Just How Many Monitors Do You Need?

“How many monitors should I be using?

That’s a good question, and with multi-monitor use on the rise, it’s one that we get all the time. And our answer is usually pretty consistent.

“Well, that depends.  Followed by a series of questions like:

What do you do?  What is your work flow? How is your vision? How much desk space do you have?  

There are several reasons to consider at least a second monitor.  

For instance, setting up two monitors can improve your productivity.  Recent studies show that using multiple monitors cuts down on toggling from window to window.  Over the course of an 8 hour work day, that can save you 15 whole minutes of toggle time.

Multiple monitors can also improve work flow.  Say, for instance, you are a coder.  You can have one screen that displays your code and the other display your results.   If you need to reference data, or visuals on one screen and write or communicate about it on another, then multiple screens can work wonders.  Security teams often have upward to 6 screens to be able to monitor several areas simultaneously.

Many people use  their primary screen for the work that is being done in the moment and their second for e-mail alerts, twitter feeds and other incoming info.   The use cases go on and on.

Be Careful Though

If you are not careful, using more than one monitor, especially for RSS feeds, e-mails etc., can throw you off your game and actually negatively impact your productivity.

You can also create unintended ergonomic woes.  So, if you are currently using or thinking of working with more than one monitor, please keep the following set up guidelines in mind:

Monitor Distance

  • Be aware of how far you sit from your monitor.  Multiple monitors can be visually overwhelming  causing you to sit further back from your monitors than normal.  In fact, studies show that users can increase their focal distance by up to 10 inches!  That can lead to heads and necks jutting forward (turtle necking), slouched posture and excessive forward leaning.
  • Set yourself up at a comfortable distance from the monitor without craning your neck forward (about an arm’s length away).

Monitor Height

  • In general, you want to place your monitor so that your eyes are level with the top 1/3 of your screen.  However, the ultimate factor that dictates the height of your monitor is your posture and eye comfort.  You want your monitor height to be set so that your head and neck are comfortably balanced over your spine and for you to experience easy viewing.
  • With multiple monitors, make sure t0 set them at the same height as each other.
  • If you use a laptop as one of your monitors, you may want to convert to an external monitor.  if not, then make sure to raise the height of your laptop monitor (which may mean using an external keyboard and mouse) to be within 1 – 2″ from the top of your larger monitor.

Primary vs. Secondary Monitor

  • If you work with both monitors equally, then it’s best to set them up side by side like a big book.  You should be aligned in the center of both of them
  • If you do 85% or more of your work on one monitor and use your second monitor for quick references, e-mail, etc., then you have the option to place your primary monitor directly in front of you and place your secondary monitor on the side of your dominant eye.

What About One BIG Monitor?

If desk space is an issue, you may want to consider using a big monitor that allows your to display several windows at once.  This can be a great alternative to multiple monitors!

Check Your Vision!

No matter how many monitors you use, if you find yourself straining, to see, try making your font larger. Make sure your screens are clean and glare-free.  Then again, it might be time to go get your eyes checked!

If you use multiple monitors or have a question for us, please leave a comment below!

Until the next time!

Vivienne & Andrew



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