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Wall Street Journal - Bigger Computer Monitors = More Productivity

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By Ben Worthen 

Working late? Blame your computer screen. A new study finds that bigger monitors make people more productive.

Researchers at the University of Utah tested how quickly people performed tasks like editing a document and copying numbers between spreadsheets while using different computer configurations: one with an 18-inch monitor, one with a 24-inch monitor and with two 20-inch monitors. Their finding: People using the 24-inch screen completed the tasks 52% faster than people who used the 18-inch monitor; people who used the two 20-inch monitors were 44% faster than those with the 18-inch ones. There is an upper limit, however: Productivity dropped off again when people used a 26-inch screen. (The order of the tasks and the order of computer configurations were assigned randomly.)

The study concluded that someone using a larger monitor could save 2.5 hours a day. But James Anderson, the professor in charge of the study, tells the Business Technology Blog to take that result with a grain of salt: It assumes that someone will work non-stop for eight hours, which no one will, and that the tasks they perform will all benefit from a larger screen, which isn't always the case. But things like moving data between files are ideally suited to bigger or multiple screens. Anderson, who uses a computer with two 20-inch screens and one 24-inch one, recommends that businesses take the time to match employees with the proper size screen based on job requirements.

A caveat: The study was funded by NEC, which makes computer monitors. But Anderson says that it was vetted by the University's research board. Also, he doesn't care who businesses buy their monitors from - he just wants businesses to realize that the right monitor can make someone more productive. And if a tech department has to buy 500 of the same size in order to get a bulk discount? Buy the biggest ones you can, Anderson tells us. "Size matters," he adds.

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