Everything you need to know about monitor arms

What is a monitor arm?

A monitor arm (sometimes also called a monitor mount or monitor bracket) is a supportive arm that holds up a computer monitor. Normally, it is clamped to the back of your desk.

As you can see, the benefit of a monitor arm is that it allows you to move your computer monitor screen and thereby vary the position of your screen relative to your eyes, keyboard (hands) and the rest of your body.

Attention all laptop users — monitor arms are for you, too!

If you use a laptop, you may think monitor arms aren’t relevant for you. This is absolutely not true. In fact, you’re arguably more in need of a monitor arm than almost any other modern worker.

What’s the one thing more likely to put you at risk of ergonomic-related chronic aches, pains or worse than working at a desktop computer all day? That’s right: working on a laptop, notebook or tablet all day. Because the relative positions of screen and keyboard are fixed, you can’t vary them. Worse still, those fixed relative positions more or less force you to crouch over your screen, which puts pressure on your spine (next time you’re in a coffee bar, just check out the posture of any random hipster working on a laptop in and you’ll see what we mean – it hurts just to look!).

But with a monitor arm that supports a laptop/notebook/tablet holder, voila! You can view the screen at the appropriate height, and continually vary your position and posture during the day, to enjoy the same ergonomic benefits of a monitor arm as your colleagues using a desktop PC.

Sit-stand desk + dynamic monitor arm = the ultimate ergonomic solution?

As this page explains, the most important feature of a monitor arm is that it’s adjustable. Being able to regularly reposition your monitor so it’s comfortable to view is also critical because, as we explain on our page on monitor arms and sit-stand desks, the single biggest ergonomic danger you face is lack of movement during your working day.

A good quality monitor arm lets you regularly adjust your position relative to your monitor to relieve tensions in your back, neck, shoulders, arms and other body parts. But an even better option is a monitor arm in combination with a sit-stand desk.

Also known as a standing desk, sit stand-up desk and height-adjustable desk, a sit-stand desk can (surprise, surprise) be raised and lowered so you can use it either standing or sitting. This obviously means you adjust your body position throughout the day between sitting and standing but, as our page on the benefits of sit-stand desks explains, when standing your body is constantly making tiny movements, which are healthy. In addition, the positions of your shoulders, arms, etc when typing or using a mouse while standing are different than when sitting – providing yet more of that vital variation and body movement that you want.

Learn more about the benefits of a sit-stand desk with a monitor arm. Or if you’re already convinced, check out our selection of monitor arms that are compatible with a sit-stand desk.

Why you really do need monitor arms in your workplace

Here are just a few reasons why it not only makes sense to use monitor arms in your workplace. It’s actually pretty crazy (maybe even irresponsible) not to:

  1. A monitor arm is important for the health of you and your colleagues:
    by far the most important reason for having a monitor arm is that you can adjust the height, depth and angle of your monitor to get it to the most comfortable and ergonomically healthy position for you.

    If you don’t use a monitor arm, and your monitor just stands on your desk, you tend to hunch towards your screen, moving your spine out of its natural alignment. A monitor arm not only allows you to decide and set for yourself the optimal position of your monitor. It also lets you vary the relative positions of your eyes, monitor and keyboard. If you use your monitor arm in combination with a sit-stand desk, you can adjust your monitor to suit how you work standing-up, as we all adopt a different position relative to our screen when standing to when we’re sitting.

    This variability aspect is very important for your health. Even if you have a great workplace set-up, sitting in one position for hours at a time isn’t healthy. Indeed many researchers, and increasingly a wider public, believe that after a while your body goes into a sort of shutdown (for more detailed information on this - and tips - read Working ergonomically.

    To avoid this, you need to get up and move about, ideally at least every hour. “Great”, you’re probably thinking, “but I still have to get my job done”. True, and that’s where monitor arms have huge benefits. By regularly adjusting the position of your monitor arm, you also adjust the position of your head, hands, arms, back, legs, etc. And these subtle but crucial changes to your body position help avoid familiar stiffness, strains in your back, neck, eyes, arms, backside, legs… pretty well everywhere, actually. Because bad posture tends to have a negative chain reaction through our bodies, generating some nasty aches and pains, or worse – often just when and where you expect and need them least! By far the easiest way to get round this problem is to use a sit-stand desk in combination with a monitor arm.

  2. A monitor arm enhances your workspace and work experience:
    as said, being able to adjust the height, angle and/or depth of your monitor arm has big ergonomic benefits. But a good monitor arm lets you do much more than that.

    Suppose you want to switch from landscape to portrait to see your work from another angle. Or swivel your screen so a neighbouring colleague can see it. Or the afternoon sun is reflecting on your screen. Or you want to find the best position so everyone in the team can see the screen when discussing something you’re working on or you run an impromptu PowerPoint presentation. Whatever your specific ways of working, a monitor arm adds to your workplace’s flexibility — one of the holy grails of modern working. Add the variety of using your monitor arm in combination with a sit-stand desk and you’ll be the envy of all!

  3. A monitor arm creates space and tidies up your workspace.
    A monitor arm gets your monitor off your desk, creating space and allowing you to use your desk surface more efficiently. Space is always handy, of course, and removing clutter nice and zen — but an orderly work environment can also have a genuine positive impact on helping people stay focused and unstressed at work.

    More specifically, a monitor arm creates space for 3 things: (a) important things like your keyboard and mouse, which can be used properly, without (b) fun things, like photos of loved ones or the office 10-pin bowling trophy getting in the way; and creating space in the right place for (c) things you regularly grab, like your coffee cup or phone, which ought to be in your Neutral Reach Zone. Your what??

    The Neutral Reach Zone is a term (don’t you love jargon?) ergonomics experts use to refer to the area on your desk you can easily reach when your upper arms are alongside your body, your elbows bent. Try it: elbows bent, sweep your forearms back and forth across your desktop in an arch and see what you can reach. Ergonomically-speaking, that should ideally include all those things you regularly reach for during a working day. In other words, everything under (a) and (c) above.

    And if you’re thinking “what’s the fuss? I’ll stretch over to grab my phone (the exercise will do me good!)”, think again. By stretching and straining unnaturally, over time you can suffer from musculoskeletal problems like pain and weakness. But with a monitor arm, you can rearrange your desktop and help avoid any such nasty surprises. Again, to minimize those aches, pains, strains and dreaded spasms, combine your monitor arm with a sit-stand desk.

How to get the best out of your monitor arm

As we’ve seen, a monitor arm is a must-have for any health- or efficiency-conscious employer or worker. But you do have to use it correctly.

Here’s a few tips on positioning your monitor arm correctly:
  • The top of the screen should be at your eye level.
  • The monitor screen should be at about arm’s length.
  • Try viewing the screen without thinking about your posture, then check how you’re sitting:
    • Are you sitting up straight?
    • Is your neck in a natural, relaxed, neutral position?
    • Can you see the screen perfectly without having to look up or down?

    If the answer to these 3 questions is yes, then your monitor arm is positioned correctly, and you’re good to go!

What to look out for when purchasing a monitor arm — the key features

Here are some of the key features any good monitor arm should have:

  • Robust:
    A good monitor arm should be strong and responsive, so you can shift your screen to exactly where you need it.

  • Adjustable:
    • You should be able to tilt, swivel and/or rotate your monitor arm either dynamically (at the touch of a hand), or by a simple mechanism (e.g. an easily-accessible tightening knob). In practice, if it’s more complicated than that, you’re simply not going to do it.
    • You may also want to be able to rotate your monitor screen between portrait and landscape.
    • While for some situations (e.g. POS) you may feel static height and depth are fine, it’s also possible to buy monitor arms with dynamic height and/or depth adjustment.

  • Weight bearing:
    Look at how much weight your monitor arm can hold. Quality manufacturers will always provide this information clearly for each of their products. The last thing anyone wants is a monitor arm crashing off – or onto – someone’s desktop!

  • Easy (dis-)assembly:
    when needed, a monitor arm should be easy to move: office layouts change, people move. A quality clamp, bolt-through or wall-mount that’s easy to assemble and disassemble — and can withstand being reassembled occasionally — is no luxury.

  • Good design, great looks:
    • Even among better quality monitor arms, many manufacturers simply don’t think beyond function. But there’s no reason why a monitor arm can’t look good, too. After all, it’s going to part of your workspace for years to come.
    • Smart design can enhance your workspace in other ways, too. Integrated cable management, for example, is good health & safety, and by uncluttering your workspace you help create a positive, anti-stress environment.

You can rest assured all Dataflex monitor arms more than meet all these key requirements for a high-quality monitor arm – both functionally and aesthetically. Beyond that, it’s a question of deciding which features are important for the job your monitor arm will have to do. And, for the reasons we explain in our article on the amazing ergonomic benefits of a sit-stand desk, we recommend considering a monitor arm you can combine now or later with a sit-stand desk.

Discover our wide assortment of monitor arms. There’s one to suit all your needs.

Which monitor arm is right for you? — different types of monitor arm.

Once you’re happy the product and manufacturer meet all the above criteria, here are some further considerations to help you home in and select your ideal monitor arm:

Installing your monitor arm

There are basically 3 ways you can install a monitor arm:

  • Wall-mounted:
    A wall-mounted monitor arm can generally support heavier monitors and can be ideal, for example, in a reception area, meeting room or other shared space.

  • Clamp:
    A clamp fastens the monitor arm to the edge of a desk or table. The clamp is a versatile solution, as you can clamp your monitor arm where you want on your desk. Moving your monitor arm to another desk is also quick and easy.

  • Bolt-through:
    the monitor arm mount is inserted in a hole in the desk and secured underneath. This is a very sturdy option and anchors your monitor exactly where the designer of your desk considers its optimal location to be.

Applications: The right monitor arm for your work environment and set-up

Consider the work situation in which you’ll be using the monitor arm. You have an important choice to make in various respects:

  • Single or multiple monitor arm?
    If you only ever use one screen then a single monitor arm is fine for you. But working with multiple monitors is increasingly common, in which case obviously you need a multiple monitor arm. At Dataflex, for example, we not only have a range of single and double monitor arms, but also monitor arms suitable for 3, 4, 6 and even 8 monitors!

  • Which type of monitor?
    will the monitor arm support a standard PC monitor, a laptop or maybe a heavier TV monitor. Clearly you need to know the maximum weight your monitor arm must be able to support. But it’s also important to choose a monitor arm that will be fit-for-purpose.

  • Will my monitor arm be fit-for-purpose?
    Consider the specific work environment where the monitor arm will be used. Dataflex, for example, has monitor arms designed to work perfectly at POS, for face-to-face workplace arrangements, and in heavy-usage work environments, such healthcare institutions or warehouses. Finding a monitor arm that’s fit for your purposes and the working life it will actually face is one of your most important purchasing decisions.

  • What level of adjustability do I actually need?
    in what ways does your monitor arm need to be adjustable?
    • Height: static (adjusted by e.g. a tightening knob) or dynamic (by finger-touch)
    • Depth: static or dynamic
    • Swivel, tilt & rotation: by how much do you actually need to be able to adjust your monitor? There’s choice enough, from limited adjustment through to +/- 90° swivel, tilt and rotation. And do you also want to be able to rotate the arm? And by how much: some monitor arms you can rotate through 360°.
    • Sit-stand? If you have a sit-stand desk, you will want a dynamic monitor arm that optimizes the ergonomic benefits of your sit-stand desk. And as we explain on our page on sit-stand desks, a sit-stand desk without a dynamic monitor arm is more than just a missed opportunity.

  • Cost:
    no one wants to pay more than necessary. Buying a monitor arm that has all sorts of features and high specifications that you won’t actually use is not so smart. But equally, buying a model you know hasn’t been designed for the work it must do, just because it’s a little cheaper, is nearly always a false economy.

Check out all these features and more in the wide assortment of Dataflex monitor arms.

Or use our monitor arm configurator to create the ideal monitor arm for your needs.