Work­ing at home can re­duce staff performance, say scientists

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Sarah Knap­ton SCI­ENCE EDITOR

TECH­NOL­OGY makes work­ing from home eas­ier, but ac­cord­ing to a new study, staff who are out of sight may not per­form as well as those in the of­fice.

Re­searchers at Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity in Bal­ti­more, US, wanted to find out whether be­ing watched while un­der­tak­ing a task al­tered performance.

Many peo­ple be­lieve that be­ing un­der con­stant scru­tiny dam­ages their cre­ativ­ity, while oth­ers live in fear of freez­ing in front of an au­di­ence. But the find­ings sug­gest that pres­sure from oth­ers can make peo­ple im­prove.

“You might think hav­ing peo­ple watch you isn’t go­ing to help, but it might ac­tu­ally make you per­form bet­ter,” said lead au­thor Vikram Chib, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of bio­med­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing at Johns Hop­kins and the Kennedy Krieger In­sti­tute. “An au­di­ence can serve as an ex­tra bit of in­cen­tive.”

When peo­ple know they are be­ing ob­served, parts of the brain as­so­ci­ated with so­cial aware­ness and reward in­vig­o­rate a part of the brain that con­trols mo­tor skills, im­prov­ing their performance at skilled tasks.

Dr Chib and col­leagues asked 20 par­tic­i­pants to play a video game. They per­formed the task both in front of an au­di­ence of two and with no one watch­ing, and had their brain ac­tiv­ity mon­i­tored. While peo­ple were watch­ing, par­tic­i­pants were an av­er­age of 5 per cent bet­ter at the game – with some per­form­ing as much as 20 per cent bet­ter.

The re­search was pub­lished in the jour­nal So­cial Cog­ni­tive and Af­fec­tive Neu­ro­science.

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