Having grown up in the ergonomics industry, products like monitor arms were something that just seemed to be a normal part of life. When I started BTOD.com in 2005, I quickly realized that while this was normal for me, it wasn’t the case for the masses.
Over the last 13 years I’ve found that more computer users are realizing the value add that comes with products like monitor arms. A monitor arm is an important accessory for anyone who wants to create a more comfortable work environment. But does that mean they’re for everyone?
In this post we are going to cover the top 7 problems for monitor arms. After you’ve had a chance to learn what some of the issues are, hopefully you’ll know if it is a good fit for your ergonomic needs.
Full Disclaimer: We are an office furniture dealer and sell some of the products we review. To learn more about the products we sell, our review process and why you can trust us, please visit: Why we’re different. Who is BTOD.com and The Breakroom Blog?
Top 7 Monitor Arm Problems
- Monitor Requires VESA Mount
- Stability Issues
- Low Weight Capacities
- Monitor Width Restrictions
- Can be Difficult to Adjust
- Bad Wire Management
- Only Available in Clamp or Grommet Mount
1. Monitor Requires VESA Mount
The number one problem I’ve found over the time I’ve sold monitor arms is how they attach to the monitor. VESA compliance is like a foreign language if you’re new to the category.
Having a VESA compliant monitor means that it comes with standard mounting holes on the back of the monitor. For computer monitors, you’re looking for something that is likely a 75mm X 75mm or 100mm X 100mm pattern.
One of the biggest issues is finding a monitor that is VESA compliant. I haven’t found there is real consistency across the major monitor brands for VESA holes on their monitors.
Shopping locally at stores like BestBuy can be difficult, as they offer even fewer options for VESA compliant monitors. Apple monitors are one of the worst brands for VESA compliance, with few models including mounting holes on the back.
The first thing you’ll need to find out is if your existing monitor has a VESA compliant mount. This process is straightforward, but some of the monitor brands hide the VESA holes. Some common places are behind the stock monitor stand, or hidden behind a panel that isn’t part of the monitor stand.
When customers call us at BTOD.com we typically do a quick search of the brand + model #. Looking through the specs you should be able to find out if it is VESA compliant.
If you find out your monitor isn’t VESA compliant, they do make aftermarket brackets that you can add to your monitor. These aren’t nice looking, so they can be a turn off for some users. They wrap around the corners of your monitor and provide a bracket on the back of the monitor. They can also add to the weight of the monitor, so you will want to pay attention to this with the weight capacity of the arm.
If you’re an Apple user, they make add-on brackets that can be purchased to retrofit monitor arms. While this does cost additional, they look much better than the brackets mentioned above.
2. Stability Issues
If you’ve been in the market for a standing desk, there is a good chance you’ve read about my obsession with stability. Having a standing desk that wobbles all over can be a major distraction. The same is true for your monitor arm, and if paired with a standing desk the problem can be significantly worse.
When you look at the design of a monitor arm, they rise up from some type of post or gas arm system. The further they get from where they are mounted, the more you will notice monitor bounce and shake. If you decide to go with a cheap, flimsy monitor arm, this problem will be noticed more than a high quality product.
One of the benefits of a monitor arm is that they free up your desk space. They also require a smaller footprint when compared to a stock monitor stand. Most monitor arms are mounted with compact C clamps or grommet mounts. Both of these systems will most often be mounted at the back of your workstation. This is done to keep your desk clear and is one of the reasons I love monitor arms.
In order to provide proper ergonomics, you will need to bring the monitors closer to your eyes. Depending on the depth of the desk and your eyesight, you could potentially pull them forward 12”-18”. Extending the arm out this far from the post will naturally cause bounce issues.
Monitor bounce is an inherent issue with monitor arms. It is something that be can be tough to completely eliminate, with so many different variables. Focusing on stability throughout your entire workstation is key. If you are someone who is a hard typer or viscious with the mouse, changing your habits might be the only solution.
When we look at the best solution for a monitor arm, my first suggestion is looking at a quality monitor arm. That doesn’t mean that you need to spend $100’s, it just requires a solid monitor arm system. Cheaper arms will be made from low quality components that tend to flex more.
The second thing would be to look at post systems vs. gas/spring arms. Post systems will mount on the desk and provide a solid mount for the monitor. Keeping your monitor as close to the post will eliminate the bounce that is exaggerated the further you push away from the post. This is especially true for users that want to use larger monitors.
3. Low Weight Capacities
With a lot of monitor manufacturers switching over to LED solutions, weight isn’t as big of an issue as it used to be. That doesn’t mean that it still isn’t a problem though. As monitors have become less expensive, users have been slowly increasing the size of their monitors.
If you are using a 22” LED monitor, chances are you won’t have a weight issue. If you are using dual +24” monitors, some monitor arms might not work properly.
This is especially true for users that want the flexibility of a gas/spring arm system. While these are nice for users that are making frequent height adjustments, they will oftentimes offer lower weight capacities than a post system.
If you exceed the weight limit for the arm, there is a good chance you will notice your monitors slowly drop. If they are held up by a gas cylinder, exceeding the weight limit could also damage the cylinder, shortening the lifespace of the arm.
Using lightweight monitors like LED’s are the best solution for reducing the weight of your monitor. These will be the lightest options that are affordable for most people. When looking at the weight of your monitor, make sure to look for the weight of the base/stand. Manufacturers will often include this in the overall weight.
The best product solutions depend on your individual needs. If you are looking to mount the arm to your desk, because it’s an adjustable standing desk, I would look at post systems. If you are mounting directly to the post, or extending off a fixed arm, these should offer higher capacities than a spring alternative. There are even heavy capacity post systems made for large LCD TV’s.
If you don’t need to tie the monitor arm directly to your desk, you can look at wall mount systems. Many of these solutions will offer higher weight ratings than gas/spring arms. If you need height adjustment, these aren’t always the best option.
4. Monitor Width Restrictions
If you’re using wide screen monitors that are 24” and wider, you will likely need to look at the size restrictions on your monitor arm. Because the majority of computer monitor arms offer full tilt and pan capabilities, they can have issues as the monitor becomes too wide.
Most monitor arms will use a ball joint that provides the tilt/pan function. The joint is able to be loosened and tightened, depending on the size/weight of the monitor. Once a monitor becomes too wide, the leverage created from the weight outside this connection point creates issues.
While the pivot point can be tightened, it is only to a certain point. Depending on the materials used, the joint can break down as the adjustment is tightened too far. If the leverage created is too great, the screw can start to slip as well. When this happens you’ll find your monitor tipping and rotating.
It’s important to pay close attention to the restrictions listed by monitor arm manufacturers. This is a cheat sheet to ensure the monitor won’t have tipping and rotation issues.
Once you get beyond a certain size monitor, the way manufacturers build tilt/pan functions will change. Most of the time the arm will become similar to what is used on wall mounts for televisions. While these systems will have some adjustments, they won’t be as easy to change as the type created for computer monitors.
5. Can be Difficult to Adjust
How easily a monitor arm adjusts can be a problem for some users. There are five basic adjustments that you can expect with a monitor arm. These five adjustments are: height, depth, lateral, pan and tilt.
Not all monitor arms function the same way, with some options requires loosening to collars or bolts to make adjustments. These adjustments can include height, pan and tilt. If you plan on making frequent adjustments, or have multiple users at the same workstation, this can pose a problem.
When you introduce multiple monitors, almost all of the monitor arms become difficult to adjust. Trying to get the monitors to properly line up, with the same height and tilt can be an annoyance. When visiting offices, I find that a lot of the dual monitor setups aren’t properly set up. Like mentioned above, if you’re in a shared work environment or like to make frequent adjustments, this becomes a bigger issue.
Users that we find making more adjustments are working on a standing desk. When the desk moves from sitting to standing, they like to tweak their monitor setup.
The first thing I tell customers, is that unless you’re in a shared work environment, monitors should be a set it and forget it scenario. Once you position them properly, you really shouldn’t have a reason to continue tweaking them.
If you find yourself making a lot of height adjustments, I would suggest looking at gas/spring systems. These were designed to make height adjustments a lot simpler. Simply grab the monitors and make an adjustment.
The only problem we’ve found with simple gas/spring systems is linked to the pan/tilt function. When grabbing the monitors, the monitors tend to pan or tilt inadvertently. When this happens it can be frustrating, especially for users with dual monitors.
If you’re using dual monitors and plan on making a lot of height adjustments, especially for standing desk users, I would suggest looking at systems that move in unison. Some of these systems will have a grab bar; this eliminates the issue of touching the monitors. Others will make the height adjustment function easy enough to prevent issues with pan/tilt changes to your monitors.
6. Bad Wire Management
If you haven’t had the opportunity to use a monitor arm, but have friends or coworkers that do, you’ve likely seen the wire chaos that many of these users have. The reason is because some of the monitor arms being offered don’t provide proper wire management.
Monitors will have two wires, a power wire and the video plug. If you have two monitors, the wire situation doubles and becomes an even greater eye sore. These wires will go to a power strip or wall, and the the computer’s video card. Even though they end up at different areas, they should still be able to route through the monitor arm and split just below the desk surface.
These wires tend to be fairly thick, especially the power wires. Because of this, they aren’t as easily fit into some of the stock wire management systems on monitor arms. A lot of the cheap systems we’ve tested don’t do a good job holding the thick wires when making adjustments to the arm.
Even when monitor arms include wire management, they still leave a good portion of the wires exposed. They tend to only route a portion of the wires, leaving you with a partial wire management solution.
If you’re on a tight budget and can’t look at higher-end products, there are some quick solutions. The first would be to zip tie your wires together, if possible with a tie that matches the wires. This will blend the zip tie and reduce some of the clutter with wires running all over.
If you don’t like the look of zip tying the wires, you can look at alternative wrap like solutions. These will allow you to route your wires through a consistent tube/wrap.
If you have space on the arm and can easily zip tie to the arm, I would suggest looking to do this as well. Routing the wires down the arm will help reduce the clutter, keeping a uniform look.
If you find a monitor arm that does a good job with wire management, make sure it is capable of holding thick power cables. You also want to make sure that you can still make easy adjustments with the wires routed through the monitor arm.
7. Only Available in Clamp or Grommet Mount
The last problem that we’ve found with monitor arms is how they mount to your desk. The two most commonly used mounts for computer monitor arms are the clamp and grommet. The biggest issue is that monitor arm manufacturers typically include one of the two options.
If you’re not familiar with what these options are, let me quickly explain each. A grommet mount passes through a grommet hole in your desks surface. Some desks come with these holes. if they don’t it would require the user to make the hole themselves. A clamp mount is a C clamp that attaches to the edge of a surface.
Both of these options are equally as solid. A grommet mount will provide a more finished solution, but requires a more permanent setup, considering the need for a hole in your desk. A clamp mount will give you better flexibility, especially if you want to move your monitor arm.
The problem though, what if you don’t have a grommet now, but might have one in the future? The problem could be the opposite, having a grommet now, but moving to a desk that doesn’t have one. If your monitor arm system only comes with one option, it doesn’t provide a lot of flexibility for your future needs.
If you’re a user that plans on changing desks or feel your needs will change over time, you want to look for solutions that offer both out of the box. While you may pay extra for this type of solution, you will get more out of your investment.
With free space on a desk surface coming at a premium these days, monitor arms are proving their worth more so than ever. You can pair this with improper viewing angles created from stock monitor stands; using a monitor arm can provide a healthier computing option for you.
Just because something has a lot of value add, doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. Before you jump into buying a monitor arm, read through our top problems to ensure you make the right pick the first time. Do this and you’ll feel confident you’ve made the correct buying decision.
Additional Office Ergonomics Resources
- How To Set Up An Ergonomically Correct Office Space
- Top 6 Reasons To Buy An Ergonomic Keyboard Tray
- Top 7 Problems & Solutions For Keyboard Trays
- The History Of Ergonomics In The Office
- Top 3 Problems After Buying Ergonomic Office Furniture
- How Proper Ergonomics In The Workplace Reduces Employers’ Cost