08 April 2011

Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort. -Paul J. Meyer

It would be crazy to hire an employee and give them a computer without a monitor, right? How could they get work done! Believe it or not, it’s also crazy to give them a computer with only one monitor. People who use two monitors know that there is a tremendous increase in productivity from having a second monitor. Think of all the times you have to search the bottom of your screen and switch between one program and another. An extra monitor cuts down that switching by two thirds.

You will be surprised at how much those switching costs matter. It’s not the time that it takes to switch, but the fact that when you switch, you lose some of your concentration. If you’re in the zone and getting things done, and you have to switch programs; while the actual switching might take 20 seconds, it could take 10 minutes to regain your concentration and get back in the zone. My guess is that the increase in productivity is about 10% to 15%, but for the calculations below, I’ll use a conservative estimate of 5%. The math behind buying a second monitor is exceedingly simple.

Employee Salary:                             $50,000 Increase in Productivity:             5% Monitor Life:                                      4 years Value of Extra Monitor:                $10,000

For an employee who makes $50k per year, the value of an extra monitor is $10,000. If an extra monitor costs $300 ($200 for the monitor and $100 for the video card), your company will be ahead $9,700 after four years. In fact, as long as your employee makes over $1,500 per year, it makes sense to get a second monitor.

When you get a second monitor, it’s like you’re in the middle of running a marathon, and an angel comes down and rips off these invisible 50 pound weights around your ankles that you never knew existed. At my last company, I convinced a number of people to get a second monitor, and it made me very popular.

Best of all, I can prove this to you, at minimal expense. If you run a 100 person company, don’t go out and spend $30,000 giving everyone new monitors. Instead, spend $300 trying two monitors on your own computer for a month. By the end of the month, the value of having two monitors will be clear.

If you’re an employee, and don’t have the authority to install second monitors for your team, bring this blog post to your boss. Any boss worth her salt will appreciate an employee who brings in a super-low-cost idea that can have a serious impact on productivity.

Best of luck with your new monitors!