it’s disruptive effect is felt . Best avoid.

If you design a desk setup around a single monitor then you wouldn’t go far wrong opting for the BenQ EX3501R. Just ask the thousands of reviewers on Amazon. 

What are the downsides of using a bigger monitor?

  • As covered, using Windows 10 snap feature allows a screen to be sub-divided to accommodate a live view of more than one window or tab. The downside of using this feature on a single large monitor vs two or more smaller monitors is that many applications cannot be maximised to fill the full extent of a tab window. YouTube for example cannot be made full screen unless it takes over the entire monitor. 
  • It appears our productivity is only directly related to screen size up to a certain point with data suggesting that for every inch above a 27″ monitor the gains returned become incrementally less. It’s hypothesised this occurs because there are limitations to the amount of information we’re able to absorb at any one time. 
  • To prevent overly strenuous neck rotations the distance you should sit from a big monitor is at least 3.5ft. This might prove a challenge for those who are already working in a small home office.  


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