Many people have gotten used to large monitors at their office, or at their home workstation. If you’re one of them, like me, you may get frustrated when you’re on the move and stuck with a single, small laptop screen. Constantly switching between different applications can get annoying, and resizing multiple windows to fit on a 13-inch screen never seems to work well (though we always try!). You may even delay working on some tasks until you are back at your workstation, where large screens make the task feel a bit easier. Your own experience tells you that using large screens makes you more efficient, but are the efficiency gains really that significant?
In 2004, researchers at the University of Utah conducted a study designed to test the productivity impact of additional screen space through multi-screen configurations. Using three types of ordinary office editing tasks in slide, spreadsheet, and text applications, the researchers found:
Multi-screens fared significantly better than single screen on time and number performance measures. Respondents got on task quicker, did the work faster, and got more of the work done with fewer errors in multi-screen configurations than with a single screen. They were 6 percent quicker to task, 7 percent faster on task, generated 10 percent more production, were 16 percent faster in production, had 33 percent fewer errors, and were 18 percent faster in errorless production.
In a follow-on study released in 2008, University of Utah researchers this time looked at the impact of screen size. As you might expect, they found that additional screen space improves overall productivity.
"The study revealed that large widescreen or dual-monitor configurations are recommended for use in any situation where multiple documents of information are an ordinary part of work," said Dr. James A. Anderson, Ph.D., the lead author of the study and a Professor of Communication at the University of Utah. "Given a workforce with varying editing and spreadsheet skills, the 24-inch widescreen appears to be the most solid option overall."
It also noted that:
Moving from single 18-inch traditional-format monitors to 24-inch widescreen displays reduced the time it took to complete a task from 8 hours to 5-1/2 hours. Over the course of a year, that translates to a savings of up to 76 days in production, or about $8,600 per employee (based on a $32,500 annual salary).
In other words, you feel more productive on your 24-inch screen workstation because you are! Keep using those large monitors for all of those important editing and spreadsheet tasks, and check out SPUD, the only truly portable 24-inch display, to keep productivity up on the go!
And if for some reason you still don’t have a 24-inch monitor at work, now you have some impressive research to show the boss!