If you are an avid reader (I can vouch for it since you are reading this amazing blog), you must have caught yourself at least once reading the novel and completely forgetting the surroundings. Let’s say you started at page no 108 and when you closed the book it was 394! (or even more?) You would hear your siblings/friends/spouse say, “How long did you take!” whereas it just felt like an hour (at the most) to you. WHY? Because “YOU WERE IN YOUR ZONE!”

 We often observe famous personalities (eg: Nelson Mandela)  are impressed by the ease with which they carry out the task at hand, how they control situations rather than situations controlling them! This state of being is termed as “FLOW” It is a positive mental state of being completely absorbed and immersed in a particular activity for its own sake. You are using your skills as best as possible and every decision inevitably follows from the previous one. You lose track of time, fatigue and physical surroundings. Tell me a CEO who would not want their employees to experience Flow! Now, what if I told you Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (the person who coined the term) made it possible for each one of you to consciously trigger such an enjoyable state of being!

Here is a list of 5 ways in order to trigger Flow in the workplace!

1.  I WORK FOR MY DREAMS

James Taylor rightly mentioned in the lyrics of his song, “You can play the game and you can act out the part. Though you know it wasn’t written for you.” Sometimes employees at work feel that they are working in order to achieve someone else’s goals. Even though the task at hand is opening doors to so many other opportunities they feel burdened. Employees report to work however they are not engaged. They complete the task for the sake of it. This burden can be a potential hindrance on the way towards experiencing flow. Managers can play a prominent role in reinforcing competence, helping the employees get free from experiencing burden. Organizational Success is a two-way street. Keeping this in mind, the manager can communicate the organisation’s strategy and vision with the employee. Later on, the manager can also explain how the employee’s tasks will affect the larger organisational picture. This will help the employee find meaning in their task. Clear communication also helps in clearing ambiguity which can be a great barrier in order to experience a state of flow. Communication between the managers and the employees is very essential in aligning the organisational goals with that of the employee’s personal goals. Misalignment makes the work delivered by the employees redundant and inefficient. Google uses OKR (Objective Key Result) in order to create alignment and engagement among the employees. Thus, clarity and alignment provided by communication is necessary for experiencing flow.

2.  INSTANT GRATIFICATION (Immediate feedback)

   Upgradation of technology, and the current pandemic, has transformed the employees into ‘digital zombies’ and these digital zombies are driven on the principle of instant gratification, they are just one click away from almost everything. In such a scenario the organisations have to axe the traditional annual evaluation methods. If Tom Cruise is not acting a particular scene of a movie very well, the director will not tell him at the end of the movie. Instead he needs to be told immediately in order to increase the effectiveness of the scene. Similarly, when employees are given immediate feedback, they tend to invest the efforts in improving their task performance, this not only is an investment in the employee’s professional and personal development but also brings the organisation closer towards realizing its goals.

Various companies are ditching the traditional methods of annual performance review. Even GE, a company known for its intense employee reviews processes is changing the way it assesses its employees. Managers and Employees can exchange feedback whenever they want by using an app called PD@GE

Using gaming elements in the workplace is one of the best sources to provide instant gratification to the employees. Employees can track their progress, receive certificates immediately after the completion of a task. Real time input facilitates the employee to learn while they are working this promotes a growth mindset which plays a major role in experiencing a state of flow.

3.  CHALLENGING YET ATTAINABLE GOALS.

   In order to trigger a flow experience, it is essential to balance the challenges with the employees personal skills. Let’s consider the example of learning to play a guitar. On day one if your tutor starts teaching you the song without even explaining the basics such as the correct way to hold the guitar, different chords and names of strings. The goal is to learn the song directly which is a challenging task however, without the basic knowledge it is practically impossible to accomplish this challenge. Likewise, employees need to set those goals for themselves which are challenging but also attainable and more importantly which match their current skill sets. When an imbalance is witnessed between the challenge and skill set the employee tends to experience frustration and disengagement. However, even when the task is less challenging compared to the employee’s skills, they experience apathy and disinterest.

Vroom’s Expectancy Motivation Theory, explains how an  employee’s performance is based on conscious choices he makes to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. His expectancy dimension explains that employees are motivated to work if they believe that an increase in effort will lead to an increase in performance. They are more likely to invest effort if their efforts will result in enhanced performance. Hence, the optimal amount of balance has to be maintained in order to enter the state of flow.

4.  BEING BUSY IS NOT EQUAL TO BEING PRODUCTIVE (Attention and multi- tasking)

    In order to experience a state of flow, paying attention is important, however controlling the attention is more important, strategic allocation of attention helps the employee to control their behaviour thus optimizing their performance in face of conflicting stimulus. Reducing distractions is one of the key aspects in increasing employee productivity. Productivity is not determined by doing multiple tasks at a time. Tim Gallwey who is an expert on the inner sense of control explains that saying “YES” to everything, divides our attention and undermines the need for stability and ability to function. Inner stability depends on a sense of ownership, independence and mastery. Multitasking at the workplace comes with its own cons. It demands constant switching between various tasks. Shifting gears takes time and in the process of shifting these gears, employees are vulnerable to commit errors. Now, this does not mean that the employees should scrape off tasks from their agenda or TO-DO lists. It in fact means that they should prioritize the task by employing attention control. What will help the employee experience a state of flow is the enriching enjoyment of the task. 

Employees don’t have to just eat the meal they also have to taste it. A phrase that best describes multi-tasking is, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Employees don’t have to dabble on many skills they can proceed in their developmental journey by gaining expertise in one skill at a time. In order to experience flow one has to completely immerse themselves into one task and attention control facilitates a well developed execution function which helps in battling emotionally charged thoughts that surface from the brain’s reward system.

5.  INTERNAL VALIDATION > EXTERNAL VALIDATION

  Employees are motivated by rewards, especially rewards such as winning a team competition, getting the best performance review etc provides recognition to the employees and helps them to perceive themselves as valuable. These extrinsic rewards validate the employees needs and results into better performance. However, failure to recognize and absence of such rewards will make the employee dissatisfied, demotivated and bitter. In order to experience a state of flow, employees should be intrinsically motivated. Goals that are intrinsically motivated have long-term outcomes because they have the potential to satisfy the employees psychological needs for autonomy and competence. If the employees work for an external reward then they won’t be autonomous. 

Flow has much to do with learning in a manner that employees are able to provide themselves with the rewards by doing the task itself. Employees can develop an Autotelic personality. An autotelic employee is internally driven. The main objective is not the successful delivering the task but the process itself. They adopt a positive perspective towards life and seek action-oriented situations. They are motivated to learn and be challenged. They are curious and show tenacity and determination. Employees possessing these skills can enter a state of flow since they weigh importance on HOW goals are achieved rather than WHAT goals are achieved.

Consciously triggering FLOW will help the employees deal with various challenges at the organisation and emerge victorious.

At BHyve, we make your employees’ professional and personal development glow, by employing the techniques of flow!

To know more connect with us at www.BHyve.io