In short, research has shown that more screen space overall will generally have a positive effect on productivity, however, it doesn’t necessarily have to come from multiple monitors and it heavily relies on what type of work is being performed. Ultimately, it depends on how many tasks are performed during a given moment in the workday. If your employee is required to regularly monitor incoming email, constantly work in Quickbooks, communicate with anyone in the company internally using Skype or another useful communication tool, and being asked to quickly draft a letter, you may want to consider a three-monitor scenario for this person.
It directly equates to multitasking.
If you have an employee that only works with Outlook scheduling/email and mostly online, cloud-based services, they may be a good candidate for a 2-monitor environment which will help with tab-switching. With the cost of good monitors being driven down to very affordable prices, and the technological capability of most computers being able to output multiple monitors, a dual monitor setup is quite standard now. There really isn’t any reason to only have one monitor, unless you are providing a large enough single screen to assist with readability and a decent production area.
After trying to argue with myself as much as possible about this in order to avoid any sense of bias, I still can’t logically find a reason not to implement a dual monitor environment. The only situation I can come up with is if your employee is in a position of face-to-face customer service where the monitors could be a distraction away from the individual or seemingly form a barrier to the personal conversation.
Other than that, here are the only limitations for multiple monitors:
1. Potential lack of technical resources – But as long as you have a video card or integrated video card with at least two outputs, you are fine and you won’t have to change anything. Nowadays, every computer has this capability anyways…
2. Lack of desk space – Even if this is an issue, there are monitor mounts that can safely mount to the desk and usually free up a lot of desk space. So the additional $50 cost of a good monitor mount will actually improve desk space.
3. Cost – Again, because cost has been drive so far down over the years, it’s completely affordable for an additional display. Where a 20” monitor in 2005 was around $500-$600, it’s now less than $100 for something even slightly bigger and with a much higher resolution.
Compared to the benefits of having multiple monitors standardized, the cost should barely be an afterthought. When using more than one program simultaneously, keeping up with constant communication, and working on another task at the same time, the return on investment having the ability to work more efficiently is a huge potential gain. The only question is the remaining variable: how many tasks does your employee work on concurrently? If it’s only one or two, get two monitors. If it’s three or more, get three monitors.