Do You Get More Done Working Alone or Around Others?

The idea of working all alone seems pretty tempting: nothing to distract your thinking process, no stress from the jerk on the cell phone.  Just quiet.

Too quiet.

Sometimes my mind gets distracted by the silence – I find myself wondering where everyone is.  So, like some other people who work from home I put on the television.  Sometimes that does the trick, but at other times I just really wish there were some people around.  Not co-workers, not people I know, but just (quiet) people as background noise.  I worked from a café the other day and I got so many things done, so many ideas just popped up in my mind.  The ambient noise was a catalyst of sorts.

What about you? Are you more productive at home, working alone, or when you’re around others?

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Freelance writer, translator and copyeditor currently living in Amsterdam. Former stressed-out marketing and public relations person in NYC. Likes languages but really doesn't like flowers. Contact through


  1. Nathan Nash on the 8th July

    When I’m alone I find it easier to get distracted and stray of task when I’m working making it difficult to get work done. This is a pain when freelancing because you have to be honest about your billable hours. You can’t really count anything less than 15mn of solid billable work. Being in a studio environment helps me focus much better on a project, and allows me to be more productive.

  2. Vanesa on the 8th July

    I get very distracted around my friends. Sometimes, the only way to get work done is to isolate myself. I’m not a very social person and I find I’m more productive with no one around. I’m also more creative, because I don’t have any outside influences.

    But sometimes I also need people to support and encourage me. I need people around long enough to feel “connected” to the “outside world”, or I’ll feel lonely.

  3. Tanya Stevenson on the 8th July

    I find when I am trying to determine what to do I work better with others. I love the energy the “group” work creates. Also, I find the group creates so many other fab idea. 1+1=11 awesome things! This is especially true for me when I get to chose the people I work with on the project. But once a plan is formulated I want to get down and focus, turn on the right music to keep my heart rate up and get the work done. It all depends on the “type” of work that needs to get done for me.

  4. rob on the 8th July

    It really depends on the task, but most often I’m at my best flying solo…

  5. Latteperday Michael on the 8th July

    Definitely ambient (or background noise) helps break the distraction of silence but also helps me to focus on what I’m doing and drown out other “distracting noises”. E.g. the loud hum of the aircon can help me drown out the guy talking loudly on his cellphone.

    That said, music and other noises are great for design inspiration. I find with writing and other admin tasks though, that I prefer silence! I guess it depends on the task (and sometimes the deadline!)

    Interested to hear what others think about their own particular preferences…

  6. Damon Sharp on the 8th July

    Usually solo, but if I can put on the noise canceling headphones to block out others, they can stay.

  7. suhail on the 8th July

    i like to work with a team, when working in a team, i feel motivated or else just being alone, gets me down.

  8. Working alone for me. I get distracted if people are around.


  9. Winston Muller on the 9th July

    I worked at home for over a year, it was very, very quiet, so much so that when I moved back into an office environment at the beginning of this year I found it difficult NOT to get distracted everytime someone spoke.

  10. Erik Jansson on the 9th July

    If I’m working with programming, I need to be alone in order to solve certain problems. Any type of distraction (a fly, even) will get me off track.

    When it comes to designing, I don’t mind having people around me. If that’s not possible, I usually put some music on (Orbison or Cash!).

    – Erik

  11. Lily on the 9th July

    I was going to say working from home, alone. But – you’re right, I’ve gotten much more done in settings like your cafe. I think the key for me is – work around people, but make sure it’s people who have no reason to talk to you whatsoever.

  12. Brad on the 9th July

    Depends on what I’m doing. If I’m writing (I’m a freelancer) I get more done alone. If I’m doing other menial office tasks I like to have someone around to banter with as it makes the time go by faster.

  13. Hameed Rahamathullah on the 9th July

    I find myself productive only when I work alone, that too at night times. I’ll get distracted easily.

    At the same time, to get some creative ideas I would like to be with my friends / colleagues. I chat with them on the topic to grasp / evolve new concepts.

  14. on the 9th July

    I thought I mostly enjoyed working alone and have for many years now. My husband has quit his corporate job a few months back and teamed up with myself and my business. I really believed it was going to be a nightmare (you know, working AND living together)…however, it has actually been a godsend. I was losing focus and desire for what I was doing and he has ignited a new fire under my belly. Now between the two of us we can take our business to the next level. For some reason this IS working.

  15. J Munro on the 10th July

    I much prefer working alone, if I have some general research or blogging to do, then I might go to the cafe just as a change of scenery, but if I’m working then I have to do it in silence.

    Other people are pretty irritating I find!

  16. Freelance FactFile on the 12th July

    Definitely working alone – no distractions. And working out of office hours is even better as there are no calls, or emails, or requests to ‘can you just…’.

  17. Crystal on the 15th October

    I am a social butterfly, so for critical things I NEED to get done, (like what I’m working on now) I absolutely have to work isolated away from home, like in the corner in a coffee shop that has wi-fi. Then i can air my brain, breathe and thereby concentrate on what I need to do and get it done. Don’t get me wrong, I can work as a part of a team, and I do prefer that, but with my workload increasing, I feel the need to develop my focus so I now steal away in a coffee shop alone, where I’m not being asked to do a lot of shifting things that take my attention away from what I need to do right now. and I do get things accomplished.

  18. FlyingPen on the 22nd October

    I’m with the author. I get way more done when there are signs of life around. When I’m the only one in the office I don’t like it, but I equally dislike working in teams.. not the concept, it’s just rare that you get the right dynamic and palate of skills.

    I didn’t realize how much I dislike working alone until we had other people in our office.. now when they aren’t here, I notice and I am unmotivated. Perhaps I feed off their energy in an indirect way.

  19. rahul on the 19th October

    i am working alone in my site and having so much workload how can ask my senior to arrange one helper please assist.

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