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How “Body Doubling” Improves Productivity

✎ Written by: Emma Loker ✓ Fact-checked by: Kaija Sander, Ph.D.

Have you ever noticed your motivation soar when working in a bustling coffee shop or a busy office? It turns out it’s not just you.

Body doubling, whereby you work alongside others to improve your productivity, has been gaining a lot of traction as a possible productivity hack, especially amidst the rise of remote work.

But it’s important to note that the scientific research on its effectiveness is still in its infancy. Much of the evidence supporting body doubling is anecdotal, primarily consisting of testimonials from people who have tried it out. However, some experts in brain functioning vouch that body doubling can help you stay focused, motivated, and productive.

So, how might having someone share your work environment, physically or virtually, enhance your productivity? And why are people across various fields – from freelancers to corporate employees – saying it’s effective? In this article, we’ll explore these questions by addressing:

What Is “Body Doubling”?

Body doubling is a concept that was taken up by the ADHD community but has found relevance in today's remote work culture. And as the name entails, it involves two or more people working in the same space, either physically or virtually, without necessarily collaborating on the same task.

The presence of another person working alongside you, even if they are engaged in a completely different task, may create a sense of companionship, which could reduce feelings of isolation.

Furthermore, this shared work environment might help alleviate the distractions and procrastination that can come with working alone. For example, seeing others diligently engaged in their work might “anchor” you to be more present and engaged in your task, making it an effective strategy for boosting productivity.

Does Body Doubling Improve Productivity?

While the research for body doubling is still lacking, studies are beginning to identify in which ways working with others may boost productivity. Here are some key takeaways:

1. External Pressure and Accountability

First, body doubling may introduce an element of external pressure. In other words, knowing that someone else is present, even if they're not directly observing your work, might motivate you to stay on task.

One study suggests that working with others in an educational environment may increase external pressure and potentially improve performance among ADHD students in a remote learning context.

For college students, for example, adding a study partner when prepping for an upcoming exam can help improve focus by increasing external pressure. Knowing that you need to study with someone else, take notes, or ask questions might bring out a sense of accountability.

2. Employee Satisfaction and Motivation

Body doubling might also increase employee satisfaction. Research suggests that companies adopting co-working or body doubling approaches may see a boost in employee satisfaction and wellbeing. Research repeatedly shows that higher job satisfaction can lead to less absenteeism, greater productivity, and a lower turnover rate. Therefore, co-working or body doubling approaches may benefit organizations in these ways.

In this context, body doubling might also foster a sense of accountability among employees. Knowing that another person is present and working alongside them could motivate employees to stay on task and strive to achieve their goals. This sense of accountability may make employees feel more valued and appreciated, which in turn could boost their motivation and productivity.

3. Community and Collaboration

There isn’t much research on body doubling and community to date. However, there are some interesting findings on co-working. Research demonstrates that co-working spaces can foster a sense of community and support among workers.

Evidence also suggests that a co-working space can provide various benefits, such as an improved work-life balance, increased sense of autonomy, and reduced social isolation. Employees within this study also preferred this work arrangement to working alone.

How Body Doubling Might Help When You Have ADHD

While body doubling and coworking may benefit people in various contexts, their effects could be particularly valuable for individuals who struggle to maintain focus and frequently get distracted, such as those with ADHD.

As we have discussed in our previous article, How Does ADHD Affect You at Work?, ADHD can present unique challenges in the workplace, including difficulty focusing and with organization and time management. The inherent nature of body doubling suggests that it could offer specific advantages to individuals with ADHD.

A study found that individuals with ADHD often have difficulty staying motivated, especially when tasks are repetitive or require sustained attention. When we consider how co-working and body doubling may help with simple, familiar, and mundane tasks, we can begin to see how these different work environments could be game-changing for someone with ADHD.

However, it’s important to note that much more research is needed to understand the potential link between body doubling and productivity in those with ADHD.

Does Body Doubling Have Other Benefits?

Apart from boosting productivity and reducing procrastination, body doubling might also help build friendships. Working alongside someone else, even virtually, may create a shared experience that could strengthen interpersonal connections.

Evidence suggests that working with friends can reduce our workplace stress, improve teamwork, and help us accomplish tasks. What’s more, when you work alongside a friend or colleague, you're not just getting work done; you're also building a relationship, and research demonstrates that this boosts health and well-being.

Furthermore, the sense of community that may develop from body doubling could create a supportive environment where individuals feel understood and accepted. This might be particularly beneficial for people with ADHD, as these individuals can often experience stigma, judgment, and prejudice regarding their symptoms.

How You Can Start Body Doubling To Improve Your Productivity

If you're interested in trying body doubling to boost your productivity, here are three steps to get you started:

  1. Find a Body Double: This could be a friend, colleague, classmate or even a professional body double. The key is finding someone who you feel comfortable working with and who understands the concept of body doubling.

  2. Set Clear Expectations: Before you start body doubling, it's important to set clear expectations. This includes discussing how you will work together, what kind of interaction (if any) you want during the body doubling session, and how to handle potential distractions.

  3. Try Different Formats: Body doubling can be done in person or virtually. You might find that one format works better for you than the other. Don't be afraid to experiment with different formats to find what works best for you.

It’s good to remember that the goal of body doubling is to boost productivity, not to create additional stress. If you’re feeling stressed as a result of body doubling, take the time to think about what’s going wrong and find a body doubling setup that truly works for you.

Final Word On Body Doubling For Productivity

Body doubling may be a powerful tool that can boost productivity, reduce procrastination, and foster a sense of community. It might be particularly beneficial for individuals with ADHD, helping them overcome common challenges such as lack of motivation and procrastination. However, more research is needed to truly evidence these claims.

As our work culture continues to evolve, tools like body doubling may become increasingly important. Whether you're struggling with productivity, looking for ways to reduce procrastination, or simply want to try a new approach to work, body doubling could be worth considering – it might just be the productivity boost you've been looking for.

Myndlift provides a personalized expert-guided brain training program that can help you achieve your goals towards reaching improved focus and calm. Check if you’re eligible to kick start your journey with us for better brain health from here.


About the author:

Emma is a practicing trainee Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist studying at the University of Cambridge and a psychology writer with years of experience. She achieved a 1st Class Honors Degree in Psychology from Aston University in Birmingham.

About the reviewer:

Kaija Sander is a cognitive neuroscientist and scientific consultant for Myndlift. She holds a BSc in Biomedical Science with a specialization in Neuroscience and Mental Health from Imperial College London and a PhD in Neuroscience from McGill University. Her doctoral research focused on brain connectivity relating to second language learning success. She is passionate about the broader applications of science to have a positive impact on people’s lives.



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