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The company I work for has recently hired on several developers, and there are a limited number of monitors to go around. There are two types in the office - a standard 15" (thankfully flatscreen) and a widescreen 23". No developer has a machine capable of a dual monitor setup, and the largest monitors went to the people who got here first. Three or four new senior level developers only have a 15" monitor to work on.

To make matters worse, there are perhaps a total of 25-30 DBAs/Testers/Admin types in the company who all have dual screen 23" setups.

We have brought the issue to management, and they refuse to take away large monitors from people who have been here for years for the sake of new employees, even if they are senior level. We have pitched the idea of testers sacrificing a large monitor for one of our small ones, but they won't go for that either.

What can I say to management to illustrate the need of monitors for developers?

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closed as off topic by Ryathal, Walter, gnat, TMN, JeffO Sep 18 '12 at 22:25

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I'd argue for multiple monitors over larger ones, that way existing hardware isn't wasted. And if they refused, I'd bring one of my own in, put my money where my mouth is, so to say. If that didn't motivate them to pay for them, I'd take my monitor and leave for a company that actually cares about all it's employees, and not just how long you've been working there. –  CaffGeek Sep 18 '12 at 18:33
I am using one monitor for years and it never affected my performance. I know a programmer who claims he can't work without having three (!) monitors. Programmers are so spoiled. –  Sulthan Sep 18 '12 at 18:47
Note that DisplayLink makes USB-graphics adapters allowing you to put more monitors on a machine than the graphics card can handle. For office work this is just fine, and then ask for a spare 15". –  user1249 Sep 18 '12 at 18:54
Sheesh. Monitors now cost a buck eighty-nine. This is just a couple of hours of development time. Does management not understand that developers are more productive with larger monitors? –  kevin cline Sep 18 '12 at 19:13
"We have brought the issue to management, and they refuse to take away large monitors from people who have been here for years for the sake of new employees, even if they are senior level." - Does this mean that simply buying new monitors is out of the question? –  Freiheit Sep 18 '12 at 20:37

5 Answers 5

up vote 22 down vote accepted

You can open up an IDE in a small monitor for them, next to the same IDE in a large monitor, then show them how much money they're wasting by having a high-salaried employee constantly scrolling, collapsing panes, and generally wasting time working around the constraint of minimal screen space.

Next, address the issue of multiple monitors by showing how often the developer has to tab out to deal with another app window.

Add to that the loss of productivity brought on by frustration and stress, not to mention eyestrain. Then point out that big monitors can be had for a couple hundred bucks, and that these penny-wise, pound-foolish managers are literally wasting thousands of dollars per year to save spending a much smaller sum on hardware.

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You could also point them at: codinghorror.com/blog/2008/03/… ; dubroy.com/blog/multiple-monitor-productivity-fact-or-fiction ; earlyandoften.wordpress.com/2009/12/04/justifying-dual-monitors ; and stackoverflow.com/questions/9388/… (which has MOAR LINKS!) which all say you can expect a 9-10% programming performance jump (and happier developers) for a minuscule capital investment of probably < $500. –  voretaq7 Sep 19 '12 at 15:10
thanks @voretaq7 for the links. Great stuff. –  Yar Dec 28 '12 at 20:34

Since the original question was not "why is it better," but rather "how to convince managers,"

  1. Get a piece of thin cardboard, around 8x10 inches.
  2. Cut a hole in it, 1.25 inches by 3 inches.
  3. Get today's Wall Street Journal.
  4. Hand both to the resistant management.
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brilliant really –  Yar Dec 28 '12 at 20:35

There are number of resources and studies to support your case. A research article found that good wide double monitors increase your productivity by 9 to 50 percent and make your work day easier.

Here is a good reference to support your claim even stronger - Multiple-Monitor Productivity: Fact or Fiction?.

You may also find helpful to look at Codding Horror post - Does More Than One Monitor Improve Productivity?

Overall, it can be summarized as:

Larger monitors mean that you have lesser windows to close, lesser windows to scroll, lesser windows to move around and more windows to be viewed at the same time.

Larger (and FLAT) monitors are ergonomically better for the developers. Less sore eyes mean they can work longer, more effectively and can be more productive overall.

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I've never understood this. You can buy a 20" widescreen for 100 bux nowadays. I agree with the commenter, if management can't fork over 100 dollars for productivity, (and to reduce eyestrain) it's probably not a place you want to be longterm.

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+1 - And on the other side, monitors are like $100 these days. If management won't budge, just go buy one and bring it into work. –  Telastyn Sep 18 '12 at 19:59
Making sure to keep the proof that the monitors belong to you; should you leave the company (or even move out of the team room) someone may squawk that you're taking company property, and you have to be able to prove them wrong. –  KeithS Sep 18 '12 at 20:35
Agreed...I did that at one place where the manager wouldn't budge "if you get one, all of my devs will want one" umm that's kinda my point. I ended up leaving not too long after that discussion ( a few months but things just added up). –  Mike Brown Sep 18 '12 at 20:44

I doesn't seem that the management are arguing against the productivity benefits of dual monitors, since they have dual monitors for the other groups you mentioned. It also doesn't make sense for them to remove monitors from other groups to give to your group. What you need to find out is why they believe that small monitors or a single monitor is sufficient for a developer, and try to counter what they say. It is their responsibility to provide the proper tools for their employees to use.

Another argument you can make is that DBAs/Testers/Admins are all "IT Workers". Developers are also "IT Workers", therefore they need more screen real estate as well.

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