I have to ask you a random question: Would you pay to let a stranger watch you work?

Because that’s the premise of this increasingly popular service, Focusmate.

It’s built on the premise that we as humans are more productive when we’re held accountable to something, or in this case someone.

We’ve all seen the rise of coworking spaces, wherein you rent space in a larger space for the chance to work alongside others. But video coworking takes this concept digital.

According to recent statistics, about 8 million Americans work from home.

And if you’re one of those 8 million, you know how difficult it can be to fight the sweet sweet call of procrastination. From dishes in the sink to social media rabbit holes, the land mines are numerous when you’re on your own.

Now of course, even with all those distractions you can surely be productive and get everything you need to do done. But what Focusmate, and other video coworking services are providing is an accountability factor.

Creative business employee having a videocall in a modern officeStudies show people are more productive when they work in teams, and there are several well-respected productivity hacks like “body doubling” that use the social pressure wrought from the looming presence of others to prod you into focus.

Focusmate specifically uses this hack in the digital space. It’s a free virtual co-working service that pairs you with a complete stranger for 50 minutes of silent, mutual labor over a webcam.

It may sound strange, or something that’s made for creepy people, but it is not!

There are very specific rules and guidelines. And you can look into reviews for the service- there hasn’t been one instance of inappropriate behavior.

So how it works:

  1. Sign up for the time slot you want to work in and get paired with another Focusmate who is just as “committed to blasting excuses and getting important work done” as you are.
  2. Make a short list of tasks you can realistically complete in 50 minutes.
  3. Spend the first 60 seconds of your session announcing these tasks to your partner and listening to theirs. Then, minimize the window they’re in and drag it down into the corner of your screen so they’re always there, and always watching.
  4. Start working in silence, basking in the “power of human accountability.” No chit-chat.
  5. When your 50 minutes are up, check in with your partner, talk about what you’ve accomplished and then it’s bye-bye for now.

We read a really engaging review of one woman who was shocked to find that video coworking really did make her more productive!

So tell me: what do you think about this new concept? Would you try it? Do you see it growing in popularity as more people turn towards working remotely?


Leslie Youngblood is the Creative Director for Excelerate Americathe fun, smart service for small businesses. Would you give video coworking a try? Let Leslie know by emailing her at leslie.youngblood@excelerateamerica.com.

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