“Even if your willpower is amazing, completely off the charts, in the modern world you’re still contending with more distractions than you’re built to handle.”
According to the chief executive, Focusmate is founded on science. Telling someone precisely what you plan to do, subjecting yourself to social pressure and being held to account are all ingredients required to reach a “flow state”.
“For me, the key element of this idea is making a commitment to somebody else,” says Prof Philip Asherson, a psychiatry expert at King’s College London.
“Doing that has the potential to imbue more meaning into what you’re doing.
“It’s partly giving you a reward that this other person is there to validate what you have done, plus the added social pressure from the implementation and planning.”
The key factor, he adds, is the commitment you make to another person.
“Enhancing the salience of an activity is known to enhance attentional networks in the brain, that improve sustained attention and performance.
“Without empirical study, however, it’s hard to say how well this would work for everyone.”
Nausheen is writing his dissertation, Elons is editing a YouTube video and Rachel is sorting out her finances.
There’s a real mix of people on Focusmate, and the ones I’ve met in my few days on the site have all been impeccable co-workers.
But you wouldn’t be alone in finding the whole idea a bit odd.
Project manager Ben Whitelaw has been using Focusmate for several months.
“There’s been a lawyer in Germany who’s been studying for her exams, I met a guy from Romania who’s trying to learn a language and then I met a guy from California who spent about 25 minutes stretching in front of the camera,” he recalls.
“You can hear people moving around in the background, or you can maybe catch a glimpse of them if they’re working at the desk.
“It gives you a sense that there is this agreement that you’ve concocted yourselves.”
Remote working and telecommuting are on the rise in many countries. Studies have shown a range of benefits from cutting down on vehicle emissions to saving companies money on desk space.
The service and others like have the potential to make workers more productive when away from the office, but first they need to prove more than just a minority of early adopters are willing to give up a further element of their privacy to the internet.