Have you ever wondered why you yawn when you see someone else yawning? Well, it might have something to do with the cluster of cells in our brains that mimic what you see, read or hear. These are called mirror neurones and they have a huge impact on the productivity of those in co-working spaces.
Mirror neurones activate and make you experience something that you witness someone else experiencing. Martin Lindstorm explains for Fast Company that, “Mirror Neurons give credence to the old saying ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do.’”.
In another Fast Company article, Jacob Braude explains mirror neurones with the following example, “Researchers discovered that certain parts of your brain light up when you kick your foot. Those same parts of your brain also light up when you just hear the word “kick.” In a separate study, researchers revealed that the word “cinnamon” activates the same part of your brain that turns on when you actually smell cinnamon. You understand the word by simulating the actual experience in your unconscious.”
So, what does this have to do with co-working?
Well, as the scientific evidence suggested, when you are working in an environment where others are also conducting the same activity as you, it increases your productivity. Your subconscious will mimic their behaviour. This means that when you see people around you focusing on their work and being productive, you’re more likely to mimic that behaviour and work more efficiently yourself – without you even knowing it.
Starbucks found out about this scientific evidence and designed their floorplan around it to encourage freelancers and contractors to work in their coffee shops and be churning out productive work.
This could be one reason that co-working spaces are steadily rising in popularity across major cities. Putting the facilities and benefits that come along with them aside, one reason so many entrepreneurs and freelancers are flocking to co-working spaces is probably because they are finding themselves naturally more productive in the environment. Except that it’s not natural, it’s psychology. It’s mirror neurons at play.
Alane Lim in ThoughtCo. writes that, “Mirror neurons are neurons that fire both when an individual performs an action and when they observe someone else performing that same action, such as reaching for a lever. These neurons respond to someone else's action just as if you yourself were doing it.”
Mirror neurons also fire and make us experience emotions when we see similar emotions being experienced by others. So, when we are in an environment where a majority of people are enjoying their work and experiencing a sense of accomplishment and happiness, those witnessing will also feel those emotions.
There is a lot of research still to be done on mirror neurons and their influence on human behaviour but for now, we know enough to understand why we feel, think and act according to our surroundings and how others are acting too.
If you want to be a productive worker, perhaps the answer is surrounding yourself in an environment full of other ambitious, driven workers and let them do the heavy lifting for your brain.
If you’re interested in mirror neurons and want to read more, we suggest the following Fast Company article: read here.