Why Is A Monitor Arm A Good Idea? Discover A More Flexible Way Of Working

It was the year 1991 and the office interiors business I ran with my business partner bought its first premises. At last we had enough space for a proper office and we fitted it out with a large desk arrangement with the main desk each at the front and a smaller return unit on one side.

My return was on my left and I had my PC screen on it because I didn't want it cluttering up my main desk when talking with clients. However for some insane reason I had my keyboard on my main desk instead of on the return.

m2 Monitor Arm

Humanscale M2 Monitor Arm

Consequently when I was using my computer I had to turn my head sharply to the left if I wanted to see what I was typing.

It wasn't altogether surprising that after about 3 months of working like this I developed a neck problem and needed physiotherapy to correct it.

When my physio asked about how I worked, the penny dropped and I took corrective action and bought a monitor arm.

What is a monitor arm?
A monitor arm is basically a flexible articulated arm support which attaches to your desk top and allows you to move and place your screen in many different positions. When old style cathode ray tube screens were the norm the arms were generally chunky heavy-duty things and usually had a tray on which the monitor was placed.

With the advent of flat panel screens this sort of support has been replaced by modern arms which are a lot more stylish and flexible and suit a wide number of monitors.

What are the benefits of modern monitor arms?
Working with a monitor arm offers far more flexibility than simply having your screen sitting on your desktop. Good arms allow an almost infinite variety of different positions; it really is as simple as just pulling or pushing your monitor to where you want it to be.

Not only that, when you want use your desk for other things like writing or maybe releasing a large area of workspace for sorting paperwork, simply push it out of the way until you need it again. It adds a huge amount of versatility to how you use your screen.

What sort of flat panel screens can be used with a monitor arm?
With modern monitors you will generally find that they have a standardized fixing arrangement. If you look at the back of your screen it will probably have 4 brass threaded fixing points, one in each corner. These are usually set out at either 75mm or 100mm centres. You may need to remove a cover plate to locate them.

Provided that the fixing points have been built into your screen it’s then just a case of checking that the arm has the correct fixing plate for your monitor. There are occasions when a screen won’t work with a monitor arm.

What sort of screens might not work with a monitor arm?
Arms designed for use with flat panel screens aren't designed to carry a lot of weight and whilst this shouldn’t be an issue with smaller screens you may every well find your choice is pretty limited if you are using something like a 24 inch or larger screen. So take care to check out the weight carrying capacity of arms you are looking at and make sure they are capable of supporting your arm properly.

Also, iMac users will find that the smaller models don’t have the industry standard fixings built in and so can’t be readily attached to an arm. It is possible to find a conversion kit to do the job, however it relies on attaching to the integrated stand.

Not only that an iMac weighs in at around 30 pounds ruling out many potential arms, and there’s also the strain this dynamic weight may apply to the desktop itself.

But, won’t I have to drill holes in my desk to fit an arm?
In the majority of cases there is no need to drill additional holes in your work surface. This is because most monitor arms are designed to clamp onto the rear edge of your desk and so it’s very simple to mount it onto your worktop.

Some are designed to fit through a hole, however this is generally the same diameter as the electric outlet point fitted to most desks. Consequently it’s just a case of removing the plastic insert from the outlet and using the hole for fixing it all up.

Once the arm is attached to your desk, all that’s left is to fix the plate to the back of your screen through the 4 fixing points. From start to finish the whole thing shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes before you are up and running and working more flexibly.

When should you use a monitor arm?
Given the choice it’s hard to know when you wouldn’t be better off working with a monitor arm. It makes office working so much more flexible being able to move your screen wherever and whenever you like. Hopefully you aren't working in the ridiculously constrained way I did all those years ago. Nonetheless if space is limited a monitor arm will give you the freedom to make the most effective use of your work area.

Let’s summarize the key points we've covered in this article

  • Monitor arms offer a huge improvement in the flexibility of the way you work
  • When you don't need your screen you can simply push it out of the way
  • Most modern flat panel screens include standard fixing points
  • Very large or very heavy screens may be a problem so check things carefully
  • Fitting an arm is a simple job and should only take about 10 minutes
  • When you work in restricted space a monitor arm can improve flexibility greatly

To find out more about working with monitor arms read this article which looks at popular models.

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