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Desktop Monitors

How stacking desktop monitors increases workplace efficiency

Many workplaces are in a perfect storm when it comes to workstations: Their need for larger monitors to run numerous software and web applications conflicts with the diminishing space available for workstations.

Multitasking typifies working life across numerous industries, and it often requires people to have two or more monitors tiled together at their desks so they can see, respond to and use everything from correspondence and collaboration tools to specialty software dedicated to their jobs.

So how do operations and IT desktop support pros fit more into less?

One common approach is placing monitors side by side, but this consumes a lot of desktop space, especially with stands, cords and cables. For many tasks, a simpler and tidier answer is mounting one screen above another, or stacking.

Shrinking workspaces

Commercial real estate firm Avison Young says that by 2020, the typical office worker will see their workspace nearly halved from what it was just 10 years ago. In 2010, workstation space averaged 225 square feet. By next year, workstations are expected to average only 120 square feet.

But workers are using less space to do more. Research by identity and access management firm Okta suggests large companies (with 2,000 or more employees) are now deploying an average of 163 software applications on desktops and phones. In the last four years, this number has gone up 68 percent.

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Office 365 is the big one, but then there’s a customer relationship managment (CRM) platform, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform, collaboration, correspondence, storage, security, social media and on and on.

It’s a chore to view all those windows and browser tabs on a single monitor, regular or widescreen. The logical answer is to add a second monitor, but with workspace and desk sizes shrinking, where do you put it?

Just like builders constrained by limited lot sizes, the answer is simple: Go up.

Stacked screens

While desk widths are shrinking, ceilings are (so far) staying put. So while you may not have the room to put two or three displays side by side, there’s almost always ample room to go up, into what is otherwise unused space.

There are several ways to make this happen:

  • Ideally, dual monitor mounts (off one pole) that allow the upper screen to be pivoted and angled downward for easy viewing
  • Mounting brackets that secure each stacked screen to a wall
  • Shelving for the top display, fixed just above the desk mounted unit

For particularly demanding tasks, mounting systems can handle stacked displays as large as twin 49-in. curved monitors, creating a vast, immersive working canvas. These mounting systems have the added benefits of built-in cable management, fine-tuned adjustments and the ability, with some designs, to swing one or both screens away.

Business applications

At first glance, all that LCD surface might seem like a daydream of teenage gamers, but plenty of professions require that much screen real estate. For example:

  • Finance: Multiple screens have long been common at trading desks.
  • Operations: Production facilities use multiple screens to provide dashboards for views on the status of operating equipment and mission-critical key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • Security: Lowered hardware costs and ubiquitous connectivity means more cameras and views in both business spaces and public settings.
  • Medical: Healthcare practitioners need to see everything from patient records to reference information on drugs and diseases, as well as medical imaging.
  • Creative production: Building everything from computer games to action movies to advertising spots requires wide screens for producing and sequencing creative assets, and second screens allow for easier preview and quality control.

Practical arguments

Premium monitors, such as Samsung’s range of widescreen and curved widescreen displays, are capable of providing more viewing surface in less space, tidily streamlining those shrinking work desktops.

Monitors with USB Type-C support, for example, reduce PC-to-screen connections to one multipurpose cable that transmits power and data using a single wire. The monitors often have designed-in USB connectors, allowing peripherals like a mouse and keyboard to be used without docking stations, which are costly and trouble-prone.

Monitor mounting systems also have well-designed channels and clips that hide cables. The net result? A largely clutter-free desktop.

Ergonomic implications

Generally, ergonomic experts recommend monitors be straight ahead and slightly downsight from their viewers. As a rule of thumb, your eyes should be level with the browser address bar. That’s possible on one screen, but that second stacked screen will require looking up.

Whether side by side or stacked, looking at multiple views works neck and back muscles. Ergonomics experts recommend keeping the most-used applications on the eye-level screen, which may get 80 percent of a user’s attention, and keeping applications with only periodic monitoring and previews on the upper screen.

Both screens should also be tilted, the top one more so than the lower, to minimize glare from overhead lighting.

The business case

Research has confirmed suspicions that dual monitors increase productivity, as users spend less time opening and minimizing tabs and windows. The larger the screens, the greater the benefits.

Jon Peddie Research, of the graphics and multimedia industry, found that dual monitors can boost office productivity by as much as 42 percent. Their research also found that multimonitor setups are no longer the exception; they’re the norm in many workplaces.

In the end, what’s best for a particular workstation — and its optimal monitor sizes and set-up — are determined by the required jobs and available space. When desk real estate is finite but the tasks seemingly infinite, the answer may be stacking.

What kind of desktop monitor makes the most sense for your business needs? Take this short assessment to better understand your options and how you can implement them in your work environment — or learn more about what makes modern monitors special with this historical infographic.

Posts By

Dave Haynes

Dave Haynes is a well-known veteran in the digital signage industry. He consults to some of the world’s largest brands on their digital signage strategy and technical needs, but also spends time mentoring start-ups. A former daily newspaper journalist, Haynes has for the past decade written a highly-respected blog about digital signage, Sixteen:Nine. Follow Dave on twitter @sixteennine

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