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Monitor Arms Simplified: Why You Need One and How to Pick the Right Style for You

A monitor arm is an awesome piece of equipment that allows much more than a comfortable working posture and wonderful relief for the eyes — through proper desk ergonomics. Because it is part and parcel of healthy office ergonomics in how it encourages movement, it contributes to greater productivity and wellness that serves beyond just ensuring physical comfort.

If you're completely new to the arena, this article will tell you everything you need to know about how they work and will help you figure out what style of monitor arm is best for your particular needs.

First Off: What Is a Monitor Arm?

A monitor arm is a somewhat robotic looking arm that attaches to your desk, wall, or ceiling and raises your monitor to your personal ideal height. It adjusts easily according to your working style — whether you stand, sit, or do a mix of both throughout the day.

Why Do I Need a Monitor Arm?

Reason #1: Find your most comfortable, ergonomic working posture.

First and foremost, raising your monitor to the ideal, ergonomic height is critical for finding your most comfortable working posture. Great posture relieves any strain through the upper body and back, that was previously caused by hunching over or leaning awkwardly back in order to view your screen. A monitor arm also allows you to adjust the height, depth, and angle of your monitor in order to find the setup that works perfectly for your body and workflow.

Reason #2: Eliminate computer eye strain.

Computer eye strain is also called digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome. If you've been working at the computer for years it's no news to you that digital screens can cause your eyes to tire by the end of the day. Without proper care and ergonomic adjustments, strain, fatigue, dryness, and even blurred vision can result. Monitor arms help eliminate these ailments by allowing you to position your monitor screen at the optimal viewing height, angle, position, and distance, so that you aren't straining your eyes to view your work.

Reason #3: Declutter, organize, and optimize the working space on your desk.

Monitor arms create virtually no footprint (because they attach to the back of the desk, the wall behind it, or the ceiling above) — while clearing a vast empty domain beneath the area where your monitor used to sit, having lifted it up and out of the way. This is a tremendous win-win! Having this extra workspace is an absolute game changer for those who enjoy having a flat surface in front of them to write on, or just wide, open space.

And if you decide to start with a simple monitor stand (a stand that sits on your desk and raises your monitor to the correct height), there are certain models that come with all kinds of compartments and drawers for extra storage.

Relatedly, high quality monitor arms come with a cable management system that takes care of unsightly cords. Take our SmartFit® One-Touch Height Adjustable Single Monitor Arm which keeps cables organized and tidy, held within the arm itself, as an example.

Reason #4: A monitor arm is the perfect companion to a standing, adjustable-height, or active desk.

If you move through sitting, standing, walking or biking postures throughout the day, a monitor arm is the perfect companion to your ergonomic workstation — easily adjusting to each position, as you move. The critical spec to look for here in order to experience that ease of adjustability is a gas or spring lift system that allows for one-touch height adjustments. The built-in gas spring within our SmartFit® One-Touch Height Adjustable Dual Monitor Arm, for instance, makes adjustments between monitor positions smooth, easy, and virtually effortless.

Also, if your workstation is active in some regard, make sure that your chosen monitor arm guarantees stability and steadiness in its design.

Reason #5: Increase your productivity.

Dual and multi-monitor arms give you total command over the visual display of your work, enabling a whole world of possibilities in terms of how you want to setup your screen(s) for the most comfortable and natural working experience. Whether side-by-side, one monitor on top of the other, portrait or landscape, or three monitors horizontally lined up for an almost panoramic experience, this creative command equates to an awesome increase in productivity.

Relatedly, curved displays are proven to increase productivity while contributing greater comfort, because the curvature brings the sides and corners of the screen closer to your eyes, reducing the amount of movement needed to navigate.

Reason #6: Collaborate more easily.

A computer monitor arm allows you to easily shift your screen, sharing your work with coworkers. If this feature is important to you, make sure the model you opt for promises 180° of horizontal rotation and is easy to swivel from side to side.

What You Need to Know as You Shop for Your Ergonomic Monitor Arm

How much does my monitor weigh?

This will define the weight capacity to look for in your product.

Is my monitor VESA compliant?

VESA compliance is the technical term to describe the compatibility between a monitor arm mount and the back of the monitor itself. A VESA compatible monitor has standard mounting holes drilled into the back that allow for any mount to be screwed in — these are typically drilled directly into the frame of the monitor itself and look like a square hole pattern. The pattern, sometimes hidden behind the computer's attached stock monitor stand, is either 75mm X 75mm or 100mm X 100mm, though larger monitors may have larger patterns. Take a look to identify what kind of monitor arm mount you need to fit your monitor.

If your monitor isn't VESA compliant, consider aftermarket brackets which wrap around the corners of your monitor or a VESA adapter which secures to the back.

How many monitors do I plan to use?

This will identify whether to look for a single, dual, or multi-monitor arm. Though you can set up multiple monitor arms for multiple screens, setting up one that accommodates all of your screens is the best way to optimize the space on your desk.

How deep is my desk?

This will identify how long you need your monitor arm to be.

What style of monitor arm mount is right for me?

The most popular monitor arm mounting styles are either desk clamps or grommet mounts, followed by wall or ceiling mounts. The style right for you depends primarily on how permanent your workstation is. The brief below will help.

  • Free Standing Mount: This is the simplest mount style — the mount base, weighed securely down by a heavy plate, sits at the back of your desk and supports the arm.
  • Desk Clamp Mount: This is a more sophisticated style equally fit for a short-term, semi-permanent solution. It's also called a C-clamp or edge clip, which clamps to the back edge of your desk (measure this edge to ensure the clamp will hold securely).
  • Grommet Mount: This is a more permanent solution. The supporting arm feeds through a grommet hole, which you'll need to drill if your desk doesn't have one, and secures the base of the arm on the ground. This style is an equally stable alternative to a C-clamp if the edge of your desk is too shallow for one.
  • Wall or Ceiling Mount: These are the most permanent mounting styles, securing to wall behind the desk or ceiling above.

Note that some products come with both a desk clamp and grommet mount. Take our SmartFit® One-Touch Height Adjustable Dual Monitor Arm with both mounting styles built into the product to fit and adapt to your workstation, in case your setup changes, as an example.

Because monitor arms enable a higher level of productivity, comfort, and collaboration, investing in one is a direct investment in yourself — your work and your well-being. And figuring out which style is right for you is a simple matter of taking stock of how you naturally work best, and picking the product that supports and elevates your unique working style.

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