An Update on the Optimum Setup for Multiple Monitors in Your Office

I began suggesting that every insurance agency should add multiple monitors to their desktops over 15 years ago. I could see blank stares from the people in the audience. “Why would we do that?”

3 monitor portate setup

I no longer need to convince agency owners of the wisdom of having multiple monitors on every desk. Today, the questions I receive revolve around fine-tuning the setup, and how many and what type of monitors is optimum.

Following are some of the questions I receive and my opinion on what might be best for your particular situation, or your office. My disclaimer is that your final decision on how to best set up your desk is ultimately your decision based on your personal preference and what will work best for you.

How Many Monitors?

There’s no question in my mind that every desk in your office should have a minimum of two monitors. In addition to desktop computers, any laptop docking stations that you might have set up for temporary employees should have a minimum of two screens. Most laptops sold in the last 18 months have the internal capability of attaching up to three monitors. A docking station simply makes this much easier to accomplish.

I have heard from many agency staff that they have moved from 2 to 3 monitors on their desk. This certainly makes sense for high-transaction positions — typically personal lines and small commercial. These positions often have the need to access multiple carrier websites simultaneously. The additional monitor just makes this that much easier.

A word of caution: I hear many staff say that one of the monitors has Outlook open on it all the time. I think this is a mistake. I do not have time nor space in this newsletter to go into my email management, but know this: email is already a major distraction and having it visible to you all the time just adds to the problem.

One Big Monitor or Multiple Monitors?

The cost of computer monitors has dropped dramatically. So, should you buy one large wide monitor instead of the two or three traditional computer monitors? Is there any inherent advantage of one large monitor over multiple smaller monitors?

Unfortunately, the answer is, “it depends.”

I do not like the one large, wide monitor setup. Most people are very comfortable working in Microsoft Windows, and for power users it will take them more time to size, resize, and move open windows around the single wide desktop for maximum efficiency. Also, once program windows are set the way you like them, your desktop will remember those same positions in the future, cutting down the amount of time you need to set up your desktop to work the way you want.

So the advantage of a multiple monitor setup is that when you maximize a window, it is maximized to the particular monitor where it appears. On a large monitor, the window would maximize to the whole monitor, not necessarily the behavior you would want.

Desk space might be an issue when you have a three or more monitor setup.

Multiple Monitors and Stands

Monitor stands help to better manage the amount of space required on a desktop. Typically, monitor stands have one upright stand with a horizontal arm where the monitors are mounted. This allows the user to have access to most of the desktop underneath the monitors for additional workspace.

Another option is to have a cube (or over/under) monitor setup. I do not especially like this setup because I think the ergonomics of needing to look up at the top monitors may become uncomfortable over time. However, the individual’s personal preference should be taken into account.

Document Viewing Monitor

Another less common option is to use the third or fourth screen as a document display monitor. You can accomplish this by rotating the monitor into a portrait position. The aspect ratio of an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper will fit perfectly to the monitor assuring electronic documents can be more easily viewed and read.

For example, this monitor setup would allow you to see a full page of the document at one time so you do not have to scroll up and down to read the full document. It is also likely that the page will be larger than life-size, also making it easier to understand.

Most agency staff spends hours in front of a computer monitor. Taking some of the suggested steps to enhance the setup of computer monitors further will help improve productivity and, at the same time, reduce ergonomic strains and problems. This is a win for employees and management.

What have you found to be the best setup in your agency for multiple monitors? Let me know.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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8 thoughts on “An Update on the Optimum Setup for Multiple Monitors in Your Office

  1. I use 2 32″ monitors with one of them split, which gives (2) perfect 4:3 aspect ratio screens for viewing documents. The other is for wide screen things like spreadsheets, Vertafore, web viewing, etc. LG has a nice one for $199 on Amazon that works great. If you want it higher we buy a stand for mounting it higher.

  2. Tanya, thanks for sharing how your office uses multiple monitors. I do find the email distraction to be a big problem with multiple monitors. People assume they should have your email open, when in fact, it creates more distraction than it helps.

  3. Brian, every monitor has the capability of being reformatted into portrait mode. If you right-click on the desktop for Windows 7 or Windows 10 you will have the option to “change display settings.” When you have more than one monitor attached you can choose the specific monitor and change the orientation from landscape to portrait. Some (more expensive) monitors allow you to simply move the monitor from landscape to portrait. Most monitors have mounting screws on the back that allow you to physically change the orientation of the monitor. If you want to permanently have the monitor in portrait mode I would suggest this method. The other monitors are more expensive but may be worth it in the long run. The holes for mounting to a stand are a standard configuration for most monitors.

  4. Steve, do you have any recommendations for document viewing monitors? I’ve searched Amazon, Best Buy, Office Depot, etc. and can’t seem to find a good vertical monitor.

  5. Hi Steve,
    In our office the personal lines dept have 2 monitors and the commercial lines have 3 monitors with one being document display monitor. I personally have 4 monitors with one being a document monitor. We could not work without the additional monitors. (we could but wouldn’t want to) Like you mentioned we are working on the email problems with having the email constantly up on one monitor