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Improving Productivity (With Science) 208

An anonymous reader writes "It's common knowledge that multiple monitors increase productivity, but there isn't actually any research to support that assertion. However, studies have shown that there are a few simple tweaks to the work environment that do increase productivity. Among them: use high temperature light sources and keep office plants."
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Improving Productivity (With Science)

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  • Uhhh (Score:4, Funny)

    by proverbialcow ( 177020 ) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @01:17PM (#35600562) Journal
    I'm pretty sure I would get fired for running a grow house in my office.
    • Duuuude, not THAT kind of plant. Even though high temperature lights would be splendid for them.

      • Right? And I'm pretty sure my productivity would increase only if by 'productivity' you mean 'Cheeto consumption.'
      • Duuuude, not THAT kind of temperature.

        TFA discusses "color temperature," saying blue is productive and yellow not so much.

      • Re:Uhhh (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 24, 2011 @02:13PM (#35601546)

        You seem to have been fooled by the fictional "heat lamps" mentioned in police bust reports. This is a blatant lie aimed at tricking people into ineffective grows. Cannabis grows fine at room temperature and overheating is a much bigger problem than cold for indoor grows. The less heat, but more light, the better.

        The real lights used are high pressure sodium, with a low color temperature for best vegetative growth, and metal halide, with a higher color temperature for best flowering. If somebody is using only one type of light it will be the low color temperature high pressure sodium. Fluorescent lighting is also usable for small scale grows but is less efficient.

        • I am kinda torn what I should find a witty comment for now...

          That someone here knows that?
          That he feels compelled to point it out?
          Or that it's being modded insightful?

          Oh look, I'm outta cheetos...

    • Quit, and run an office in your grow house.

  • by SEWilco ( 27983 ) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @01:18PM (#35600576) Journal
    Make sure the office plant has a comfortable chair in his cubicle.
    • "I completely understand everything you just said, but please explain it to this man, for he is a Mongoloid."

      "It's true! I don't even have a cow!"
  • by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <> on Thursday March 24, 2011 @01:22PM (#35600674) Homepage

    Multiple monitors make it easier to appear productive with less effort.

    • This, plus dual screens are good for doing OTHER stuff than working, when you're into programming enough, you won't focus on much else anyway. But hey, there is a facebook update* on my other screen!

      * Disclamer: I don't have facebook.

      • I lament the loss of "bosskeys" in current games... nothing better than playing a game like Leisure Suit Larry and hitting that single key when a boss walks around the corner, preserving your crap job in the process.
        • by Cloud K ( 125581 )

          Apart from that it's really obvious to the boss anyway when he walks in and instead of looking up and saying hello you go wide eyed and stab at your keyboard. Many bosses seem to pretend not to notice - until they need ammunition...

    • Re:On the contrary (Score:4, Informative)

      by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @01:37PM (#35600970)

      I think the issue with the assertion is that it only applies to certain types of work. It's amazingly handy for somebody working on photo manipulation or graphic design to have one monitor showing the whole image and perhaps the toolbars and the other showing just the region that is being worked on.

      Likewise it can be really helpful for a receptionist to have an email program going on one monitor and a word processing program going in the other.

      With the advent of large monitors, a better solution for the latter would probably be to have a decent utility to split up the main screen, but I've yet to see one that really did a very good job of splitting one monitor into multiple logical monitors. X seems to do the best job, but there's complications there and that doesn't apply to Windows anyways.

      • With the advent of large monitors, a better solution for the latter would probably be to have a decent utility to split up the main screen, but I've yet to see one that really did a very good job of splitting one monitor into multiple logical monitors.

        I'm not sure what you mean here. Have you tried one of those new fangled desktop environments with their fancy window managers? They seem to do what you call for.

        • by gknoy ( 899301 )

          Some programs like to maximize, and scale their layouts (crappily) based on the maximum physical size of the screen. This makes resizing the window to something other than effectively-maximized both annoying and visually unappealing, in some cases. Having a way to enforce a "maximize" that only maximized height, or within certain bounds (say, a full-screen presentation), perhaps via virtual monitors, would be handy in some situations.

          • You mean say, that (+) button that's existed on Mac OS since the very beginning that doesn't maximise the window, but instead makes it big enough to show the content and no bigger?

      • I don't know if there's a Windows equivalent, but I recently discovered a phenomenal tool for the Mac called Divvy [].

        You can define screen regions and have applications conform to those regions with a hotkey.

        • by lithis ( 5679 )

          There's a link to the Windows version of Divvy [] on the Mac Divvy page.

          I use WinSplit Revolution [], though. It's a free Window app that is similar to Divvy.

          What I really wish I had, when I must use Windows, is a Windows version of xmonad []. It has excellent support for arranging windows within large screens and on multiple monitors, once you get used to it.

          • Duh. Didn't think I would need bifocus so early in my life. ;) Thanks for the info! I'll have to point this out to my windows using friends.

      • Have you tried Winsplit Revolution []? Been using it for a while now, and it's awesome in conjunction with AllSnap [].

        Of course, this is with two laptops and two monitors on my desk at most times (although one of the laptops is a convertible tablet, so it doesn't really count as an additional screen.

        And another few examples of where I've found that multiple monitors come in handy:

        -Separate Media monitor: Dedicated to Winamp, VLC and any other programs you may use for your music and/or video needs
        -Separate PIM

    • by KalvinB ( 205500 )

      Having two monitors I feel a lot less claustrophobic. It may not increase my productivity but I'm far less agitated when doing my job. I don't like hunting for tabs to switch between views. When debugging .Net sites it's nice to have to site remain in view when the breakpoint is hit.

      Wearing comfortable clothes probably doesn't increase productivity either.

    • The article lies. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara.hudson@b ... u d s o n . c om> on Thursday March 24, 2011 @02:06PM (#35601440) Journal
      There HAVE been studies that show that multiple monitors increase productivity. []

      The first study revealed that the users' productivity increased by 9 percent. Further studies showed even greater increases - at times up to 50 percent for tasks such as cutting and pasting. Mary Czerwinski, the VIBE research manager, is excited about her group's discoveries, asking, "If you're able to squeeze 10 percent more productivity out, do you know how much money that will save?"

      The article is utter garbage.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jdgeorge ( 18767 )

        The article (second link in summary) about ways to increase productivity doesn't mention multiple monitors, and appears to have relevant research backing up all of its suggestions.

        The Advice column (first link) does appear to be something a lazy writer pulled our of his or her... uh... ear.

        Overall, the summary is exactly the quality I expect to find on Slashdot.

      • by iiii ( 541004 )
        Bingo. There are *lots* of studies. The author of this article is speaking from ignorance. A quick look through the publications from Virginia Tech's HCI group [], viz group [] and gigapixel [] project [] shows an abundance of work on this. And that is just one university. I'm sure there are *many* other examples.
        • And we can even go back to 2003, and this article on slashdot []

          Multiple Monitors Increase Productivity

          Posted by michael on Thursday October 09 2003, @10:01AM
          from the print-out-and-show-your-boss dept.

          eggoeater writes

          "An systematic study conducted by NEC-Mitsubishi, ATI Technologies and the University of Utah has concluded that the use of multiple monitors in the workplace increases productivity. The study is discussed on Tom's Hardware, EE Times, and there's a detailed press release on NEC-Mitsubis

    • I use dual monitors all the time. Being able to read instructions or a scientific article in one window while you are applying it to code or a document in the other is very helpful. Most people don't need two monitors, but coders and some scientists will be the first to tell you how useful it is.
  • by chemicaldave ( 1776600 ) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @01:26PM (#35600772)
    Did they just give up on the idea of a window for actual sun-light?
    • Depends where the office is, if you're located in an office building you likely don't have just areas next to the windows, and I think that's what they're talking about there. Plus you don't get even light all day anyways. Around here the sun doesn't come up until fairly late in the morning and goes down early in the afternoon. So even if you do have a window during those periods its not terribly useful anyways.

      • It's true. Windows and sunlight are reserved for the benefit of managers. And yes, the sun might not be out for very long in some places, but the cubicle farms are some of the most unproductive workplaces. The least they could do is try to include ambient sunlight into the workspace instead of glaring the same fluorescent bulbs from 8-5 in a sad, depressing stink hole where 4-5 consultants work in the same 12x12 space devoid of any color save for the shirt on your chest and whatever Windows theme you happen
      • Crazy! I have co-workers who *insist* on dimming the lights and closing window-blinds. I imagine that they go home and turn the lights up high when they sleep.
        • I like the dark with some ambient light coming in. Its relaxing. I also like faint blue artificial light during the night, also relaxing. I guess I just like the dark even though Im not a goth or anything. I only really enjoy the sun when Im out hiking, on a lake or at the beach or something.
    • I'm separated from the nearest window by a concrete load bearing wall and an additional 20' of office cubical space.
      • My office is down in the basement, in a room full of routers and firewalls and other random gear we're testing. We finally scrounged up some spare sound-baffle stuff so it's a bit quieter.

        Occasionally we get surveys from the Corporate Real Estate Droids about how well they're supporting us. They do ask what floor we're on, and for our building the choices are "1-6". Ummm, no, we're on floor 0 here.

    • The article actually says high color temperature light sources, not high temperature light sources, the latter of which makes no sense at all, of course.

      Oh, and yes. Who still uses the sun for light? This is the 21st century. The sun is so passé.

      • My point was that they're trying to decide what kind of light-bulbs to use when they should be trying to eliminate light-bulb use and make more use of the sun. Humans have actual physiological responses to sunlight.
  • They missed one (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sharp3 ( 1195261 ) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @01:27PM (#35600778)
    #1 improvement to productivity) Closing Slashdot!
    • Apparently part of it is using a less intrusive operating system as well:

      the study came to the conclusion that it was pixels, not monitors that increased productivity

      And people bicker at me about my desire to regain as many pixels as I can. (I'm looking at you Office, Windows 7 Aero, Organize and Address Bars...)

    • Doesn't help. It will be open again less than 10 seconds later.
    • by syousef ( 465911 )

      #1 improvement to productivity) Closing Slashdot!

      Yes because employees would never think to browse other web sites, read the newspaper, daydream or just zone out. If you've got an unproductive employee you need to work out why they're not motivated and find a way to motivate them. Nothing else will work.

  • Not everything can or has to be proven with research. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, claiming a second monitor helps is hardly extraordinary.

    • by nigelo ( 30096 )

      Not everything can or has to be proven with research.

      *citation needed*

      • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

        Citation needed that a citation is needed

    • Not everything can or has to be proven with research.

      Yes, metaphysics is usually the realm where this applies.

    • Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence was used to deny Aristarchus's 3rd century BC heliocentric theory. "Where's the parallax motion of the stars, if the earth is rotating? Any why isn't the wind stronger if the planet is spinning?" But there is parallax motion, their instruments just weren't sensitive enough; and the wind objection seems to be the real extraordinary claim. In conclusion, instead of following homilies like "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence", the Greeks shou

    • Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

      No they don't. All they require is consistent and valid evidence, just like any other claim. The moment you start dividing things into ordinary and extraordinary you introduce personal subjectivity, and that is a mistake.

      • Quite the opposite. Look up Bayesian inference.

        • From the wikipedia article []:

          results will naturally be biased subject to a-priori notions (either explicit or implicit) that are assumed before any evidence is ever collected, yielding results that are true or false relative to given assumptions.


          Bayesian inference usually relies on degrees of belief, or subjective probabilities, in the induction process, and it does not necessarily claim to provide an objective method of induction.

          So GP's point is supported; subjectivity is involved in any claims of what i

  • I never got this two monitor thing.
    When I started working here, they gave me a machine with two monitors, and after some months I asked to stay with just one.
    Alt-tab is faster than turning my neck and re-focusing my eyes.

    • It might be a matter of personal preference. I like having two monitors, however, my setup at home instead involves one big honker monitor, which works just about as well. The main thing is to have enough screen real-estate to support what I'm doing.

    • If they gave us a 24" single monitor I might agree with you. But having 2 screens allows for comparing things side by side or having a reference open.

      Alt-tab is faster than turning my neck and re-focusing my eyes.

      How far apart were your monitors? Mine are right next to each other; there's minimal if any turning of ones head involved. You're refocusing your eyes regardless since your entire screen changes when you alt tab.

      I find that you don't really notice the increase until you have 2 monitors and have to go back to just 1. When I remote into my work machine I'

    • Honestly, it depends a lot on what tasks you're doing. For many jobs it's little or no benefit, but for some jobs it does help a lot. When I'm working on art having a second monitor is a god send. Accountants often times like having a second monitor so that they can see all the columns and for those doing scheduling it's great.

      I think at this point though it's getting to be more grey area as monitors are really wide and have higher resolution, splitting the monitor into smaller work spaces would at this poi

      • splitting the monitor into smaller work spaces would at this point probably be more useful for most people.

        My computer does that, it calls them "windows". I hear there's even an operating system named after them!

    • by gsslay ( 807818 )

      When you're developing software two monitors allows you to have your application open, as it would be used by the end user, and also have desktop space for working on it.

    • I actually have gotten into the habit of using my desktop and laptop both at times... I didn't really see a need for a second screen before I had my laptop, but I think at times having two complete systems has been key. At least for me. I can have research or email open on my laptop (often media apps like music as well) and my desktop is used as my main workspace for whatever I happen to be working on.

      It actually takes some work to set up as my desk was never meant to have two monitors let alone a monitor a

  • by llZENll ( 545605 ) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @01:31PM (#35600842)

    I actually bought that exact chair as mentioned in the article, with the additional $200 chrome upgrade, about 4 years ago, it was awesome for the first few years, and then I had a huge problem with lower back pain. I went to the doc, tried stretching, muscle relaxers, massages, sleeping differently, it turns out it was the chair, after switching to a $39 Ikea chair [] my back pain finally went away after a few weeks and has been awesome since. I tried switching back to the Aeron a year ago for a month, but my back started hurting again soon after. The point of my story is just because a chair is expensive or has many adjustments does not mean its the best for you, and you may very well find a very comfortable chair for a lot less.

    • by ChienAndalu ( 1293930 ) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @01:35PM (#35600922)

      My back hurt until I started hitting the gym and doing muscle strength exercises.

      • by lanner ( 107308 )

        Ding ding ding.

        If you sit in a chair for eight hours a day, you are KILLING YOUR MUSCLES! This is not natural for humans at all.

        You need exercise. I would argue that all office workers need mandatory exercise at least twice a day for five minutes absolute minimum. I keep a 30 pound weight in a nearby electrical/IDF closet and go in there once or twice a day to move my muscles around.

        Most neck and back pain that I've ever had was completely resolved by having an exercise routine. Your muscles are not tel

        • by Raenex ( 947668 )

          And you wonder why you and most other Americans are fat...

          You're so awesome. Do you have a blog I can subscribe to?

      • by meloneg ( 101248 )

        Well, it really depends on the source of your back pain. If it is muscular, sure.

        If it is caused by compressed discs like mine, not so much. Strengthening exercises have some value in preventing recurrence, but do very little for me when it comes to reducing a flare-up. Only two things have really helped when it starts. Being very conscious of posture and learning that I have a problem with auto-immune inflammatory issues and getting the appropriate treatment for that.

        But then, one of the other major so

      • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

        There is something wrong with the chair if you need good muscle tone in order to sit in it. :-)

        This makes me want to market a chair designed to build muscle. Maybe it would randomly recline without warning, forcing you to suddenly do a sit-up. Improves reflexes too!

      • by llZENll ( 545605 )

        Yeah I knew that wasn't the problem as I work out and exercise quite a bit (altogether probably 10 hours/week). Out of all the things to fix my back I found that massages and stretching helped the most, but ultimately changing chairs fixed it, and I no longer need to stretch solely for my back. I also rotate sitting on a ball in every once and while. I would agree though, for most people the source of most of their pain is probably from not exercising enough.

    • I've been using a ball chair for a few years, cost me $80 or so, but it's been a really great improvement for my back. I do have to get up from time to time, but the strength of my abs has gotten so that I'm sitting upright with a natural curve to my spine.

    • a fair amount of the crap sold as being "Ergonomic" is complete and utter crap.
      My last office had an obsession with people not using their laptop keyboards for extended periods of time... so they shelled out a lot of money for a set of "ergonomic" keyboards for the meeting rooms which could be plugged into the laptops... they were laptop keyboards, exact same size and layout and raised about the same distance off the desk.
      Everyone would have been better off bringing their normal, full size keyboards from th

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      Same here. My butt/arse doesn't like it either.

      Interesting chairs. No arm rests? I have to have arm rests due to my multiple disabilities especially with my arm and hands. :(

    • I actually bought that exact chair as mentioned in the article, with the additional $200 chrome upgrade, about 4 years ago, it was awesome for the first few years, and then I had a huge problem with lower back pain. I went to the doc, tried stretching, muscle relaxers, massages, sleeping differently, it turns out it was the chair, after switching to a $39 Ikea chair [] my back pain finally went away after a few weeks and has been awesome since. I tried switching back to the Aeron a year ago for a month, but my back started hurting again soon after. The point of my story is just because a chair is expensive or has many adjustments does not mean its the best for you, and you may very well find a very comfortable chair for a lot less.

      If it will help, I'll give you the $39 for the Aeron so you won't be tempted any more.

  • by BlackEdder ( 1220942 ) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @01:31PM (#35600852)
    Some googling turned up a description of 3 studies (the fourth actually doesn't look at dual monitors) [] Maybe not high quality research, but they all show an increase in productivity due to a second monitor
    • by kwerle ( 39371 )

      Yeah. This is only a myth if you're willing to discount multiple studies that show that multiple monitors do increase productivity. []

      Way to go, editors.

    • University of Utah conducted a study funded by NEC in 2003 and a follow up in 2008.

      According to their test subjects higher resolution, more pixels, was the sweet spot.

      I think this is where the "Multiple monitors make drones work better!" mantra came from. Most monitors were in the 17" to 19" - to get the pixel sweet spot you needed more of them. This was great selling point for monitor makers.

      In the 2008 follow-up, they found productivity benefits begin to taper if you get above 26"-30" and resolutions high

  • The single biggest line item on my (and probably many people's) productivity costs is interruptions of the form, "hey, I need to answer a question that takes more than a goldfish brain's worth of thought. I'd like you to do that thinking for me."

    The second would be, "As my work product, I took a big dump into our codebase. Given that I don't care about anything but going home at 5, and none of our leadership understands what I did anyway, especially since I have two monitors and therefore look smart, why do

  • I find that arguments for increased productivity are usually used to rationalize the purchase of some new expensive hi tech toy. And then subsequently used to raise expectations from the workers without increasing costs to the company (do more work in less time without a raise).
    • Yes, and your point is?

      If you're running your own show, increased productivity means you can spend more of your time doing fun stuff, and less doing grunt work.

      If someone else is paying you, increased productivity means that for a small expenditure, they can make more money.

      What's not to like?
  • Multiple monitors may increase productivity, but I'd be willing to bet it would be easier to prove that they reduce paper and toner expense. How many people stop printing wedges of dead tree if they can have more than one document readable at a time?

    • by nomadic ( 141991 )
      The biggest advantage of multiple monitors I've found is that they reduce eyestrain and neck pain for me. Being forced to do what we were always told to do when working at a computer -- move your head and let your eyes focus somewhere else--is great.
  • possibly, the most productive workers are rewarded with an extra monitor.

  • Rather than the ultra-megawide screen setup that 2 monitors provide, I own a large 26" monitor (and am planning to get a 30" in the future when I can afford it). You get great height (good for coding), decent width, a unified desktop so that you don't have a big black bar down the middle (the space between the monitors!), and a bigger screen for watching movies from a more comfy chair.

  • Music (Score:5, Informative)

    by jomama717 ( 779243 ) <> on Thursday March 24, 2011 @02:37PM (#35601980) Journal
    I wish they had done some studies about the effects of music on productivity. I have some of those very nice Bose headphones and by far my most productive hours are spent wearing them.

    Any music that I am able to "zone out" to will do, classical, jazz, techno - usually long tracks with many subtle transitions.

    Granted I am a programmer, and listening to music while working is perfectly reasonable while it may be totally unacceptable for others.
  • I happen to have 2 big ass monitors at work. Running Windows... At home I have a not so big ass single monitor that displays an Ubuntu desktop. I am vastly more productive at home. And that's thanks to the proper multiple desktop implementation that's simply not possible on Windows. It allows me to swap between virtual desktops much faster than I ever could move my eye/head to the second monitor in a dual monitor setup. And it gives me much more virtual desktops (I prefer 4) and much more overview thanks to

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