Last Updated Mar 11, 2008 6:48 PM EDT
This idea is not new, Pfeiffer Consulting and Apple released a report in October 2006 comparing a 17-inch display to Apple's 30-inch Cinema Display with similar conclusions (for digital imaging uses), but the report was criticized by some for neglecting to test mid-range sizes or dual-monitor configurations.
The NEC study rectifies that, coming to the conclusion that for most text and spreadsheet editing, the biggest gains in productivity come with ditching your 18-inch traditional flat panel for either a 24-inch widescreen flat panel (which created a 52 percent productivity gain for a text-editing task) or dual 20-inch flat panels (which resulted in a 29 percent gain in a spreadsheet task.)
I know the first thought that comes to the manager's mind: Big screens and dual monitors are expensive. And, of course, the study shows impressive-looking cost savings based on doing these types of tasks all day long. But its author, Dr. James Anderson at the University of Utah, says it is important to ask yourself how much time a team member actually spends moving info between windows (a strength of the dual-monitor configuration) or scrolling around text- or photo-editing applications. If that number is even just six hours a week, you could make the cost of a 24-inch widescreen monitor back in increased productivity in around 5 months.
(Photo of Dual Monitors via flickr user laffy4k, CC 2.0)