At my previous place of employment, I found myself in a puzzling predicament. I’d been given an underpowered desktop machine hooked up to a 17-inch CRT monitor and told to get to work managing projects and updating stories for highly-trafficked news web sites along with various other tasks involving a plethora of open desktop windows.
I quickly became that guy at the office — every office has one — that brought in his own monitor from home. I also made my case that I should be allowed to crack open my desktop to install a second graphics card and add more RAM, all at my own expense. I tried at first, unsuccessfully, to get my company to pay for these items, claiming that they would exponentially increase my productivity.
A study at the University of Utah backs up the claim that more desktop real estate increases one’s productivity. According to the Wall Street Journal,
Researchers at the University of Utah tested how quickly people performed tasks like editing a document and copying numbers between spreadsheets while using different computer configurations: one with an 18-inch monitor, one with a 24-inch monitor and with two 20-inch monitors. Their finding: People using the 24-inch screen completed the tasks 52% faster than people who used the 18-inch monitor; people who used the two 20-inch monitors were 44% faster than those with the 18-inch ones. There is an upper limit, however: Productivity dropped off again when people used a 26-inch screen. (The order of the tasks and the order of computer configurations were assigned randomly.)
I haven’t ever seen an 18-inch monitor in real life, but apparently that was the “control” monitor for this experiment. The 52% productivity increase when using a 24-inch monitor, though, is interesting. I would have thought that two 20-inch monitors would be better than one 24-inch monitor, but the study seems to indicate otherwise.
The study was funded by NEC but professor James Anderson, who led the testing, said that “it was vetted by the University’s research board” and “he doesn’t care who businesses buy their monitors from – he just wants businesses to realize that the right monitor can make someone more productive.”
Bigger Computer Monitors = More Productivity [Wall Street Journal]