I Completed 2000 Focusmate Sessions of Virtual Coworking in Video Calls With Strangers From Around the World

That’s a thing? Yep. It’s called Focusmate, and it helps you focus and get work done.

Gracia Kleijnen
7 min readDec 27, 2021

Two video call screens in a Focusmate test session with the author high-fiving her coworking partner in the frame on the right; and the Blob in a coworking space high-fiving the author back in a frame on the left.
Screenshot made in Focusmate test session; Coworking space photo by Rodeo Project Management Software on Unsplash; illustration by the author

In February 2021, I surpassed the 1K sessions on Focusmate. Of course, I wrote about it: what it is, how it works, and how it improved my life. With this piece, I’m reassessing my experiences on the platform.

What is Focusmate?

In essence, Focusmate is a calendar where you book coworking sessions with strangers for 25 or 50 minutes in video calls.

During one session, you each work on your own tasks, but together. Your task may be crunching bugs in the terminal, following a morning routine, cleaning the house, or doing taxes. It can be work or self-care-related, on- or off-desk, or something as banal as cooking up tonight’s dinner.

But why would you need someone there when cooking or when doing taxes? You do them by yourself, don’t you?

What is Focusmate *not*?

Focusmate is not a dating service. Making comments or remarks about peoples’ appearance inside sessions or in the community group is inappropriate and unwanted. Focusmate also isn’t a tutoring or homework help service.

Benefits of virtual coworking with strangers

I encountered the following benefits of letting strangers watch me work during video calls:

  • Getting something done vs. nothing. I’m a pro at scrolling the internet or losing track of time while staring at the wall. When I commit to a session, there’s >95% chance I’ll be doing something useful with my time.
  • Having someone there guilts me into working. With the Focusmate partner on screen, I can only watch videos of cats politely asking to be petted for so long. Seeing the other person focused and in The Zone, I’ll start to feel guilty towards myself for wasting my time. So, I buckle up and start pressing down keys at an increased pace myself.
  • It helps me get started. Some people have no difficulties starting daunting or boring tasks. Or any task. I am not…

Gracia Kleijnen

Sheets maker. Comic illustrator. Words on relationships, mental health, productivity & self-development in 35+ pubs. 📕Book author: https://bit.ly/buybumblebook