When it comes to getting work done we all aim for maximum production and efficiency. The only problem, however, is that there is always something there to distract us.
Whether it’s our phones, the pretty girl walking down the street, or the string attached to your hoodie, every excuse is a good excuse to avoid getting work done.
However, if you’ve noticed, when we are around other people who also have their head down focusing on work, somehow the distractions lessen and we are able to focus just a little bit more.
Well, according to Dylan Minor, a professor of managerial economics at the Kellogg School of Management, and Jason Corsello, senior vice-president at the human-resources software company Cornerstone OnDemand, the reason why you might actually get more done sitting in a coffee shop isn’t actually about you.
As explained in Harvard Business Review, your enhanced productivity in with people around you is not only because you focus better when you’re surrounded by people who look like they’re working hard, but because they’re working in close proximity to you.
In their study the two compiled two years’ worth of data for 2,000 employees across several locations of a single company, looking at both productivity and the quality of their work, as well as their physical location within the office. In the findings they concluded:
“For every performance measure, we looked at ‘spillover,’ a measure of the impact that office neighbors had on an employee’s performance. Assume a worker has three coworkers: one sits next to her, one sits 25 feet away, and another sits 50 feet away. We looked at the performance of the three coworkers along with their distance from the worker, and through various data modeling techniques we measured the average spillover of their performance on the worker.”
At the end of the study, they managed to categorize workers into three groups: productive workers, who had speed; quality workers, who took their time but finished with better work; and generalist, who leaned toward the middle of both.
When going over the study they found that their results were not final; that each type was influenced by the other.
In other words, they explained, “replacing an average performer with one who is twice as productive results in his or her neighboring workers increasing their own productivity by about 10 percent, on average.”
The good news is that they only saw signs of positive influence. Lesser performers could improve by sitting next to their harder-working peers, but couldn’t drag down their better performing seatmates. (Average workers, they found, weren’t as susceptible to the spillover effect from either direction.)
The catch is that workers could only influence others that were not in their category. A productive worker could not influence another productive worker and a quality worker could not influence another quality worker and so on.
So next time you’re going to your favorite study spot try and drag along the brains of the friend group and see if your production will increase.