Working alone allows focus and prevents distraction, however, it eliminates collaboration and creative problem solving that often comes from sharing ideas with a group. Working in a group allows brainstorming and building conclusions that consider multiple perspectives. The downside of working in a group is that progress is often slower due to group discussion and debate.
The brain functions differently when working as a group according to research published by Dr. Tim Welsh at the University of Calgary. His study suggests that when working near others, the mirror neuron system automatically makes people less productive. When they see someone else working, they automatically imagine themselves doing the same job. This automatic response shifts focus from the task at hand, resulting in decreased productivity.
While productivity may be slowed, an article in The European Financial Review suggests that most people feel better when in the presence of others and for certain tasks, perform better in groups. For example, the article reports that runners typically maintain a faster pace when running with others, and expert billiards players make better shots when others are watching. A study published in Biology Letters found that a rowing team that trained together experienced a more intense surge of endorphins than individuals who rowed alone.