A few months ago, a close friend and highly experienced office manager was complaining to me (over drinks of course) about how difficult it was for her to deal with all of the different programs she had open on her computer at one time. Typically, she had different windows containing her email, internet browser, patient management database, spreadsheet, perhaps a pdf document, etc. all open simultaneously. Switching between all of these windows was both confusing and inefficient. Whether it involved copying data from one application to another or simply confirming an appointment while checking the patient management database, she was constantly either squeezing multiple windows onto her screen or manically switching between windows using her task bar.
After spending a few moments pretending to be deep in thought (with me, it’s almost always an act), I asked why she hadn’t just bought a second monitor. The thought of multiple monitors had never crossed her mind. I explained to her that most modern computers were more than capable of driving two or more monitors. Even better, Windows can be easily optimized for this purpose.
To put things into perspective, my main computer is a Microsoft Surface Pro 4. It’s a fabulous laptop hybrid but it sports a small12.3” screen. When in the office, that small screen size is an enormous drag on productivity. So, I bought two inexpensive 24 inch monitors and hooked them up to the Surface. I now have more than enough screen real estate to have my email application, a browser, my database, a spreadsheet and a few documents open and easily accessible.
These days, a 24” monitor runs a little over $100. For those on your staff who regularly use multiple applications simultaneously, adding an extra monitor will pay for itself in improved productivity within the first month.
Setting up a second (or third) monitor is a breeze. First, you will need the extra monitor(s). Almost all monitors today will have one or more of the following ports: VGA, Display Port, or HDMI. For the purposes of multiple monitors the easiest port to use is the Display Port since it allows daisy chaining of monitors (rather than all cables running back to your computer, you can simply plug one monitor into another in a chain). That said, most desktop computers have at least two ports that will match your monitors’ ports and each of these ports can drive a monitor. In my setup, I purchased a dock for my Surface that has, among other things, two Display Ports.
Next, you will need the appropriate cables and/or adaptors. In my case, I needed two Display Port cables and two Display Port to VGA adaptors (total cost for two cables and two adaptors was about $10).
Finally, plug everything in. Windows should immediately recognize the new monitor(s) and, in most cases, will copy the display from the main monitor to the new monitor(s). This is called a ‘duplicate display’ setup. Right click anywhere on your desktop and select ‘Display Settings’. Scroll down and you will see an option under ‘Multiple Displays’ to ‘Extend desktop to this display’. This setting will allow you to stretch your desktop across all of the displays thus giving you all the room you need to display multiple applications simultaneously. You can also modify the order of the displays as well as the individual display resolutions (if they are different).
For a great tutorial on this setup, see https://www.pcworld.com/article/2923941/displays/how-to-create-an-insane-multiple-monitor-setup-with-three-four-or-more-displays.html.
The bottom line is that improving your screen real estate is a cheap and fast way to dramatically improve efficiency and general computing comfort.
Allen Friedman is the owner and CEO of Techaerus LLC, an office efficiency consulting firm. He is also a licensed attorney. Allen founded and managed one of the largest consumer collections law firms in the country and managed over 50 attorneys as well as hundreds of non-attorney staff. Prior to founding that firm, he opened and managed the New York and Michigan operations for the largest consumer collections firm in the United States. Throughout his career, Allen has always placed great emphasis on ensuring that investments in office technology provide the greatest possible returns. In order to achieve these returns, he focuses on three pillars of office management; asset management, training, and automation. His expertise includes document/image management, software and hardware integration, training, and process management and automation. Allen lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with his wife Amy, his children Cassidy and Gideon, and two adorable dogs named Roxie (a labradoodle) and Bentley (an Old English Sheepdog).