Should You Now Use Three (or More) Monitors?

By on May 29, 2014

Lately, I’ve been getting asked more and more about using up to three or four monitors on a desktop so I thought, since it’s been almost a year since I’ve addressed this in a previous TechTips, I would cover it again with updated info.

I first began talking about adding a second monitor to your desktop setup over 10 years ago. The almost-immediate benefits of dual monitors are well established. Adding a second monitor to a workstation has been the biggest productivity improvement, for the least amount of money, in many years.

Two monitors has been such a huge improvement in work satisfaction and productivity. So, three monitors have to be better, right?

When talking about how to effectively manage electronic documents in my presentations, the subject of multiple monitors almost always comes up. I do believe that many positions within an insurance organization do warrant adding a third monitor to a desktop setup. Any position that requires multiple website access is a great candidate for adding a third monitor. Personal lines and small commercial CSAs immediately come to mind.

A majority of documents that people manage are also now electronic. One of the real issues when working with electronic policies, endorsements, letters, or just about any other type of document is actually being able to see and work with a document on your monitor.

I recommend that, as an experiment, you set up the third monitor in portrait mode, not landscape mode, which is the most common. The advantage to having at least one monitor in portrait mode is that it can be your “document viewing” monitor.

The aspect ratio of the monitor in that orientation fits a standard 8 ½ by 11 piece of paper much better. Depending on the size of the monitor, the document page will likely be larger than life-size, making it much easier to view and work with. This also reduces the amount of up-and-down scrolling that is typically necessary to view a full page when the monitor is in landscape mode.

Here are some issues you’ll need to be aware of when considering three (or four?) monitors:

  • Desk space: More monitors take up more space, so start by measuring your work area. The average size desk is unlikely to comfortably accommodate more than three large (23- to 27-inch) monitors side by side.
  • Same Size: Once you’ve decided how many monitors you can use, try to buy them all at the same time rather than piecemeal. To reduce eyestrain all the monitors should be the same size, make, and model.
  • Use Monitor Arms: When working with multiple monitors, it’s important to arrange them so as to achieve the most comfortable viewing angles. While many agencies use old phone books or manuals to adjust the height of monitors, a much better option is mounting brackets that allow you much more flexibility in how the monitors are positioned.

Once you’ve worked with multiple monitors, you’ll have a hard time going back to your old setup. While your efficiency won’t increase as much from two monitors to three as it did from one monitor to two, you’ll still see a huge improvement in comfort and satisfaction.

Have you made the move to three or four monitors? How has it helped your productivity? Please share your experiences.

2 Comments

  1. We’ve used multiple monitors for years. About a year and a half ago we upped from three to four per desktop. Being a paperless office, the fourth, portrait-orientated monitor has been fantastic! I highly recommend it for anyone considering adding a portrait monitor.

  2. I have thought often about adding a third monitor. One issue that comes to mind is whiplash from having to move my head to see them!

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