Back in October, we learned that PwC auditors had finally whined loud enough to earn a second monitor. Up until that point, it was only by the grace of God that anyone was able to accomplish anything and it probably explains the firm's dreadful PCAOB inspection results.
Some found it strange that a firm of Papa Whiskey Charlie's stature would just now being throwing another screen to its army of opiners. After all, a second monitor fell like manna to McGladrey auditors several months before the PwC announcement. Firms of lesser prominence have been arming their own employees with monitors long ago. But this is neither here nor there.
The unfortunate situation that remains is the accountants — not just auditors — out there who are serving the capital markets without a second monitor. They have to exist in this world with a solitary screen that barely allows them to view a spreadsheet of 20 rows before having to scroll. The thought of it is heartbreaking, especially when you consider that there are only so many billable hours in a day*.
How do we best help these unfortunate souls? Rather than rely on anecdotes as evidence, perhaps science will convince their overlords that true productivity demands more screens. In a productivity myth debunking post (whole thing is worth a read), Lifehacker has a rundown of some studies on the subject:
A number of the articles several years ago pushed the idea that multiple displays make us more productive, but the studies they were based on concluded something very different. Here's what they actually said:
- The oft-referenced 2005 Pfeiffer Consulting study on multi-monitor productivity was actually commissioned by Apple, and released to coincide with the then-brand-new 30-inch Apple Cinema Display. The study actually concluded that it was real estate that mattered more than number of displays.
- A similar 2008 study by the University of Utah found similar results, but it should be noted that study was comissioned [sic] by NEC Display Solutions. The results however, were sound, as was the methodology: in the end, for people working with text or spreadsheets, one larger display or two larger displays made them more productive than one smaller one.
- Even Microsoft released a very dated study back in 2003 to the same effect, where multiple monitors were somehow subbed in for larger display space, which was the real key to productivity.
Simple: for most people who do heavy text or spreadsheet-based tasks in relatively few open applications, real estate matters more than number of displays. For people who need delineation between running applications, windows, or workspaces, number of displays matters more than real estate.
In other words, not only do you need multiple monitors, you need larger, multiple monitors. You're welcome.
* The answer is 24.