KeenEthics Study: Two Monitors or One Ultrawide

Oleksandr Saltykov

Two Monitors or One Ultrawide

KeenEthics Study: Two Monitors or One Ultrawide

At Keenethics, we always think of a new way to improve our productivity, and in this case study, we draw attention to monitors. The small size of a monitor does not allow a user to have a lot of windows simultaneously opened and makes a user switch between windows, which is time-consuming.

Obviously, we are not the first ones to think of that. Researchers from NEC came to such conclusions:

  • A widescreen monitor improves the productivity as much as two monitors combined.
  • A 22-inch monitor increases performance by 30% compared to a 19-inch one.
  • A 26-inch monitor increases performance by 20% compared to a 22-inch one.
  • Yet, the performance when working with a 30-inch monitor dropped compared to the 26-inch “champion”.
  • However, working with a monitor as large as 30 inches is still more productive than with a 19-inch one.

The DELL company claims that using two monitors simultaneously, provided they were both assigned directly to work tasks and not YouTube surfing, would boost an employee’s performance by as much as 30%. These claims, of course, may be somewhat biased.

Psychology professor David Meyer of the University of Michigan argues that working with multiple monitors, in contrast to concentrating on one, can negatively affect productivity. People are distracted and their workflow gets constantly interrupted.

Developer Corey House writes: “People can focus only on one thing at a time. So, why do we spend money to display several things at once? If my email or social networking channels are available at a glance, I will check them all the time. This is not just unnecessary, it is counterproductive. One monitor means that my work — and only my work — is displayed in front and center. Distractions remain out of sight, and, therefore, out of mind.”

Every man to his own opinion, so we decided to conduct our own research.

The Study

Three people were selected for the study: the first person received a 24” monitor, the second participant – a 25” monitor with a 21: 9 aspect ratio, and the third participant – two 24” monitors. The study lasted for three weeks. Each week, the participants swapped their monitors and, on Friday, performed the same tasks using the monitors they had been working on for the last four days.

Performance and Productivity

The study showed that the participants who performed tasks using two monitors spent less time compared to those who used a single monitor. It can be explained by the fact that opening the program for the task on one monitor and the task itself and the search engine on the other one, the employee spends less time switching between tabs, reviewing the task, etc. On an average of 10 minutes working on one monitor, a person switches about 10–15 times between tabs, while in the case of two monitors, this number drops almost twice. Moreover, participants report that switching between tabs worsens concentration.

Health Effects

Naturally, when working with two monitors, you have to turn your head more often. When working with two monitors, employees make a turn of the neck up to 10° more compared to using a single monitor. Accordingly, the difference in neck movement between using a single 24-inch monitor and a 25-inch one is also there but insignificant. Therefore, while working on 2 monitors may require massages or physical exercises to reduce neck strain, one monitor is lean and mean.

Summary

Two MonitorsOne Ultrawide Monitor
Greater ProductivityLess health harm
Lower costs
Less space in the workplace needed

Thanks for taking part in the experiment: Volodymyr Andrushak, Rostislav Tanchak, Mikhail Fedorovich, Marina Yanul, and Mikhailo Ostrovyy.

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