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Setting up your home office is exciting – you can finally have an office space that’s up to your standards! You have all the freedom in the world to set it up how you want, which means picking and choosing the layout, location, and all the things to put in there – and this can get tough!
We’ve already covered our ideal home office setup in detail in our previous guide (HERE), which gives you a big list of things to keep in mind and can be used as guardrails to make the whole process smooth and fast.
This guide, however, is a deep dive into one particular aspect of your office: your home office screens. It’s where all the magic happens, where you get work done and communicate with colleagues, clients, and partners.
To make this guide easier simply click on the below section to scroll to what you need:
- 5 Reasons Why You Need More Than a Laptop Screen
- Choosing Which Size Screen to Get and Deciding Whether You Need Multiples
- Choosing a Setup for Yourself: Dual Screen or Widescreen?
- Essentials for Setting Up Your Laptop with Multiple Screens
- Should I Get More Than Two Screens?
- How to Have Multiple Screens with a Small Desk or Office Space
- Protecting Yourself from Eye or Neck Strain Using Multiple Screens
- Pick Your Perfect Monitor
A laptop screen is just the beginning. Even if you think you don’t need a separate screen, you do. We’ll go over a few reasons why, and then go into the specifics to look out for when buying a new screen (or two, or three!) for your office.
5 Reasons Why You Need More Than a Laptop Screen
If you are really serious about working from home long-term, you need to streamline your workday. An efficient workflow depends on two things: the right software solutions, and the right tech setup. Let’s see how screens fit into this story:
#1 Better productivity
Using more than just your laptop screen has been found to increase productivity and reduce stress.
Having a secondary workspace means you can use multiple programs at the same time. For example, your design software is open on your primary window, while research and references are open on the secondary window.
It’s a blessing if you’re in the type of business that requires a lot of workspace – like design, development, content creation, video editing, engineering, and accounting, to name a few.
#2 Helps you multitask
Yes, multitasking doesn’t mean you’ll get the job done faster, but you won’t be wasting time switching from one task to another on a single screen where everything’s crammed.
A larger workspace helps keep multiple windows in focus at all times, making switching as easy as moving the mouse cursor from one window to another.
#3 Better focus
When you need to check something real quick, you have to minimise one window in favour of another. While it doesn’t seem like a big deal, when you have to do this repeatedly, it’s easy to lose focus.
With multiple monitors, you can keep your research window open on your secondary screen and do quick searches easily without losing sight of your primary window.
#4 Better output
Having more than one monitor doesn’t just make you more efficient – the end result is usually better too. This is because you’re not wasting time on busywork and switching between windows and minimising them all the time, which means less fatigue and errors.
#5 Better collaboration
Having multiple monitors plays a big role in how quick you are with answering messages and emails. Since people usually have their messaging programs and project management solutions on one screen, they will see new messages, emails and notifications faster and be able to address them quicker too.
It’s more than evident that multiple screens help with focus, efficiency, and organisation. But will any screen do? No, not really. You must choose the right size and features to be efficient in your home office.
Choosing Which Size Screen to Get and Deciding Whether You Need Multiples
Does the rule “bigger is better” apply to screen sizes?
This depends on the type of work you do.
Some people prefer to have a big 32″ or larger screen in addition to their laptop, allowing them a “main” work space and to use their laptop screen for side project or information like their emails. But larger screens are usually for those who need attention to detail, for example designers or creatives. It’s also for those with bigger desk spaces that aren’t going to be sitting to close (can you say eye strain!)
While others users will go for two or even three smaller screens, usually between 22″ or 27″ which is just larger than a normal laptop screen (at around 15″+ on average) and will usually be for those who have to run multiple tasks at once e.g. emails, note taking etc.
Then we have the ultra-wide 34″ to 49″ or larger options which gives you a huge immersive space to focus on one program window with multiple toolbars, for example photo or video editors who can use the larger size to have longer timelines shown on screen. The ultra wide can also be used if you have a smaller desk so can only fit one stand at a time (or if you like your screen image uninterrupted.
Choosing a Setup for Yourself: Dual Screen or Widescreen? (or both?)
There’s no clear cut answer to which setup is better. How satisfied you’ll be with the chosen setup highly depends on your specific circumstances and preferences.
Some prefer to have two big screens, like a DELL 27″ dual monitor setup, while others will opt for a single wide-screen monitor like the Samsung 34″ Ultra WQHD resolution monitor.
When making the decision, ask yourself the following three questions:
#1 What will you use it for?
If you’re using a single application a lot, for instance, you work in Google Chrome most of the time and all the apps you use are browser-based, then you’ll be dealing with a single program that has lots of tabs. For such instances, you will do well with an ultra-wide screen.
Going for that wide-screen also brings an added bonus of not having to deal with the bezel gap – the space between the primary and secondary monitor where you lose some of the workspace.
If you are using multiple applications, some of which require you run them in fullscreen, a dual or multiple monitor setup is of better use. The bezel gap isn’t such an issue in these instances since you won’t have a single app extended over all of them. Each app will be used on its own screen.
#2 Your desk space
What type of desk do you have? Can you put multiple monitors on it?
Remember, monitors are just one thing (or two, or three) that you’ll put onto the desk. If you put multiple monitors, will you have enough space for all the other peripherals, like keyboard, mouse, a cooling pad for your laptop?
If you have plenty of space, there’s no reason not to go for multiple screens. But if you have limited space, it’s better to go for a single, larger monitor, as it will be easier to deal with a single monitor stand than multiple ones.
Do you have enough ports for all your monitors or will you need a port extender or dock? Can your laptop deal with multiple monitors? Most laptops are limited to one to two HDMI ports, so be sure your laptop can support multiple screens before placing an order.
Essentials for Setting Up Your Laptop with Multiple Screens
A dual-screen setup takes some preparation and taking the time to do proper research into which monitors are a good choice.
#1 Get a business model
Not all monitors are made the same. There’s a reason why some are labelled gaming and others business, and it’s not just about charging you more for the particular model. Business model monitors are highly adjustable and have higher quality panels that directly impact the quality of your work.
#2 Choose the right type of panel
Business models have high-quality panels: the display panel technology plays a big role in how good things will look on your monitor. Now, things are going to get a little technical but it does make a difference in the overall visuals (and cost, and performance) of what you buy, but we’ll try and keep it as simple as possible.
Panels for your screen refers to the technology behind your screen and these come in 3 types:
- TN – Twisted nematic
This is the oldest type of panel, but has great response times (1 ms) and can easily work on high refresh rates of up to 240 Hz. The issue with these panels is the colour reproduction, which is quite poor, and a very limited viewing angle – as soon as you move a bit, the colours change. Their contrast ratio (the difference between darkest black and lightest white) is also quite low.
- IPS – In-plane switching, also known as Plane-to-line Switching (PLS) or advanced hyper viewing angle (AHVA)
These panels have much better colour reproduction and viewing angles. Up until a few years ago, they lagged behind with response times (usually having 5 ms) and refresh rates (usually maxed at 60Hz), but as of 2019, you can get models with 1 ms response times and up to 280Hz refresh rates). The contrast ratio of IPS panels is usually around 1000:1
- VA – Vertical alignment, known as super vertical alignment (SVA) and advanced multi-domain vertical alignment (AMVA)
These panels have superior contrast ratios, usually going up to 6000:1, but fall behind in terms of viewing angles. They have good colour reproduction, but high refresh rates might have a “ghosting” problem where a previous image stays on the current one like a ghost.
Now, inside each of these panels you have what makes the image on your screen, and these come in 4 types:
- LED (Light Emitting Diode) – Brighter, more flexibility with lights, last longer, but are more expensive.
- LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) – The older technology and cheaper.
- OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) – Lighter and thinner than LEDs and LCDs, but the most expensive.
- AMOLED ( Active Matrix Light Emitting Diode) – Truer picture to them so better for editing and videos, less power hungry, but newer technology, so can be more expensive.
Phew! That’s a lot of tech, if you’re not sure what you need, we would suggest for the average home user to stick to a VA or IPS LED panel which are a good choice for general use.
#3 Get adjustable models
One more thing that business models come equipped with are pivoting arms that let you rotate them horizontally and vertically, whichever layout you need more for your particular job.
They also have height adjustment, something you won’t find in many regular or budget models.
#4 Get a dock
One thing many people miss when working on their buying list is the fact that they need a dock for their multiple screen setup.
A dock enables you with lots of things you don’t get if you only use your laptop:
- You’ll get additional USB ports
- Super-fast internet connection, thanks to a gigabit ethernet port for wired connections
- You can connect a full-sized keyboard and a mouse
- It charges your laptop
- Supports up to three monitors
To put it simply: A docking station turns your portable laptop into a full-fledged desktop.
#5 Get used to shortcuts
While not directly related to the type of monitor you’re getting, it’s essential to know how to work fast with multiple screens.
Working with multiple monitors won’t be fast or efficient if you don’t learn some good old shortcuts to organise your windows faster.
Take Windows 10 as an example. When you enable “Snap settings” under “Multitasking settings,” you can simply snap windows to the edge of screens by using the Window button and left and right arrows. It makes moving windows from one screen to the other super easy!
Should I Get More Than Two Screens?
This entirely depends on your job, office space and personal preference.
Developers, graphics and UX designers, as well as data analysts and scientists, have two or more screens very often, as they deal with plenty of applications and information that requires having lots of workspace, code view, user view and work space.
Basically, any type of job that requires lots of monitoring, comparing or referencing will do well with more than two screens. If you feel like you’re missing workspace, it’s not a bad idea to go for another screen, but be sure to eliminate other causes of missing workspace (is it an organisation issue, maybe?)
Two “standard” sized 24″ – 27″ screens still remain a golden standard for most industries, however. So if you’re just starting out with your home office, get two for starters and see if it works for you. You can always get an additional screen down the road.
How to Have Multiple Screens with a Small Desk or Office Space
An ultra-wide monitor is a preferable choice for smaller desks and home offices, but sometimes it just doesn’t work for the type of job that you do and you need more than one screen.
For such scenarios, there are some genius solutions to get multiple screens onto a small desk without cluttering up all the (desk) workspace.
#1 Think in levels
Your desk doesn’t need to rely on just one flat surface. You can make use of the space above and below it.
Get a monitor shelf, a so-called riser, to place your monitors there. This creates ample space beneath the actual shelf/riser where you can put your speakers or soundbar, your planner or notebook or the latest business book you’re reading.
There are even risers with actual drawers built where you can keep small items that easily get lost, such as pens or cables.
# 2 Use the wall
Who said your monitors have to remain on the actual desk? If you have a wall behind, mount them onto a wall with the appropriate wall mount, and you’ll have plenty of space on your desk.
Alternatively, if you don’t feel like drilling new holes into the wall, you can use monitor mounts that are fixed to the back of the desk so your wall remains intact.
#3 Keep one at an angle
Definitely the cheapest option to put two monitors onto a very small desk is to keep one staggered in front of the other but logistically it can be difficult to work with!
Another solution is to use one monitor at an angle. The primary monitor should be in front of you as if you were using just one monitor, while the secondary one should be on the side, turned at an angle that makes it easy to use when you turn your head towards it.
This will only work if you use one monitor more than the other. If you plan to use them equally, it’s better to avoid such a setup, as it can cause neck pain.
Protecting Yourself from Eye or Neck Strain Using Multiple Screens
Working at a computer requires some health considerations, so always keep ergonomics in mind when setting up your home office. This means investing a bit more to avoid being in pain due to a bad chair or a faulty desk.
Monitors can also cause health issues, especially if you’re working long hours.
Screen brightness and glare contribute to eye strain and blurry vision. This is due to our eyes not being accustomed to keeping focus on the same distance for hours on end. Giving your eyes some rest and looking around to adjust your vision helps avoid this issue.
The glare, however, especially the blue light which can disrupt melanin production and therefore our circadian rhythm (the reason why you can’t sleep) is another problem, though.
You can use a specially designed computer (sometimes called gamer) glasses that have a special coating that blocks the blue light. Usually, these glasses have a very small vision correction that makes up for our eyes being focused on the screen all the time, but it’s best to consult professionals before trying these out.
The position of the screen is another factor: how close and how low/high the screen is can make work a breeze or a nightmare. To avoid neck pain and eye strain, keep all of your screens at the appropriate level. This means:
- Having the top of the screen at eye level so you must look slightly downward when looking at the monitor (or you’ll suffer neck and shoulder pain from looking up all the time)
- Keeping the monitor at least 20 inches or 50-ish centimetres away from the eyes. The larger the screen, the more distance you need.
You might find that a special rest for your laptop to raise it to your eye level is a good idea, even if you don’t opt for multiple screens as it will make sure you’re not straining your neck.
Pick Your Perfect Monitor
Ultimately the number of screens and size that you use for your home office depends on the job you do, but having at least two screens makes work more comfortable and you can organise all of your regularly used windows easier.
Pick the right size and aspect ratio – either multiple monitors or an ultra wide-screen, depending on the number of programs you work on and then choose the type of panel that’s going to give you the display you need. Lastly, always make sure to mount the monitors and set up your desk to the right height to be safe from neck and eye strain which will prevent you from long-term injuries and issues.