How to Cowork Remotely With Friends—or Strangers


Working from home alone can get lonely and distracting. Social accountability (and better productivity) are just a few clicks away….

For reasons that we’re all aware of, working remotely from home is now far more common than it used to be. That brings with it plenty of advantages, but also a few challenges, such as the need to stay motivated and on task when there are no colleagues around and so many distractions just a click away.

To try and tackle this problem, some people are turning to strangers on the internet—strangers who will sit with them, connected over a video call, while both parties study or work or do whatever needs to be done.

It may sound like a bizarre solution at first, but it works better than you might think. It adds a low level of accountability without much additional effort. If you’re sharing your focus session with someone else, albeit silently and simply, you’re far less likely to be tempted by an afternoon nap or an hour of binge watching.


Illustration of doodle characters working on laptops

Focusmate pairs you with another user to help you focus.

Courtesy of Focusmate

Focusmate is one of the leading services in this particular field, connecting you with another user on the same service so you can get stuff done. You can get up to three free 25-minute or 50-minute sessions per week by registering an account on Focusmate, and unlimited sessions are yours for $5 a month.

All you need to do is tell Focusmate when there are free slots in your schedule, and it’ll match you with a partner plucked at random. There’s no small talk and no collaboration involved: Once you’re connected with each other, all you have to do is share the task you’re working on and then get to it.

According to internal user surveys carried out by Focusmate, 93 percent of people who’ve used the service say that it helped their productivity. Even if those users are somewhat biased, that’s still a high figure—it’s at least worth trying out for free to see whether it helps with your particular way of working.

As long as you’ve got a camera and a microphone on your device, you can use Focusmate. It works with Chrome on the desktop and on Android, and with Safari on the iPhone and the iPad. 

Life At Spaces

Screenshot of computer screen displaying three people on a video call

Life At Spaces lets you invite other people into your working space.

Courtesy of Life at Spaces

Life At Spaces takes a slightly different approach, and the coworking video session that works in a similar way to Focusmate is just one part of what Life At Spaces does. There are other aids to productivity included here, such as desktop spaces to manage your mood, ambient music to keep you focused, and a to-do list tool as well.


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