A Workplace Conducive to Flow

Flow occurs when both skills and challenges are high

Flow makes us feel better in the moment, enabling us to experience the remarkable potential of the body and mind functioning in harmony. Flow has the ability to improve the quality of life in the long run. The main condition of flow is the matched balance of challenges and skills. If one wants to stay in Flow, he or she must progress and learn more skills, rising to new levels of complexity.

A career in business or the professions involves a series of steps in which one takes on ever greater responsibility , making it possible to experience increasing flow for many years. You need growth to stimulate people to keep an interest in the business. Employees who sense that their boss defines “the best thing” he or she has accomplished as expanding their own potential will be more productive and loyal.

Why Flow doesn’t happen on the job 

The goal of the management is to create value through the labor of people working together for a common cause. The best way to accomplish this, is create an environment where employees actually enjoy their work and grow in the pogress of doing it. A manager who wants to build an effective (and enduring) organization, has three options:

  1. Make the objective conditions of the workplace as attractive as possible
  2. Find ways to imbue the job with meaning and value
  3. Selecting and rewarding individuals who find satisfaction in their work

Working conditions are nowadays usually more pleasant and more humane than they have typically been in the past. But such improvements do not guarantee that the average workers are having more Flow experiences while at their jobs than they did earlier. The typical reasons for low Flow-level are the followings:

  • Few jobs nowdays have clear goals – Modern workers are required to do a job is dedicated by demands that make sense at some higher organization level, but are obscure to the worker (often even the worker understands what she is doing, it is not clear her why). Without well-defined goals it is difficult to enjoy what one is doing.
  • Contemporary jobs seldom provide adequate feedback – Even if the worker do the job well, the feedback is not addressed to their own ingenuity, but largely to the plans and equipment that made it possible. The problem is not that the CEO doesn’t have the right values. The problem is that the CEO isn’t effective at communicating them throughout the organization.
  • Skills of the worker are not well matched to the opportunities for action – A job that employes only a fraction of one’s skills quickly becomes a burden.
  • Lack of control – Not only over the goal of the process, but over every step of the performance . A worker who feels micromanaged soon loses interest in her job.
  • The use of time is specified by rhythms external to the worker – The flexible use of time is still an option only for those who seek to find a healthier balance between work and family.

Another cultural obstacle to Flow is the impermanence of postmodern business organizations. It is hard to concentrate on goals if the environment is unstable.