Do Dual Monitors Improve Productivity?

If you’re a multi-monitor fan, you may swear that additional screens help boost your productivity. Whether you’re enhancing your home setup or want an additional screen in your workplace, you need that second (or third, or fourth) screen in order to feel at ease. It’s easy to claim that dual monitors help with your productivity, and you may even feel the output drop when using a single monitor. But what does the research say? Let’s look at a published few studies and see what they determined.

dual-productivity-dell

Dell has done its own studies into whether or not dual monitors are better. They tested for two areas: screen size (17” vs. 22”) and screen count (single vs. dual). While all of it is very interesting, let’s single out only the dual-monitor-based results for now.

Dell asked test subjects to perform specific tasks. Some subjects were using one monitor, while the rest were using two monitors. The study determined a lot of things:

  • Users completed their assigned tasks 2.5 seconds quicker with two monitors rather than one.
  • For tasks where users had to collect text and pictures from a Word document and put them into a PDF, dual-monitor users could use the secondary monitor as a way of displaying the reference without swapping windows. In turn, this meant 5% less time looking at the reference document.
  • The users themselves felt that dual- monitor setups were better. They felt dual monitors are more useful in general, made it easier for them to find information, and generally felt more pleasant to use.

It’s worth noting that Dell does produce monitors that people can purchase as secondary screens, so take this as you will!

dual-productivity-jon

Dell’s productivity gains seem quite small, but Jon Peddie is singing a different song. While it was based on estimated actual or expected improvement of productivity, they found that users reported a 42% increase in productivity by using dual monitors. Something a little more set in hard facts is the amount of users who are making the jump to dual monitors, going from 20% in 2002 to 90% in 2017. This implies dual monitors isn’t just a luxury — it’s now the norm!

dual-productivity-utah

A study by the University of Utah (which was commissioned by NEC, another monitor manufacturer) compares a lot of variables together. It covers multiple monitors, multiple screens, and using monitor management software to do the job. They, too, discovered that people who used multiple screens started their tasks faster and got the work done at a quicker pace than people using single monitors. Unlike the other studies, however, they also noticed that people using multiple monitors had less errors in their work. Not only does work get done faster, but it’s done better as well!

If you look for articles arguing the opposite, you’ll find a handful, such as Cory House and Farhad Manjoo’s articles. These are not intensive research studies and are instead personal experiences and opinions about dual monitors. While they’re not backed by science (in fact, they specifically state their opinions go against the grain), they make valid points. Simply owning a second monitor doesn’t improve productivity — it has to be used correctly, too!

You can use a second monitor to display what you’re researching, then type about it on your main monitor. There’s no flicking between windows, forgetting what you were looking for or what you just read, or losing your spot; it’s always there to see. Using your second monitor to put on a YouTube playlist of cute kitten videos while you work, however, can have the opposite effect. The authors of both articles discuss their grievances of how the second monitor acts as the perfect portal for distraction.

As such, if you’re interested in the prospects of enhancing productivity with a second monitor, you need to put work on it! By putting something that detracts from your work on it instead (such as your Twitter feed), you make it easier for the world around you to break your own flow of concentration. Keep both screens focused on the task at hand for an improvement in work.

Dual monitors are proven by studies to be an effective means of improving productivity. This only happens if you use them properly, however. Use that second screen as a reference to the work you’re doing instead of putting on a TV show to act as a distraction.

Do you swear by dual monitors? If not, do you think you’ll try them now? Sound off below!

8 comments

  1. Absolutely! If you’re entering raw data into spreadsheets for example, being able to drag and drop field after field across screens is faster and far less error prone. Both the data and spreadsheet are always visible. Many more similar examples. Except for the simplest work, two screens rock! The only possible downside is if your screens are too large, you can’t see all the screen area with a glance in a normal desktop situation. 24 in or so works great!

  2. I find dual monitors invaluable. I can have pdfs open on one screen and multiple Word documents open on another, or can have a Word document open on one screen and run Internet searches for info on another. While some of this could be done on one very large monitor, it’s much easier on two because you don’t have to resize each window to fit a portion of a single monitor. After getting a second monitor in my home office, I definitely noticed that I was more productive there than at work where I only had one screen, and asked for a second monitor at my office as well (I’m a university professor so work a lot at home as well as on campus). I love having two monitors – totally the best investment ever!

  3. Went duo ages ago on a single computer and never looked back. In fact I have now added several computers in front of me, all networked of course, with full sharing rights, linked with “Mouse Without Borders” (A free Microsoft so-called “garage” program), for a seamless cursor movement from one mouse between all the screens and it all works like a charm, with different displays showing different tasks. The set-up is invaluable with stuff instantly available without having to minimise/shift/re-size, etc. I have to say that, in my opinion, the comment from Mary Cecilia Kali makes no sense at all. Radiation? From flat screens? “One is enough”…..How on earth can she make that statement? Sounds like a “never tried it” opinion!

  4. For streamers it is essential to have a second monitor to be able to read chat and monitor your system, so you can warn the people watching if the stream is going to end because of a hardware/software problem.

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