Nicole Onyia, 24, goes live on TikTok for about five hours a day while juggling her full-time job as a data analyst.
You might ask yourself, like a 1960s infomercial narrator, “How does she do all this?” The answer: She does both at the same time, broadcasting live herself working from home to audiences ranging from hundreds to thousands of viewers.
She usually starts work at 9 a.m. and goes online an hour later. Onyia’s TikTok live videos, which she calls “working alone together”, have garnered her more than 100,000 subscribers. She has an aesthetic office setup with ambient music, and she occasionally stops work to answer questions in her comments section from viewers who work alongside her.
Onyia is splitting of the body, or parallel work – a new term for an old strategy: working in the presence of others. Traditionally done in the same room, the trend is now taking over TikTok live and Zoom as remote work leaves many struggling to focus or looking for community.
For some, watching someone work on a laptop might seem as boring as watching paint dry. And others might find it troubling, given that the workers are foreigners. But with more people struggling with ADHD and an epidemic of loneliness, body splitting is seen as a way to assuage both conditions.
People with ADHD sometimes struggle with self-directed attention, self-control and other processes, says Allie K. Campbell, who hosts live “ADHD coworking sessions” every Thursday on TikTok for her 88 000 subscribers. The stranger in the splitting of the body serves as an unbiased and accountable “other” who helps to come out of personal struggles, Campbell explains. She adds that it has been “completely game-changing” for her productivity and that of other people with ADHD she has worked with.
It’s not the newest concept, but one that’s “exploding” because it’s become more accessible and innovative through technology, says Dr. David Sitt, a licensed psychologist and professor at Baruch College. He noted that many people who counsel people with ADHD said it was easier to work in the presence of someone else. Plus, he added, streaming work sessions allow you to connect with people around the world, which is helpful when it’s hard to get people to actually commit to working with them. you IRL.
This was the case with Onyia, who started doubling her body sporadically about a year ago. As someone with ADHD, Onyia usually calls a friend while doing chores. One day no one was available, so she turned to TikTok and went live instead, expecting friends to show up. She was surprised at how much work she did and that others who joined said it also helped them focus. She likes the office but lives an hour away; with her phone, she can find people looking for companionship almost instantly.
“It made my heart happy in a weird way,” she explains. “I work from home, I go to school at home, I don’t go out of my apartment much. And being able to connect with people all over the world and we’re all working together from home is a really fun feeling.
While Sitt recounts Fortune he hasn’t seen any formal research on this feature hack, he’s been promoting this type of behavior to his customers for a very long time and sees “great value” in it.
Body splitting can help workers with ADHD be more productive
Campbell’s weekly coworking sessions are complete with upbeat music she DJs. Her interactions with her live followers aren’t that different from those of her friends or former colleagues, she says.
She created the space in 2021 while working for a nonprofit, but when they ordered a return to the office, she quit for a “lifestyle that allowed me to work where I wanted, when I wanted, and most importantly, how I wanted,” says Campbell.
Now working as a freelance content creator and digital communications specialist, Campbell has done just that with her live streams. “Engineers, artists, teachers, entrepreneurs, etc., and I’ve probably seen it in at least one stream,” she adds. What brings them all together: a better work environment or, as Campbell’s slogan goes, “Have fun and get shit done.”
At the heart is accountability — when you have someone you share goals with, you’re more likely to achieve them, says Alicia Navarro, CEO of FLOWN, a company that hosts Zoom body doubling. A University of East London study of 101 FLOWN members found that a majority indicated an above-average impact on focus (96%) and productivity (94%).
“If you watch an entire screen of people concentrating and working, it’s much easier for your own nervous system to calm down and almost unconsciously reflect those positive behaviors,” Navarro says.
This benefit is similar to coworking, Sitt says. It’s what people with ADHD needed after the pandemic took away the structure of routine, leaving them more distracted and possibly leading to an increase in diagnoses. As people worked from home, he says, they “got a lot thinner” and realized they weren’t as good at multitasking as they originally thought. “The ADHD community has grown tremendously during COVID,” he says. “And being able to tap into conversations around ADHD is more available.”
For Onyia, having people watching her TikTok lives is a good reminder to keep working. “I always call it using social pressure,” she says, adding that talking to people live has also made her more confident in other areas of her career, including speaking and giving presentations, something she sometimes has trouble doing. obstacle.
The duplication of the body responds to a need for community
Body doubling also fills a need for friendship that working from home can’t always meet. These days, friendships seem harder to come by — many Americans have lost friends during the pandemic, according to the Survey Center on American Life. And in a remote environment, work friends (who can boost happiness) can be harder to forge and require greater intentionality.
It’s another way the body double is like a coworking space, FLOWN’s Campbell says. With many workers now on hybrid schedules, the offices weren’t really doing the job. “I think it started for the same reason a lot of things started: there was a group of people who felt like their needs weren’t being met, and once they found a tool that helped them meet those needs, he took,” Campbell says of doubling the body.
As a testimonial from a FLOWN regular states, “Being mostly home-based and a single parent, I love the social aspect.”
Navarro says his sessions create a sense of community and help participants alleviate loneliness. “People crave human connection,” she says.
Onyia explains that she was able to connect with others in a way that reminds her of a college library or a study room with friends. She has people showing up every day now, and some are becoming friends in her comments section.
“I have my regulars. It’s pretty cool,” she said. “And now I’ll have like 8,000 people watching me in a live stream. It’s absolutely crazy for me.