You always suspected that social butterfly two cubicles away was slowing you down -- and now you have the research to back it up.

New research by Dr. Tim Welsh, who teaches at the University of Calgary, has written a paper that concludes what we all already knew: people in your work environment are holding you back. In fact, even if your co-workers are quiet, if they're within your field of vision, that can be enough to slow down your performance.

It's all in Welsh's paper, titled, "Seeing vs. believing: Is believing sufficient to activate the processes of response co-representation?"

He lost me after "Seeing vs. believing," but fortunately Welsh was interviewed about his paper by his university, probably knowing that clucks like me would never be able to get through the first few paragraphs of his academic-speak, and this is what the professor had to say: "Imagine a situation like a complex assembly line. If you are doing a particular task, and the person across you is doing a different task, you'll be slowed down regardless of their performance."

He says in the press release that it's all hard wired into our central nervous system. If we see someone performing a task, we automatically imagine ourselves doing the same thing.

Welsh conducted a number of experiments that showed people slowing down on their work, when other people were in the same room, doing completely different tasks. He's hoping to show employers that in some job situations where speed and accuracy is important, the employee should have more personal, solitary space to get their work done.

If nothing else, it seems to bolster that case that telecommuting may have even more benefits than we realized.

Geoff Williams is primarily a business journalist for Entrepreneur magazine and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America.

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